First Impressions: Rusty Hearts

Normally I don't like to take deeper looks at closed betas, especially because they can have missing features, broken text, or other things that make you wonder why you didn't wait until open beta or launch to try them out. I'm also pretty selfish and want to create a character once; I hate replaying those same early levels. So generally, just give me my open beta invite and I'll have at it.

But this is Rusty Hearts. This is Perfect World, one of my favorite developers. While the company has become famous for making beautiful yet really grindy games like Perfect World, it has morphed over the years into a sophisticated, multi-faceted publisher. I even said that Rusty Hearts was one of my favorite things I saw at E3, so of course I jumped at the chance to take it for a test drive. I did find a few flaws in this otherwise gem of a game, so let's get started.

Click past the cut, would you?

First of all, Rusty Hearts is essentially a side-scrolling action game. You can control every aspect of it with just your keyboard or controller, but you can supplement those movements with your mouse. This variety saved my wrists some pain, and soon enough, my fingers had memorized the keyboard layout. Many of you might picture a flat, 2-D world when I say "side-scroller," but it would better to describe it as "side-scrollerish." While in towns -- or social hubs similar to Guild Wars towns -- you can pan and move the camera around like in any "normal" MMO. But while you are busily kicking butt in any of the instanced dungeons or other areas, you are stuck on a linear path that can still be navigated in any direction. Your camera is the only thing that is frozen.


"Really, I didn't mind the design at all. In fact, I adored it. Not having to control the camera while I fought (and being able to use the keyboard for everything) made combat so simple yet so fluid and impressive that I can see why these action-based 'side-scrollers' are so incredibly popular."

Really, I didn't mind the design at all. In fact, I adored it. Not having to control the camera while I fought (and being able to use the keyboard for everything) made combat so simple yet so fluid and impressive that I can see why these action-based "side-scrollers" are so incredibly popular. The constant state of the camera means that it is easier to run for more people. In fact, for such a pretty game with so many graphics options (including anti-aliasing), it ran like a beauty, even in a town packed with players.

Within only a few hours of playing I had leveled up enough to learn new moves, and soon I was figuring out combos and abilities that worked great. I even found that I could double-tap in any direction and my character would disappear and reappear like Nightcrawler, giving me the ability to get past annoying trash mobs and get directly in the face of the boss or ranged units. In fact, I have only been able to play the game for several hours at the time of this writing because the servers were having their issues and being restarted often, but even within that time I felt that the game showed me some really cool stuff.

Unfortunately, players are stuck on a pretty linear, story-driven path. Also, gender-locked characters are annoying, but I can understand why the team employs them in this particular case. Players often come across cutscenes that feature the character and names they are playing, so keeping the character choices locked down was needed for immersion in the story. Still, it is rather jarring to see literally dozens of identical copies of yourself when you log in. The good news is that costume pieces can be worn to help you stand out from your fellow players. Of course, the devs are going to charge you for those costume pieces, and the prices are not exactly dirt-cheap.

On the upside, as is the case in most (if not all) Perfect World titles, you can obtain cash-shop items in the game as well. Almost everything you see in that cash shop can be traded for, paid for, or crafted in-game for those players who do not want or do not have the ability to have access to the cash shop. I found several really nice costume pieces in the cash shop that would set me apart visually, but I also found an NPC who will craft the pieces for me -- but it does take work. I would have to say that, behind Nexon, Perfect World does cash shops probably better than any publisher I know.

While you and your friends are busily chopping your way through the story and through random quests, you will see a lot of the same layouts and monster types. You will often repeat the same dungeon at least a few times and will unlock more difficulty modes. I found almost no difference in the difficulty modes, however, and soloed the entire time in the game. I think there might need to be some tweaking done on mob strength. Still, there were some challenging boss fights and some nice loot, but it would be nice to see more challenge as I go along. Perhaps it gets harder as I raise my level. That's yet to be seen.

The true shining star of the game is combat, though, so I can see why PWE has given players the opportunity to grind their fingers raw if they wanted to. Of course, experience is eventually limited by the stamina system, something that I believe was put in place to discourage players from grinding their lives away. While many players have issues with someone telling them how long they can play for, I have zero problems with this. From my experience in other games that used such systems, I can say that they only hindered those gamers who played for several hours possibly every night. While it might be a player's choice to grind himself into oblivion, it is also the developer's choice to say "take a break... go outside." I wish more games used some sort of limitation on how many hours you can play while still getting maximum experience. It is this writer's humble opinion that grinding, and I mean grinding, creates only more games that depend on it. It's a stupid mechanic. Just remember that the Rusty Hearts stamina system does not stop you from playing, but it does lessen the rewards you get from playing once you run out. I have not run out yet, and I've played a lot in the last few days.

Luckily Rusty Hearts doesn't feel like a grind, and it can be played in one- or two-hour chunks. The story drives forward, and your character does feel more powerful as you go along. The cutscenes are neat, and the art design of the world is absolutely beautiful. I am just now becoming a fan of Anime, but that has a lot to do with good game design like Rusty Hearts'.

Be aware that the cash shop is running during this closed beta. That means that you need to put your money into it to use it. Once the beta is done, though, your money stays in the system and can be used for purchases that will actually stay in the game. Don't worry; it's no scam. And if you don't like it, you can simply use in-game methods to get that killer new hat or coat you've been checking out.

So, let's recap:

Pros:
  • Beautiful graphics with a lot of options
  • Runs great
  • Control choices makes it easier on the wrists
  • Action-based combat feels powerful
  • Interesting story
  • Wonderful monster design
  • Player housing
Cons:
  • Gender-locked classes
  • Players will repeat the same, or similar dungeons
  • Players who choose the same character will start out identical
  • Some players might not like the stamina system
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This article was originally published on Massively.