I have a soft spot in my heart for action-based titles. They just seem to skip past a lot of the BS that is involved with all of that theory-crafting math stuff and let you get right to the heart of the fight. OK, so sometimes I prefer to use my brain more than my character's brawn, but give me a good action title and I am almost instantly happy. In fact, the inclusion of an action mechanic can make a bad game much, much better just because the action is potentially more unpredictable than standard MMO combat.
Not all action games are great, however. Some of them hide a grind behind a lame story and expect us to appreciate it. There are plenty of gamers who see achievement as much more important than having a good time, so even crappy action-based titles find an audience.
I first checked the game out at E3 a few years ago. We were invited inside Perfect World's cave-like booth to look at a few then-ucoming titles; Rusty Hearts really grabbed my attention at the time because I loved how it looked and how fast the combat was. It made me grit my teeth as I played it. If you do the same thing, then you'll know the feeling I am talking about.
I got my hands on it when it went live and had fun but found it to be repetitive. At the same time, I understood that the nature of the game is to be repetitive. Action-based fights against massive, monstrous foes are the name of the game. You're supposed to repeat content a lot so that you get better and better. And to be fair to the developers, I know it would be nearly impossible to make enough dungeons and content if only a single run-through were required to finish each mission.
You'll start off by picking from a series of gender-locked characters. Gender-locking has never been that big a deal to me, especially in a game based on a linear story and featuring a specific set of characters. In a game like Rusty Hearts, you can eventually customize your character heavily so that you do not look like your other clones. Besides, there are few MMOs that feature such robust character creation that -- minus clothing -- makes a difference. Sure, in other titles I can tweak my character's nose and eyebrows, but does it really matter other than to the individual?
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For my latest play-through, I picked out Edgar, a weird little kid who swings a massive sword that is so heavy that it often throws him off balance during combat. When he gets to swinging the thing, however, nothing can stop him. I found that running dungeons even on "very hard" wasn't really hard at all. I did not die once that I can remember over the last week. Does that mean that later on I would avoid death as easily? I don't know, as my job here is to explore the lower levels and to go from there. I can say I did not max level in less than a week.
You can also tweak your character a bit more through a skill tree that later opens up into a more specific class when you hit level 20. It gives the character a bit more depth, but the action combat guarantees that you will stick out anyway. It's nice to have the optional add-ons.
Content follows a standard format. First, you will talk an NPC and read some perfect-length lore bits that act to narrate your character's experiences. You can skip these bits, honestly, and it won't effect your character or performance at all. That would be a shame, though, because the bits of lore do eventually wrap around. If you skip them, you will see a new character pop into the story and will be scratching your head. It's best to read what is on the screen.
Next you go into an instanced dungeon to fight monsters. Each "scene" is filled with monsters, and as you kill them off, the next scene is opened up to you. You fight a group of monsters and move on to the next one and the next one and the next one until you come to a boss mob. The bosses look cool and often have a secret attack to watch for. My favorite was an evil fairy boss who turned me into a worm. Generally it's easy to avoid these attacks, especially when using a controller. The game works so well with a controller that it has made me wish more MMOs supported it. It depends on the style of combat, of course, but I think that more games could benefit from the peripheral. I would switch to the keyboard and mouse while in the open-world towns and when I needed more precise control over the cursor, but overall I used the controller for everything.
The item shop features mostly cosmetic and other harmless items. There's one such item that will allow you to avoid the breaking of a weapon when you are unsuccessful when enhancing it. There are plenty of costume pieces to make your clone look different than the others, and standard pots of different kinds.
I found Rusty Hearts to be just as fun as I remembered. During my week, I heard a lot of different high-level reports about the lack of endgame content. With such a linear questline, I can understand the frustration. At the same time, I hear the same end-game worries from almost every game I have played, even games with no proper endgame. Players play a lot, and they get bored. It's to be expected. Rusty Hearts is good for casual players like myself because the dungeon runs are fast and compact. You can log in, run a few, and log out and feel as if you've made some progress.
If you like action games, this one needs to be on your list. Will it be your main MMO? I'm not sure. It is more of a trip through a story rather than an open-world experience, but that's OK. I like the characters, the art is amazing (some of my favorite), and the action can be very fast and frantic. It does get scary at times, but overall I found the game relatively easy to play. Will I think the same in 20 levels? I doubt it.
Next week I will be looking at Zombie Pandemic, a strange board-game-like "MMO" (the press claims it is an MMO) that is set in a brown, post-apocalyptic city. It's definitely an interesting take on the genre, so wish me luck. I will be livestreaming the game on Monday, the 2nd of December, at 4:00 p.m. EST, right here on our livestream channel!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!