Rockstar is in a league of its own when it comes to modern open world games, but its back catalogue of isometric Grand Theft Auto games remains iconic for players of a certain age. This author grew up playing Grand Theft Auto: London at a friend’s house on the PS1, and while it was borderline impossible, it brings back fond memories.
It’s a surprise, then, that more developers haven’t returned to that old-school style of sandbox game. We’ve had the likes of Shakedown Hawaii, of course, and even Rockstar itself released the extremely likeable Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the PlayStation Portable – but it’s a concept that’s largely been lost to time. Polish team Jutsu Games refuses to let it die.
Rustler is, for all intents and purposes, a tongue-in-cheek GTA parody set in medieval times. The developer’s wearing its influences on its sleeve, and it referenced the classic Rockstar games multiple times during a presentation we attended late last month. There’s a touch of The Witcher and Red Dead Redemption here, but it’s mostly GTA.
Because of the time period, the developer has had to dream up some creative solutions to expected mechanics. For example, there were no radios in the Middle Ages, so you’ll be followed by your own personal bard instead, who’ll play folk renditions of contemporary tunes. The bard will ride with you on horseback, and become your own human boom box as you traverse the world.
The game’s clearly not taking itself seriously, and you’ll meet a variety of colourful characters throughout your quest to win the Grand Tournament and ultimately steal the princess’ hand in marriage. Minigames, including taxiing and what the developer describes as Medieval Martial Arts, will help to break up the experience.
Being developed by a smaller team, there are limitations. For example, we asked if there are any business activities, like the drug management minigames in Chinatown Wars, but the studio pointed out that it couldn’t add absolutely everything. You can stop for a spot of farming, though, and of course there are horse races and plenty of pop culture references to discover.
The title will take full advantage of the DualSense controller on the PS5, so you’ll be able to feel the tension of your crossbow and steel of your sword coming into contact with armour. And it looks pretty nice, with a slight cel-shading adding readability to the world. If you long for that bygone era of old-school GTA, then Rustler looks to have both the gameplay loop and pop culture references locked.
Are you nostalgic for the old-school isometric action of Rustler? The game will ride to PS5 and PS4 from 31st August, so you’ve not got long to wait.