Rusty Hearts Preview from E3 2011

MMO meets Castlevania meets beat ‘em up? If the words “Sign me up!” rose to your lips, you’ll want to check out our preview of Rusty Hearts from E3 2011.

If I’m honest, my love of co-op multiplayer began with the
beat ‘em up genre. In the arcades (and later, on the NES),
games like Double
, style="font-style: italic;">Golden Axe,
and Streets
of Rage
showed the rich
promise of close-quarters combat alongside a friend toward a shared
objective. My supply of quarters steadily dwindled, but my love of
gaming with friends (I guess we call that “social
gaming” – like all gaming isn’t to some
degree sociable) grew.

Unexpectedly, style="font-style: italic;">Rusty Hearts
took me back to those glory days.  The graphics are
cell-shaded but decidedly detailed and next-gen. The environments
aren’t the least bit claustrophobic as you’d expect
from a beat ‘em up, with mood-setting contrasty tones and a
vibrant palette. Best of all, the side-scroller action isn’t
really scrolling to one side – following the mold of games
like Devil
May Cry
, the action follows a
roomy, faux-3D horizontal and vertical path through the level, with
rooms unlocking as all enemies are defeated in the previous room.
Still, the gameplay offers the same short session, button mashing, beat
‘em up fun that I remember.

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alt="rusty hearts"

Meet Angela from Rusty Hearts

Executive Producer Mark Bell and Perfect World hopes to bridge the gap
between the joystick and the keyboard by playing to both camps
– offering, for example, wide compatibility with controller
peripherals, yet tossing in traditional RPG features such as a rich,
character development-driven yet tongue-in-cheek story, complete with
detailed cutscenes.

The story revolves around three friends – the tankish,
scythe-wielding Angela, the melee DPS-ish Tude, the hybrid Franz - who
decide to defy the Vampire Lord that’s ruled over them for
hundreds of years and help the townspeople they’ve oppressed.
The name of the game bears reference to the fact that the sense of
goodness in these characters has gone “rusty”, and
that the process of regaining their humanity might take some time.

All players will play one of these three heroes, but the customization
is varied enough that I didn’t realize that there were only
three characters until Mark told me, and that was after watching the
game played over scores of shoulders at the Perfect World booth. What
made me pay particular attention to the game, in fact, was that my
character was wearing a Landshark costume, one of the many crazy
costume options available in the game through looting, quests, and

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alt="rusty hearts"

Rusty Hearts' Tude in action

The world of style="font-style: italic;">Rusty Hearts
also bears similarity to style="font-style: italic;">Vinductus
in that it’s divided into a social area and a dungeon hub
but, according to Mark, style="font-style: italic;">Rusty Hearts
will differentiate itself by the stories it tells about each character
as you play. Lore and cutscenes weren’t much in evidence in
my initial playthrough. But, stylistically speaking, the setting has
its feet in both Transylvania and medieval Kyoto – a sort of style="font-style: italic;">Ninja Gaiden
meets Castlevania
- and seemed to draw out the most fun and mythical elements of each.

Jumping into the game for the first time, the control scheme was unlike
any game I’d played before. The two default modes were
click-to-move or arrow-key-to-move, with the left hand on the first two
letter rows of the keyboard for attacks and abilities. After
familiarizing myself with this a bit, I found I actually liked it
better than the traditional WASD movement with number keys for actions.

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alt="rusty hearts"

A boss from Rusty Hearts

Unhanding the mouse actually increased the speed at which I played, and
I was more likely to use keyboard abilities appropriately and
effectively if my hand wasn’t constantly losing its place on
the keyboard. Mark noted that the game will allow multiple customizable
control schemes, as well as the ability to quickly switch between two
of these styles. He also asked me to give the controller a whirl. It
worked as expected, but I’ve never enjoyed control schemes
which rely on the shoulder buttons, so I would have had to mod it a bit
to find my sweet spot.

Gameplay was fluid and ability driven, with some room for combos and
co-op attacks. Loot and powerups were dropped by the myriad mobs we
faced, and especially powerful items were saved for the end of each
level, when players have a one in nine chance to pick a
“silver” loot card (otherwise you get a decent
consumable or minor item).

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alt="rusty hearts"

Angela putting the hurt on bad

As for the MMOish elements of style="font-style: italic;">Rusty Hearts,
Mark pointed to the game’s channel-driven chat and persistent
economy. Also, style="font-style: italic;">Rusty Hearts
features two rudimentary forms of crafting. In the first, most direct
form, players place looted “augment stones” on
equipment to boost its stats. It’s a gamble – every
augment stone you place on an item has a chance to break all the
augments placed upon it. In the second form of crafting, players can
gather materials for certain NPCs. Returning with the materials will
produce a promised item, much like a collection quest. Players will be
able to sell their items or, if the weight on their character grows too
great, store them in their own personalized room for later use.

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alt="rusty hearts"

Smash baddies with your
friends in
Rusty Hearts

was my personal pick
for surprise of the show. It’s unlike any Perfect World game
I’ve played before, yet so like the games I played for hours
on end as a kid. Look for the game to enter open beta in July, or to
enter early, grab yourself a href="">closed
beta key while they last!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Rusty Hearts Game Page.

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