Weird West truly lives up to its name. From WolfEye Studios, a studio founded by Raphael Colantonio and Julien Roby of Arkane Studios, the top-down third-person action RPG puts the player in the position of several characters in a fantastical western US setting full of gunslingers, outlaws, werewolves, witches, and plenty more unexplained mysteries.
The Weird West is not for the faint of heart, while not a horror game, it does have some very dark elements and intense violence. For example, before the player even gets to touch the controls, the first character’s son is killed and her husband is captured by outlaws. The West is not a forgiving place, and the game’s story will take the player on a murderous quest for revenge.
But thankfully, Weird West also doesn’t take itself too seriously, letting the player know early on that creativity is encouraged. The game has a quick save feature that players are told to use before trying something, whether that’s a headstrong charge into an outlaw camp, or finally killing that annoying NPC that’s important to the story. Just make sure you do hit that quicksave first because even the most important NPCs are not invincible in the Weird West.
A Perfect Blend
In a lot of ways, Weird West looks a lot like a grittier, darker, top-down entry in the Borderlands series. The art style is very reminiscent of the cel-shaded, hand-drawn comic book appearance, and even has some of the same gameplay styles, such as bringing the player in on the fun with the option to quicksave before trying anything drastic. Weird West gives the player the tools to play the game however they want without sacrificing the greater experience.
- Encourages creative thinking and taking risks;
- Blends western and fantasy perfectly;
- Fast paced and challenging combat.
- Occassional glitches can be bothersome (hopefully, a patch will fix it);
- Challenging combat can get frustrating.
This could have something to do with the early review copy of the game, but there are some small flaws, such as enemies blinking through objects or certain items that can’t be interacted with. For example, I tried several times to put a shrapnel bomb into a minecart, thinking I could then push the minecart into the enemy camp and stand back to watch the mayhem, but the bomb fell through the floor of the cart every time, leaving me very disappointed that my creativity went unrewarded.
Overall though, the graphics and art style are excellent for a fantastical western, perfectly blending the strange and colorful fantasy elements with the dark and gritty western ones. This style combined with the randomness of each playthrough and the player’s ability to affect the story gives each playthrough a genuine sense of writing your own story.
Challenging and Satisfying Combat
Of course, a game about the wild west is going to have some awesome gunfights. Swapping between revolvers, shotguns, and rifles gives clear advantages at different ranges, while there is always the option to toss sticks of dynamite. Each combat encounter feels more like a puzzle of how to approach it because running in headlong often results in becoming overwhelmed, especially if the numbers are not in your favor.
The numbers might sometimes be in your favor though because in Weird West you can form a gang or “posse” of up to two other members. Thankfully they aren’t the kind of followers that will ruin your sneakiness, but sometimes they will end up in strange places. For example, I jumped from one roof to another, and when I got into the building I saw that the two members of my posse had somehow glitched into the jail cell. Thankfully, all it took was finding the key to get them out. I will admit it was an unexpectedly hilarious glitch that could have become annoying in the wrong situation.
Weird West has a ton of deep mechanics and nearly endless replayability all wrapped up in an experience that encourages the player to be just as curious and creative as the game itself. There aren’t many other games out there that let you throw dynamite at a werewolf and then accidentally stumble into a group of bug spewing zombies on the way home. Weird West is an incredibly satisfying experience because it gives the player all the tools they need to tackle a situation from the shotgun on their hip to the quicksave button that finally let’s them see what happens if they shoot the important, but annoying, NPC.
Getting into fights can be challenging, but it’s the good kind of challenge that makes you come back for more and makes success all the more satisfying, for the most part. Depending on skill level there can certainly be some moments of frustration. Generally, Weird West does reward creativity and pushes you to attack various situations from as many angles as you can imagine, and with every tool at your disposal. Eventually, you will figure it out. To call back to when my posse got stuck in a jail cell, I had died several times going in the front door until I realized that I could jump across to the roof, avoiding the majority of the enemies on the ground floor. Plus, I got to kick a guy off the roof so that’s a plus.
Mechanics Worth Mentioning
There are a lot of interesting mechanics to cover with this game that can’t all fit into this review. But the RPG element of the game is worth discussing. Rather than a traditional experience point progression system, instead the character collects special items that allow the player to upgrade abilities like damage and maximum hit points. Since the player will play as several characters throughout Weird West, there are some upgrades that will remain across characters, which can greatly influence decisions and make each new playthrough even more unique.
Weird West also takes a unique approach to an open world in that there is a large world map and you can travel to any point on the map, but the actual travel is just the character portrait moving across the map until it reaches the specified destination. While traveling there are plenty of random encounters that can pop up, from a coyote attack to a strange woman that gives you a box and tells you never to open it (though the mystery is very tempting).
Weird West is meant to also have some immersive elements to it, but it never forces that on the player. Collecting junk and scrapping weapons is always going to be part of the game because selling junk earns cash and scrapping weapons is a way to get free ammo from fallen enemies. The story is always calling to the player, and sometimes it’s hard to ignore its urgency, but it can be really fun to just explore the world and live like an outlaw.
In an effort to avoid rattling on forever about the depth of mechanics Weird West has to offer, I will conclude with a few final thoughts. First of which, the story must be mentioned. While some side missions and characters might bring some brevity to the game, the story doesn’t do so nearly as much. Following the story is important to the game progression, but even more important to the character. It can limit the amount of side missions and exploring what the player chooses to do because sure, I suppose I won’t let my character’s husband be eaten by cannibals.
Overall, Weird West does a great job of not only encouraging its players to be curious, but creating a world that peaks curiosity. There’s no telling what will randomly appear while traveling and there are all kinds of unique side quests and locations to draw the player off the main track. WolfEye Studios emphasized player choice in just about every way they could from choosing how to upgrade their character to quicksaving before trying something risky.
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Combining two genres certainly makes Weird West very unique. There aren’t many games where you can randomly encounter zombies while hunting a bounty for an outlaw gang of werewolves in order to have enough money to save your kidnapped husband from shapeshifting cannibals. If that sentence alone doesn’t peak your curiosity then this might not be the game for you. Overall, Weird West has a ton of deep mechanics and nearly endless replayability all wrapped up in an experience that encourages the player to be just as curious and creative as the game itself.
Matt Buckley | Gamepressure.com