April 1, 2022 — Some may confuse Weird West with another indie game known as Hard West. Both are themed around the Old West and feature top-down gameplay. However, Hard West is a strategy RPG like XCOM while Weird West is a cover-based, top-down shooter. This may be a surprising revelation — at least it was for me, as I thought the game was another strategy RPG.
“Former Arkane-devs’ debut title ‘Weird West’ calls back to the first two Fallout games but with a Western theme.”
Weird West comes from a new, strongly backed developer called WolfEye Studios. Its founders, Raphael Colantonio and Julien Roby used to work at the well-respected Arkane Studios, hence it makes sense they would want to make a more simplified game like Weird West on their first go. Their debut title calls back to the first two Fallout games but with a Western theme.
The Fallout series has inspired more than a few games within Arkane Studios’ repertoire and the big question is, does Weird West live up to those games or even come close?
A Western Tale Like All Others
The game begins with Jane Bell, our main character, witnessing her family getting gunned down. Out for revenge, she picks up her set of revolvers to track down the killers. This leads her to other bounties and NPCs in need of her assistance with various tasks and quest-like matters. Albeit somewhat cliché, the story is fine but lacks pizazz and heart. It is also weighed down further since there are no voiceovers.
Players will take on the story and side quests in town which will evolve to litter the overhead, central map with locations. Clicking on one will progress time a bit like the classic title The Oregon Trail. Along the way, you may encounter a group of bandits or an old church you can explore. Some of these randomized opportunities are optional while others must be dealt with right away. It should also be noted that most quests in the game have a time limit. A bounty, for example, may expire after fourteen days have passed.
A Dodgy Angle Rides Into Town
It’s a good idea to group quests and exploration opportunities to save time. Once players enter a location, the perspective switches to a top-down perspective. There are a few options to adjust the camera but even with the most zoomed-in option, it can be hard to see everything, especially on TVs. This refers to the action of combat along with text between menu options and talking to NPCs.
“There are a few options to adjust the camera but even with the most zoomed-in option, it can be hard to see everything, especially on TVs.”
Weird West may have been better served on the Nintendo Switch. PC players, who generally have to be next to their monitor, will not suffer the zoom issue. I also note I played the game on a PlayStation 5 which was like my cross to bear. Unsurprisingly, the game at least ran well.
A High Noon RPG
Camera issues aside, the combat mechanics are fun albeit a bit finicky at times. Players can freely aim at enemies and run around with guns blazing or play it smart by taking cover. You can be even more clever by shooting environmental items game design “stock solutions” like barrels that explode or poison traps to cause the long con of death. Players can even hire companions in town to fight alongside. It’s always good to bring someone along for a quest and not just for gunfights.
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Weird West can also be described as a looter RPG. Downed enemies and treasure chests will hold tons of tiered gear and items. Your initial allotment of item space is poor which is one of the main reasons you should hire a companion as soon as possible. Use those as equipment mules (which is something Fallout fans should be used to.) The variety of weapons, from short-ranged revolvers to long-ranged rifles is great although you’re going to see a lot of the same types of weapons early on — without a lot of varied stats.
“There is one interesting feature that will aid players special abilities in battle, clearly mirroring the powers of Arkane Studios’ Dishonored series.”
To save bullets, you can sneak up on enemies and kill them silently, not unlike the top-down, 2003 Western title Wanted Guns (YouTube). The stealth mechanics aren’t the most robust but there is one other thing that will aid players in battle in a better way as they can acquire special abilities that mirror the powers of Arkane Studios’ Dishonored series. For example, Golden Cards will grant players passive skills like being able to get a discount in shops, while relics will unlock active abilities like being to slow down time or control enemies. All of these additional mechanics improve the gunplay quite a lot.
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This Train Takes A While To Get Going
Weird West is a game that gets more fun the further players progress. The equipment will get better, players will become more accustomed to the various other mechanics, and their powers will grow to seemingly making them gunslinger gods.
The story and quest lines get more engaging too over time. That does not help some of the more repetitive design choices, but random encounters ensure that not all players will have the same experience.
Part of the fun of video games is being able to share gameplay experiences and choices to help others understand the bigger picture. Unfortunately, the level randomization also means that these encounters and locations aren’t expertly crafted. The same town, farm, and cave setups will not create a sense of wonder the twelfth time in.
Also, the top-down camera may bother console players, and like mentioned above, the item storage in the game is decidedly tiresome at best.
OUT OF 10
THE GOOD STUFF
- Features striking comic book art style that pops.
- The gunplay and player powers are a blast.
- Randomized worlds make each play session unique.
- Slow-paced cliché story does not impress.
- The top-down camera may be hard to grasp for console players.
- Level designs are much too repetive.
What’s Left To Say?
So, did WolfEye Studios put their best foot forward? Even with Weird West’s issues, it is still a strong recommendation. You just have to be in the right mood for it as it adheres to more old-school design choices which retro aficionados like ourselves tend to appreciate here at Yestermade. It’s the kind of game you know will get better with a sequel.
Weird West is an action role-playing video game developed by newly formed developer WolfEye Studios, which uses a distributed model working across 10 different cities. The game is published by Devolver Digital and was released for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and Windows by way of the Epic Game Store on March 31, 2022.