Back when I first previewed Wolfeye Studios and Devolver Digital’s Weird West, I was on board with its potential to be the next great indie immersive simulation game. And the fact that I’ve been glued to it all week is indication enough that I’m still riding the pony.
Now, my thoughts haven’t changed all that much since my initial beta testing, so this review is going to be more of a building block to that.
Throughout the development cycle of this game, WolfEye has been 100% open in explaining that the intent of Weird West is to be a fully immersive experience. Your time on the Frontier is meant to be yours to do however you please.
In my opinion, this was not just talking points from the developers. If you see something or someone onscreen, there’s an interaction to be had.
In battle, maps are designed with exceeding detail towards the challenge at hand. Will you use environmental items like bomb barrels for cover to remain undetected, hoping to God you aren’t shot at? Or will you lay in wait for a group of people to go by and shoot at said barrel yourself? Perhaps you don’t like thinking at all. Thus, you decide not to consider the barrel as you run and gun your way to success.
Saving is a process that’s allowed whenever you are out of combat, and the game actively encourages you to save and reload as many times as you want, so that strategy and tact are never stifled. Weird West want you to sneak up on your enemy and knock them out, but it also wants you to try blowing them up or poisoning them as well.
There are also a number of weapons and weapon skills, and character skills, all of which reset as you take over another of the five playable characters. But there’s also a robust perks RPG system that rolls over to new characters so that you can really keep customization personal.
Challenge of the body snatcher
This brings me to Weird West’s real value proposition: its playable characters. The game offers an overarching narrative about a cult practicing the art of body-snatching that’s just a little overly grim, but then it expertly allows itself to weave this story into those of its five-player characters. They each present strengths and weaknesses that will reward or hinder specific styles of play. And on harder difficulties, single mistakes will likely lead to death. But thanks to the joy of the saving and loading system being so easy to use, you should never feel stuck or cheated.
The refreshing thing about WeirdWest‘s story is that, unlike so many games of the past few years, it’s not trying to make you do everything or even tell you what to do. The gruff narrator will lead you through the main story missions, but after that, you are free to travel the map, search out jobs and side quests and even murder a whole town of people who happen to be part of the main story. As someone who can’t play a lot of open-world games these days because I’m just overwhelmed by all the things to do on a map and all of the suggestions offered by games for things to do, it’s been really refreshing to have a black and black map for me to explore.
Side quests and collecting of goods also operate on a morality system that makes structures doing so succinctly. doing good earns you reputation points that will net you discounts in shops and make you friends that will come to your aid in battle. While being bad will get you more money and loot, but could also land you on a wanted poster and, worse, with lead in your head.
Weird West Has Some AI Issues
My only real point of contention is with Weird West is its AI posse system. It allows you to hire two mercenary followers for 100 gold a piece or to recruit unique followers and even the playable characters as you clear their individual stories, with the later characters having their unique skills. There’s also a friendship system that will see people you’ve helped on your adventures come to your rescue. The problem is that none of the AI characters are all that good at walking on the wild side… or living on it, for that matter.
I ran into a rather annoying bug where every now and then, my second follower would stop moving and fighting and would just stand still behind my horse. The only way to fix this was to leave the map stage I was on and come back. But by that time, I’d tragically lost my follower for good.
Your player character followers are also not so good at using their skills, which makes it seem pointless to go to the trouble of heading back to their homesteads to recruit them.
Poor AI and a difficulty that punishes mistakes can’t hold back Weird West from being one of the most refreshing gaming experiences of recent memory. An immersive world that encourages play and experimentation, paired with a story that tightly weaves through compelling branches, this is a frontier you’re going to want to call home for a while… even if it’s one full of the weird and occult.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]