Weird West is an action RPG set in the ol’ West, although the game does have elements of immersive sims. The whole game is designed as a sandbox for the player; take an action and there will be consequences. Actions are permanent and they can’t be undone, which makes the game all the more intriguing. Weird West is a good description of the game, as well as the genre… it’s certainly weird, but it’s one you should probably give a try.
Weird West has elements of stealth, plenty of action, and a twin-stick shooter. It’s mainly a sandpit to play in, although the narrative in the game is held together by 5 overarching stories. There’s an underlying strangeness to the story, given we are being forced into the bodies of different people by a gang of evil characters. We’ve done this before in games, take on the character or the consciousness of someone in the world, and here Weird West tries to add some meat to the bones in terms of why. To add to the confusion and fun at times, there’s also the small matter of our character being an amnesiac, so you have to get up to speed with who you are and what you’re doing fast.
Supporting the gameplay is undercurrent darkness. This is done through exceptional character and environment building and storytelling. Weird West is played from an isometric point of view, whereas in previous games like this we may have played in first-person or third-person, this works really well. Adding to the darkness and the tension throughout are enemies like zombies, werewolves and other nighttime nasties, who are on the lookout for your blood.
There are five characters, and you’ll inhabit them all throughout the story in Weird West. Each character you hop into has its own back story, and these different character arch could be seen as chapters or levels in the game. Each character’s story can take a few hours, or much more depending on how much you want to explore and get into the character’s life and back story. The first we encounter is Jane, she’s a Bounty Hunter who’s trying to track down her kidnapped husband. Then we have a strange pig-like person, who is trying to find out why he is the way he is and what his past entailed. There’s a story about a tribal leader fighting a Green Demon and a Werewolf who thinks he’s destined to lead his people. The stories are unique, interesting, and grotesque at times, but they definitely keep you on your toes. It all starts out fairly simple with Jane, although you’ll be chasing Werewolves in no time at all. The stories aren’t very interconnected, but once you have finished up the main quest you are free to explore and chat with whomever you like.
There are four loose classes in the game. For example, you have the Bounty Hunter’s Landmines, the Pigman’s poison and the Werewolf’s invisibility. As well to class abilities related to characters, there are more generic skills too like electric bullets, silencers and arrows. You have to level these up, but these features persist which is a nice touch. The progression across characters is very useful as you get further in the game, meaning you’re going to start later levels in a much more powerful state than when starting fresh. When you move on to another story you can go back and recruit these characters into your party, as you have two companions. Given there is a permadeath feature, do be careful with these folks though, as if they die, they are gone from your playthrough.
Weird West may sound like it’s all about story and narrative, but it’s also about twin-stick shooting too. Given this is the gameplay style. Much like Enter the Gungeon the game can get very busy, very quickly. You have pistols, shotguns, and rifles all going off, trying to avoid your opponent’s bullets as well as aim your own. Luckily there’s a decent slow-motion button which makes things a little more manageable. Slow-motion can also be activated automatically when you go into a dive.
The slow-motion feature is good fun, especially when combined with the environmental elements. Weird West is all action, but there’s an immersive sim in there too, which makes sense given the history of the team who worked on the game. Wolfeye was founded by former Arkane team members, who put out great games like Prey and Dishonoured, plus one of 2021’s best games Deathloop. Arkane always had great physics elements to their games, and the Wolfeye team have brought that experience into Weird West, albeit from an isometric angle rather than first-person. Weird West offer you the chance to try things, and more often than not they work. For example, you can light arrows and fire them into things, flammable things, that are then set on fire. You can use water to put out the fire, or oil to ramp up the fire. Water and electricity also tend to go well together if you are looking to cause some destruction. Weird West allows you to experiment and for the most part, these experiments pay off.
The game feels like a big playground. To help move things along there are plenty of people you can speak to, and lots of them need your help. For example, early on in the game the baddie has a penchant for eating people and likes to hold people in cages like animals, so doing the decent thing and riding the world of these unsavoury characters seems like a good idea. The decisions you make and your actions are remembered throughout the game, as later a quest will be marked as “You helped free her husband from capture”. It’s a nice way to tie stories and characters together making the world feel connected.
There’s a lot to like about the game, however, there are a few drawbacks too. The game can feel a little buggy, with enemies walking in strange ways, definitely unintended ways. Party members sometimes didn’t respond and just other random stuff happening. These kinds of bugs can be patched out through some careful post-launch bug fixing and released, so hopefully, this will all be cleaned up as the days and weeks go by. They certainly weren’t game-breaking by any means, rather little annoyances.
Along your journey, you’ll be picking up plenty of loot. You can root through the pockets of downed enemies, pick up things off the shelves, take cash from tills and plenty more. Weird West wants you to explore and it’s going to reward your time for doing so, therefore I’d recommend combing over every nook and cranny. The slight disappointment was the loot wasn’t that exciting. There are different rarities of weapons, however, unlike games like Borderlands or Destiny where the guns get more extravagant as the rarety goes up… here it’s simply damaged numbers, rather than cosmetics or features. I can’t complain too much because this isn’t a looter-shooter, and perhaps exposure to these other games means I am simply spoiled. But, the loot could have been better.
Weird West is a funny little game. There are elements here I really like, and there are things here that turned me off the game. The five stories are great, and the cast of characters is rich, and interesting and will make you want to come back. There is a sense of replayability too, meaning you’ll likely come back for another playthrough. Weird West, much like it’s name, is a strange one, but an entertaining one too. It’s also on Gamepass, so if you have that service then I’d give it a shot.
Developer: WolfEye Studios
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (reviewed on PC via Gamepass)
Release Date: 31 March 2022