The Weird West is teeming with life, dangers and supernatural intrigue that will keep your trigger finger itchy.
Games with a retro feel normally embrace its charm from top to bottom. Titles such as Shovel Knight or Nidhogg bring ancient pixel stylings and old-school gameplay into today’s stage with gusto, all the while retaining the aesthetic of the hardware limitations of the era it’s trying to invoke. Weird West by WolfEye Studios goes its own route with the classic isometric RPG/Sim feel by sticking you in the deserts of the old west and keeping gameplay action-packed. When combined with the retro open-endedness and immersive storytelling, the retro inspiration becomes satisfyingly apparent.
You are the branded one, doomed to live lives other than your own. After a ritual, you’ll wake up as a retired female bounty hunter living with her husband and son on a quiet homestead. When they’re taken in the night, you dig up your old irons and don your riding gear to bring them back home. After getting back in the saddle and getting help from local townsfolk, you’ll stage a daring rescue to find your sweetheart and learn the fate of your child, only to wake up back in the ritual chamber to live another life. While the first story in this series of campfire tales is compelling, it’s only the first in a series that spans across the whole western frontier that ultimately weaves together your legend.
Weird West’s gameplay is immersive and varied, offering you many side quests and sub plots. While each has its own interesting story threads, it’s ultimately up to you to figure out how you resolve each situation you find yourself in. Combat may not always be necessary or even the best option if you can sneak around the danger, or even strike a deal with a strong guard to get him to skip town. You can even make the world safer by bringing notable outlaws to justice, whether that be in a cell or a coffin.
Whether it’s side questing, bounty board missions, or just wandering the desert, the game tries to make your decisions feel memorable. It gives the story the feeling that it’s your own and makes a first impression that’s easy to get lost in. Some of the most memorable moments happen when a person you save becomes your friend for life, coming to your aid when you’re at low HP randomly. This is an edge you’ll find invaluable in the dangerous deserts.
One of the first tips you get in Weird West is to quicksave often, especially before trying unique approaches to new situations. This is no lie, as you’ll want to be quicksaving constantly as you traverse the wastes. While the game isn’t terribly difficult, especially on Normal difficulty, the amount of ways to approach any given situation are vast. While you may make it out alive, it’s always worth it to see if you can do it better now that you’re familiar with how things can go down since saving is as easy as a button press. Most of the time, however, you should be ready for a gunfight.
When things don’t go your way or the guy you’re after has to die, you’ll usually need to gun down a few people. Gunfighting is fast-paced but rewards strategy over run-and-gun tactics, where you’ll want to be switching weapons and hopping from cover to cover to edge out a safe win. You can also use the environment to your advantage to blow enemies away with explosive barrels or light them on fire by shooting an oil lantern. You also have a dedicated dodge button and dodging at the correct time will give you some bullet-time slowdown for a huge counterattack window. This feels a bit random if you’re not fighting a melee-based enemy, however.
Random encounters in the overworld also feel underwhelming. While a few offer a bit of intrigue, such as a mysterious Heathen entrusting your character with a box they can’t open, most are inconsequential random fights or traders. The world itself is also small and a bit cramped when it’s all discovered, which makes the game feel more compact than it is.
Bounty missions also all feel the same. While standard side quests normally offer fun stories, bounty missions are simply better alternatives that unfortunately aren’t as interesting to play. There are times when an enemy can swear a vendetta against you, but these ultimately end up being just more random encounters against a pack of enemies. This makes it a poor counterpart to your friends for life, who give character to the otherwise cramped and lifeless deserts and outposts.
While the characters and other visual effects pop on-screen, locales and the soundtrack can start feeling the same quickly. Even as you progress through the story, you’re still in the same world and it can start feeling stale if the world doesn’t grip you. This also goes for the story, since things take a while to come together in the overarching narrative and NPC teammates don’t have their own side stories. Teammates with a vendetta against them will bring the ire of their enemies with them, however.
This makes Weird West feel like a mixed bag overall. For each moment of triumph, it feels like there are more moments where you’re caught in a boring fight or slogging bounty mission. While combat can be fun, wrong moves can be costly and if you can’t get the hang of it then you’ll find yourself reloading over and over again. When plastered against samey environments that rely on the characters and effects to pop, it can get tiresome. If you can get behind the haunted west aesthetic of the game, then it might be for you. Otherwise, Weird West is only for the gamer looking for a different flavor of RPG/Sim.
-Fun action-packed gunfighting.
-Interesting storytelling in side quests.
-Immersive, open-ended gameplay.
-Bounty missions lack variety
-Random encounters are underwhelming
3 out of 5
Review key provided by PR. Check out Weird West on Steam!