Weird West: Hands-on Preview
The mixing of the occult and the wild west isn’t a new concept, it has been explored in properties like Jonah Hex for years. There is something that just works when the two settings collide, a perfect melding of the familiar and the obscure, the odd and the old. That holds true with Weird West, the new game from WolfEye Studios and Devolver Digital that aims to bring these two elements together in a unique and engaging action RPG for PC.
I have been lucky enough to have been playing the first of six stories presented by the game in a press demo and I can tell you that this is a game with atmosphere and style to spare. Upon booting the game up I was immediately presented with a world that straddles the lines of myth and history with a joy and balance rarely seen. Traditional monsters like werewolves and odd cultists meet the tropes of the wild west in a way I have never experienced before and I have to say it has me hook line and sinker. I am really avoiding spoilers here because even though my time with the game was limited, what I saw showed a story that is worth experiencing and any spoilers would ruin the experience.
The graphical style is also unique, giving off a creepy cell-shaded ambience that presents like a horror comic book from ’90s. As I explored the game I was continually impressed by the choices the design team have made in bringing this world to life. The world, despite so obviously being fictional, felt real, felt lived in. Small towns and farmsteads are just trying to get on with things and while the goal of the player might be the most important thing on the main character’s mind, the rest of the world sees it as someone else’s problem. It really adds to the feeling that while the events of the game are important, they are really only one thing happening in a world that will keep on turning regardless. The game world is also very dynamic with just about everything in the game able to be manipulated by the player, with some wonderful results. Kick an oil barrel at enemies before launching a Molotov cocktail and watch the fire spread, throw a chair at someone to stun them or just pick up a box and create a boost to a higher platform. WolfEye have created and a world that is very much a playground for creative players.
Gameplay is tackled from an isometric perspective, with an adjustable and zoomable camera so the perfect viewpoint is always possible. Many of the traditional ARPG features like skill trees, gear and crafting are present and have adapted wonderfully to the setting. Players can mix traditional skills like sharpshooting with more supernatural talents like bullet time to create their own perfect build in-game along with crafting and upgrading their weapons to improve damage or to suit certain situations better. The game also features a limited ammo system so trading and scavenging is also an important part of the game, something that almost feels like it is from a more traditional CRPG experience. In fact, the game often straddles the line between something like Baulder’s Gate and Diablo, walking the fence in between these two extremes to carve its own path in the RPG genre.
If there was one problem I came across in my time with the game it is that combat can be a bit fiddly. Both gunplay and stealth create moments of imprecision causing frustration. Finding the right spot behind an enemy for a takedown can feel a bit like pixel hunting and getting into a gunfight against enemies that are higher or lower than you can often create confusion and be unsure as to where your bullets are heading, leading to wasted ammo. Both of these problems are more in the area of niggles rather than game-breaking but it would be nice to know that the dev team is working on these issues before the full game comes out.
In all my time with Weird West was too short. The engaging setting and living, breathing world are wonderful and the story is something that I can’t wait to experience in full. The small niggles involving combat and stealth are certainly problems that can be fixed before release and even if they aren’t, it isn’t enough for me to not want this game. WolfEye and Devolver look to be onto a winner here and I know I will be eagerly anticipating the full experience when the game releases on January 11, 2022.