The Wild West is always a popular setting for a video game. The Red Dead Redemption series and to a lesser extent, the SteamWorld Dig games prove that there’s interest. Weird West takes you into the RPG realm of westerns as it blends the supernatural into the mix. It succeeds in some places, but falls apart as a twin-stick shooter.
I’m so enraptured by this wild west landscape
It may sound like a cliche, but Weird West truly sucks you into this Western and Lovecraftian world. Every piece of lore, environmental storytelling, and interaction grips you into its unique landscape. You play as an ex-bounty hunter who has to pull the trigger once again after her child is killed and her husband has been taken. You are searching for what happened to him while dealing with the West’s most dangerous. The main protagonist so far from this early build is more of a silent type, letting the world and the characters propel the storytelling instead. It’s similar to the first Borderlands as it emphasizes the quiet, dreary nature of the desert landscape. The eerie vibe, the haunting ambient music, and the engrossing graphic novel art style make for a promising time in Weird West.
What’s really cool is that if you help out strangers, like freeing a prisoner or showing mercy to an enemy, they can randomly show up to help you in tough encounters or even become a permanent partner on your ragtag team. Weird West also has some RPG mechanics you’d expect like different perks and abilities you can learn over time. For example, you can learn Rapid Reload, which lets you fire shotgun shells for five seconds without reloading. You can customize the bounty hunter how you’d like, and that’s dang good.
In addition, your actions will have consequences. Like the Grand Theft Auto series or even the recent Assassin’s Creed titles, what you do in the game will have the law coming after you. It takes into account the severity of your crimes, and bounty hunters will be after your head in random situations. Some characters can also have vendettas against you if you kill their family or leaders. They’ll be back with a vengeance, and you’ll definitely feel their wrath later on in the game. Some scenarios in the mission structure also give you some fascinating options that we won’t spoil here. These factors bring more life to the world that WolfEye Studios has created for its upcoming players.
what in tarnation is up with the controls?
But worldbuilding can only get you so far; it also needs great gameplay, and this is where Weird West falters. This is an impressions piece based on an early build, but so far, it’s pretty tough to control and see what’s going on in the game. With a twin-stick shooter, it’s important to have smooth controls but in Weird West, the aiming feels imprecise. With every shot, it can sometimes feel like a crapshoot to hit the enemy as they move around the map. The aiming is sluggish, the trajectory feels too tight, and the hitbox of every bullet should be slightly wider.
It also doesn’t help that the camera is so far away from the action.. You can zoom in but this comes with the caveat of missing enemies around your character. It also doesn’t help that the slightly blurred graphical art style makes it harder to notice key details. Weird West would have worked better as a third-person shooter, but the studio probably didn’t have the budget to fulfill that. In addition, exploring the world was tricky too. All the text is tiny on my monitor, making it hard to read and to understand what action I’m performing. At one point, I knocked out the sheriff accidentally instead of talking to her. It’s early, so all these facets of the game can be fixed, but adding more camera functionality, clearer text, and tighter controls would help out Weird West.
decent game design, poor stealth
It’s a shame because some of the game design is quite effective during combat. I love how you can interact with the environment to cause a fire from a lantern or kick a canister of toxic sludge towards a gang of enemies. However, the stealth system in place is underbaked so far as it provides so few options. We weren’t able to throw a rock to distract a group of people, and I felt like I had to shoot to pass an area because of this. The controls for stealth aren’t that intuitive either. I drew a knife to attack a guard from behind but this is registered as a normal attack rather than a silent hit. Instead, II had to stun them with no weapons equipped, and then once they’re on the ground, slice them with the knife, so they can’t get back up.
What adds to the frustration is the auto-save system. Some encounters will take you a long time to plow through, and when you die, it can be annoying to be back ten or so minutes from where you were. We suggest saving often when Weird West fully releases.
If it wasn’t for the lacking controls, I’d be hopelessly addicted to this game, partner. The worldbuilding is immense with some excellent art design and engrossing ambient music. However, the actual playing of Weird West leaves a lot to be desired from the imprecise aiming and low sense of vision. I hope they can fix the issues I have with Weird West before it releases on January 11, 2022.
A preview code of Weird West was provided by Devolver Digital.