The Weird West offers a unique premise of being an isometric type of action shooter that isn’t an RPG or turn based strategy. Instead, this is a real time action shooter akin to twin stick shooters out in the market. The game for all its worth is more than just a real time Fallout 1 set in the wild west. Why did I say that? For one, while you might be able to save scum your way, enemies won’t follow the same path. That is just the sample of the intricate world on Weird West.
First off, let us discuss what is the term Weird West. The term itself isn’t just allocated to the name of the game, it is a standing term for the mix of the western genre and of another unconventional fantasy/futuristic genre. Which brings us to our game which is set in the parallel world where the occult run amok, with a dash of Lovecraftian elements added to it. It helps add uniqueness to it. Now for the main game setting, the game story is divided into 5 episodes that would each have a different main character. To start, you’d play as Jane Bell the bounty hunter, your story from the beginning is to uncover the events leading to your husband’s kidnapping and your son’s murder, that is how bleak the game is. The game isn’t rainbows and sunshines. In fact, the rainbow you would see is the slick oil that would douse you and the sunshine is the fire that ignites it. Whether or not this is done for shock value or just to prepare you that this isn’t a really nice world would be up to you. At the end of Jane’s story arc, you would then transition to the pigman who was recently transformed with no prior memories of who they are. Your quest here is to find out who you are and what are the events leading to your transformation. The next story would be the protector from the fire nation(no not THAT fire nation!) of the Native American who specializes on stealth and quick take down. The struggles you would face is akin to that of the Native Americans in that you deal with the encroaching modernization brought through via industrialization. Your homeland is being invaded not just by the industrialist taking your resources but also the mysterious wendigo in which you must put a stop to. And while this is where my game play stops, the other two characters is as follows. The werewolf who is hell bent on protecting the absolutionists. And lastly the Oneirist devotee which has the ability to harness the dream tree and see into the future, whether or not you are to set that future in motion is up to you
On the surface, the world of Weird West is your typical spaghetti western with all the tropes you would find. But once the game sets its story going, you would see the bleakness and the underlying horror of the world around you. From the usual bandits and animal attacks, that you encounter, and the later parts which delve more into the supernatural aspect of the world. Such as that you’d wish for the good old days when you will be riddled with bullets rather than being stunlocked by enemies swarming you. Speaking of which, majority of the enemies you would encounter is straight up from the tales of the American frontier. From wendigo to the pigmen, all have a steep origin from the tales of the wild west with the added bonus of zombies. Because of course what is horror without everyone’s favorite bullet catcher? Each of these enemies would of course have a unique way of dealing with them. But for the most part, riddling them with bullets or knocking them out would work in a pinch. To end this, all 5 of your playable characters are in a faction that shouldn’t work in that they are technically at odds if not at war with one another. But on subsequent episodes, you can even recruit them and have access to their inventory. Personally, most companions you can hire has a story on their own which is a definite nice touch to the world.
Let’s talk about combat and mechanics. For the most part, the controls on the combat is quite finicky in that even as a melee weapon, you would need to aim. Otherwise, you’d just carry the object in front of you. Yes, a melee weapon that needs to be aimed. And this is in the isometric settings that does not give you the luxury of time and convenience. As for the weapons and abilities, it is predominantly tier based in which the rarity is determined by the color and uses a star based mechanic that determines its quality which is kind of a downer. Although there are four types of ranged weapons, you can only wield two. Which revolves around more magazine capacity and lesser damage or lesser mag count but would pack a punch. Which in my personal take is getting really old for this. Because would just go on a mindless grind for weapons with better stats. And once you got the best of the class has to offer, you would have no reason to go back for lower tiers. This might be in part due to in game limitations but for all its worth, this is getting too old for the industry. The inventory on the game is quite limiting with the hard limit of 48 slots on which all items would be stored. From consumables, to quests items. This however can be expanded in a different method. Two methods are present as of this writing. One is to buy a horse, and the other is via safety box on the bank. Both of which would be shared by all the succeeding characters.
The combat on the game as I mentioned is a bit of a drag in that while the gunplay is enjoyable, the control can get annoying at times when you wanted to shoot your guns but instead, the game makes you carry the barrel in front of you. Ignoring this, the guns for the most part plays their part with the exception of shotguns which is annoyingly just a reloadable melee. I mean sure it packs more punch but with a range which is seemingly a tile longer than melee, I don’t see the point of using it outside of the abilities.
The way you approach each combat encounter would be dependent on how you feel. You can go in guns blazing or just take them down one by one like a skilled hunter. And for me personally, the game gravitates towards the former with the array of abilities on dealing damage and ambushing your enemies. But one thing that the stealth approach has is that once killed you have the option to bury the corpse so that its buddies wont discover their bodies. Otherwise, playing as a pacifist (goodluck on that by the way) you have to drag the unconscious body to conceal it. And unlike other games with stealth mechanics, the grass you can hide can be destroyed if you are not careful. How? By simply hacking it with your melee blade. Which in all honestly goes against it’s clunky control.
The perks and abilities is one of the key highlights of the game. For starters, abilities has two classifications: one is for the weapons and the other would be based on the character you are playing as. Both are not passed to the next character you play as. To get abilities, imp relics are scattered throughout the world. However, there is one ability that is shared throughout by all characters which is the ability to slow down time similar to that of Max Payne. While on slow-time, you can still aim in real time while the world around you goes slow. All of these abilities consumes AP or Action Points which is replenished either by sleeping or with tonics. Then comes the perks. Perks are traits that is inherent among all 5 that is upgraded with the golden spade cards scattered around the world. This brings an increment on the overall game play.
Within the world of weird west, the depiction is beautifully done. And this isn’t because of the graphic style which is done via cell shading. The reason why I said this, is because the world is down right miserable and bleak. While it is an oxymoron to call the art beautiful yet saying it is somewhat miserable, it is still true to its lore. The way the towns are presented reminds me of tumbleweed. The bleakness of the world adds a certain allure of horror to the world. You can see the horror of the underworld. The hardships experienced by everyone. In fact, even the character portrait is given the beaten up look which makes everyone look weathered and beaten up.
One thing I noticed on my playthrough is that while the named location of the world has a unique presentation, random encounters is just a pool of generated locale. While an understandable cost cutting on the storage and processing part of the device, it can get old pretty fast.
A quick sidetrack to the topic is the voice acting or rather the lack of it. The only voice you will be hearing is that of the narrator. And this is where this under rated gem shines in that unlike other unvoiced games they would resort to grunts, squeals, and laughter *cough* JRPGs *cough*. The absolute silence is perfectly done to distance itself from that trope.
Overall, being a fan of the Lovecraftian genre, the game dabbles in that in more ways than one. From the bleak nature to the uncanny denizens of the dark. The game pays more than its fair share of homage to the master of eldritch horror. And while this might be the case, it does not specifically ride the same repetitive notion that many opt to have. It sheerly relies on the atmospheric dread that H.P. Lovecraft has and fine tune it to their respective style.
As many would vouch that this is an RPG, since you have equipment, abilities, and stats, personally I would really classify this as an action game with RPG elements since outside the story and the in game world perception of your action. You don’t really get to breathe life to your character, their traits are set in stone. While this doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment I have with the game, the “RPG” trait is starting to be more of an ad hoc addition to it just to be noticed.
And as for its overall enjoyment, I would say it is one of those hidden gems that few would really like to play since it is a kind of niche akin to that of obscure but highly enjoyable games. With its unique premise and setting, the stand out nature of the game is one of the things I truly appreciate. Particularly with the unexplored genre of the weird west itself.