REVIEW: ‘Weird West’ Shows the West is Weird and Ruthless (PS4)

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Weird West

Weird West, developed by WolfEye Studio and produced by Devolver Digital, is the latest game to take a crack at the Wild West. It’s an ambitious top-down action-adventure that not only shows the intensity of the West but mixes in dark horror elements as well. Wendigo, werewolves, witches? All real here. All are real, and each has their own motivations. So how does a game with a setting that has tirelessly been done repeatedly put its own unique twist on it?

In Weird West, you don’t play as one character. Instead, you play as five, all of who share one connection, a special brand that miraculously appeared out of nowhere and causes memory loss from right when they get it to when it disappears. Each character, including a Bounty Hunter, a cursed Pigman, a Werewolf, a Native American, and a Sorceress, have their own enemies, morals, objectives, and more. Each person has their own story, and you must help them through each of their scenarios to stop the West from falling into chaos or worse.

Now, I don’t want to get into too many story details because it can easily get spoiler-y quickly. But what I really enjoyed most about what WolfEye Studio made was that it felt like I actually influenced how the game played out. There are a lot of choices that can be made, from performing actions that change your morality to critical story decisions to letting someone live. Each one affects how the game plays out differently. Some even carry over to future characters. What I enjoyed most, though, is that the game never told me how my choices would affect me in the future. While there are five characters, each gets played in succession. And the actions of the first character (the Bounty Hunter) will affect the Pigman’s story. But it’s all subtle changes… until it isn’t.

What surprised me most when I first switched characters was that beating a character was like starting fresh on a new save. While some stuff does carry over, which I’ll cover later, all that reputation, all that gear stays behind. Plus, there’s no going back (unless you manually save and don’t rely on the autosave as I did). It was disappointing to see such hard work be gone in a pretty dang tough game. There is no chapter selection or new game plus after beating a character or a “continue exploring” option. While it feels like the developers wanted to tell their story, I was hoping to have ways to let me keep playing characters that I worked hard on, especially when the time spent with a character just ends without warning.

The gameplay controls similarly to a twin-stick shooter. Top-down, you move around with the left stick and aim with the right. But, pressing down on the right stick also changes the camera zoom. I got into several frustrating situations when trying to aim because of this, leading to unnecessary death or wasting precious bullets. Despite this, each character’s abilities and those that can be unlocked are fun, particularly the Native American’s ability to turn invisible and the Werewolf being able to set everything around him on fire. So, besides the randomness of the shots, everything else made Weird West feel like a dark fantasy western D&D campaign!

Now, I mentioned the difficulty previously (and made sure to feature it prominently in the title)—Weird West does not hold back. I found the game unforgivingly challenging. And the difficulty is mainly why I didn’t particularly appreciate that moving to a new character was basically a reset. But what surprised me most was how inconsistent the damage felt. Landing a hit with the same gun could end in a miss, do minuscule damage, or do max damage. And I couldn’t find any rhyme or reason for why.

Every time I landed a non-critical hit, the damage was the same. But an enemy not even looking like they moved out of the way sometimes prompted a “dodged” cue. And again, this may be tied to progress not entirely carrying over between characters. Still, bullets and just about every other resource feel as valuable here as they do in a survival horror game. So them not connecting or doing minimal damage for what felt like no reason was just frustrating.

Weird West

There are some things that you can do to make your characters feel unique. With Nimp Relics, you can unlock abilities for your guns and special abilities for your characters. As I mentioned before, being able to set the area around you on fire as the Werewolf or teleport a short distance as the Sorceress. Some feel like must-haves, so read carefully about what you’re unlocking because there are a limited amount of Nimp Relics in the world. Then, there are Gold Cards. These unlock passive abilities that upgrade all five characters, such as increased health, faster movement when crouched, or even getting more money. These are everywhere but very well hidden. I may have committed several crimes (and I don’t regret them one bit, Sheriff!) to get some.

The West is basically its own character. Everywhere you go, you have not only a gruff narrator talking about the highs and lows of everything happening around you, but the narrator is almost like the West telling you what’s happening. Each area you visit is different from the last and tells its own story. There are so many secrets to find wherever you go too. And the towns change with how you act in certain situations. Commit crimes? A Sheriff will be waiting to take you into custody when you get back to town. Do some good deeds? Shopowners will lower their prices for the “hero of the West.” Even bounties change too! You can be a bounty hunter on any character to earn a quick buck. But what stood out most of this was that sparing a single person probably meant that they would still cause trouble and end up as a bounty or come hunt you down the road.

Despite the downsides, I honestly really enjoyed my time with Weird West! Even though they really stuck out to me, the negatives never stopped me from coming back for more. I wanted to see this game through. The well-written characters and the world I became invested in had me unable to stop thinking about what was coming next. The character variety made every couple of hours feel fresh, even if it was a frustrating restart back to a difficult world. The only time I really got disappointed in the time I invested in Weird West was with the anticlimactic ending and not having a way to get back to past characters. I just want to spend more time in the West I helped create, not start over.

But some of the frustrations act almost like lessons—particularly death. The thing is, I learned a lot each time I died, from enemy behaviors, to how to hide bodies better to even optimizing ability usage to save ammunition! In other words, heed my advice and don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. Another thing I quickly learned (but kept forgetting to do) was to use the quick save feature. Why am I emphasizing this? Because I found that death set me back so far time and time again when you rely on the autosave. My final playtime was about 30 hours. But I know it’s actually about 35-40 because of how much dying set me back.

Weird West is like a love-hate relationship. It can be extremely frustrating one minute, and you want nothing to do with it. Then, the next minute, you want nothing more than to keep playing. The gripping character stories get bogged down by the ending, but the last 20 minutes never feel like they outweigh the many hours before it. And the frustrations, while many, never felt like they got in the way of my want to see the story through. However, all of it comes together to create an impressive world that WolfEye Studio should be proud of.

Weird West is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 31st, 2022.


Weird West
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Weird West is like a love-hate relationship. It can be extremely frustrating one minute, and you want nothing to do with it. Then, the next minute, you want nothing more than to keep playing…However, all of it comes together to create an impressive world that WolfEye Studio should be proud of.