Weird West is as downright bizarre as the title suggests, but it backs it up with impressively nuanced “immersive sim” gameplay.
Weird West is what would happen if you took Dishonored’s choice and consequence, threw it into an isometric perspective, and set it on an almost lawless frontier of cowboys, cannibals, and many more frightening things.
Wolfeye Studios’ title is enthralling and intoxicating, and while there are some minor blemishes, it proves that the immersive sim genre is here to stay — it’s just a little different from how you may remember it.
Weird West – Key details
- Price: $39.99/£33.49
- Developer: Wolfeye Studios
- Release date: March 31, 2022
- Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Weird West trailer
Weird & Wonderful
The game’s opening begins as something close to a brutal revenge tale. Your first character, Jane Bell, a bounty hunter, digs up her retired pistols, John Wick style, after having her son slain by marauding mercenaries and her husband captured to be sold as meat. It’s a surefire way to get your attention, and while it’s perhaps in need of a little more build to provide some stakes, it’s refreshing to get straight into the action.
Within minutes, our heroine is exploring a painstakingly detailed town for leads, before traveling to a bandit camp to take enemies out one by one, all with a wolf attack in the middle there somewhere. The best part? This is just the tutorial, and it gives a solid idea of what to expect — Weird West’s frontier is pretty unsettling in places, and no one is safe from demonic monsters and the occasional Eldritch horror that wanders the plains.
All of this bizarre bounty hunting is tied together by a cel-shaded art style that’s not only gorgeous to look at but functional, too. Solid lines and dusty textures look great, but there’s also a huge amount of items to grab and use within the game. Each of the locations feels like an adorable yet grimy diorama, full of character but easily explored through a rotating camera.
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You’ll travel from one of these slabs of land to the next, enjoying random encounters in between. Exploration is not only encouraged, but almost always rewarded, with new perks, items, and weapons to help tailor your playstyle.
Better yet is the cast of playable characters. Once you finish the narrative arc of one protagonist, another begins. Playing as the Pigman channels Divinity’s “undead” class — the townspeople fear you, and you’ll have to give them a wide berth lest they grab their pitchforks, while the werewolf is ludicrously fast and aggressive, favoring a faster-paced playstyle.
Choice, consequence, and gunpowder
Those items we mentioned earlier aren’t just set-dressing, either. Sure, much of it can be pilfered and sold, but as you may expect from a game from Arkane Studios alumni, there’s a huge number of interlinking systems moving around under the hood that are just begging to be poked and prodded.
The game is, despite its altered perspective, an immersive sim, meaning you’re able to pick and choose your battles — often literally. Not since Divinity Original Sin 2 has a top-down perspective added so much to combat and exploration, be that through exploding oil lamps, stacking boxes to reach a platform, or electrocuting water to take out enemies within it.
Things start simple enough, with protagonists able to shoot multiple weapons, but the game starts to show its inspirations, and its heritage, with a short-range teleport, the ability to call down lightning while levitating, or being able to create a duplicate of yourself to distract. One perk even has your character walking through an ever-shifting patch of flame, keeping enemies at bay.
Combat is fun and can be frantic, particularly when ammo is low. Aiming feels responsive, aided by a perfectly dialed-in aim assist, and learning to switch between available tools in your arsenal allows for more interesting combos; like diving in slow motion to get a few shots off before your enemy can react, or stunning an enemy with your bow so they’re ripe for a stealth takedown.
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Speaking of stealth, it feels like a viable solution in plenty of scenarios, even if it lacks the pizazz of combat. Sneaking onto rooftops, dropping down into buildings (and onto enemies), and taking valuable items or keys without bloodshed (or spending your hard-earned cash) really fires the neurons just as much as hitting that perfect rifle shot that takes an enemy’s head off. Striking that balance is hard, but Wolfeye Studios have nailed it.
You’ll want to avoid killing everything, too, because the Weird West will react to your deeds — and your wrongdoings. You can kill everyone in a town and leave with all the loot you want, but returning may bring vengeance in the form of the living dead. You’ll also likely end up with a bounty on your head, too, which can prompt bounty hunters to come after you and appear when you least expect it. Still, the same is true of allies you make, who can appear to help out when things look all but lost.
Not wild enough
Sadly, enemy AI is a little on the sparse side. Vision cones aren’t shown, but they’re evidently visual, and as with many stealth games you’ll feel pretty certain you should have been spotted — especially since ally AI will often wander immediately in front of your opponents.
While the game isn’t a looter per se, it does offer a series of ever more powerful guns, but they lack any defining traits other than the rarer they are, the more damage they do. You can add properties with other gear, but we’d have liked the option for a little more build diversity in the weapons themselves.
Weird West is an excellent immersive sim that marries a unique world, choice-driven gameplay, and a gorgeous aesthetic to create a game that’s unlike anything we’ve played this year.
2022 has been stacked with great games, but you should skip Weird West at your peril — or the Pigman will get you.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 (PlayStation 4 version)
Weird West is available on Xbox Game Pass. Find more about this month’s lineup here. For more reviews of the latest releases, be sure to check out the following: