First Impressions with Weird West
Immersive Sims. They aren’t a thing I love as much as roguelikes or fighting games, but I still love them. Their open-ended nature, combined with fantastic level design make for great sandboxes for you to make your way through. Weird West is probably the…weirdest example of the genre I can think of in recent memory. At least in the early hours.
I was first interested in Weird West because it was made by Raphael Colantonio and a bunch of other former developers from Arkane under the new studio Wolf Eye. For those not in the know, Arkane was the studio behind last year’s Deathloop, that Prey game that I largely didn’t care for, and perhaps most importantly: the Sith Assassin simulator series Dishonored. That alone had me interested because I like the Arkane style of the immersive sim. After all, they appeal to my reflex of “I failed at sneaking, guess they’ll die now”. A big part of this is due to a lot of the way that Weird West is structured being very reminiscent of Arkane’s work over the last decade. I don’t mean this as a bad thing, I love it. But I can see how others might see it as being derivative of past works, and to be fair it is. This is mostly in the way that the UI/UX is implemented and the way it’s done can easily be described as “Dishonored, But Legally Distinct”. Fonts, colour choices, and more are used in ways that are reminiscent of Arkane’s previous works but are also in service to the work being Done in Weird West Proper. Speaking of, let’s talk about the setting real fast.
The basic premise of Weird West is in the title. It’s the Old West, but Weird. It’s one of my preferred renditions of the Wild West; where on top of all the cowboy stuff there’s also magic and demons and other wild supernatural stuff on top of that. There are five unique stories and protagonists, only one of which I’ve managed to spend any meaningful time with. This is about Jane Bell, a bounty hunter who comes out of retirement from a quiet life of farming after her son is murdered and her husband is kidnapped. From there, she hunts down the gang responsible and finds herself embroiled in something much larger than herself. It’s a decent setup for a revenge story so far and I’m interested to see where it goes.
The game is set up as a map that you can select destinations to go to with travel times and random encounters for things like shops, enemies ambushes, special encounters and more. When you get into new areas you control your character from an isometric perspective, which I don’t think has ever been done in this genre to my knowledge. These still give you the option to go quiet or loud depending on your preference. Although, I will admit that the game feels weird (pun not intended) on a mouse and keyboard because it’s a fixed camera, meaning you can’t scroll ahead. Once I fully got into it, I was sneaking, shooting, shovelling, stabbing, tossing dynamite, and knocking out guys left, right, and centre. The amount of variety in approaches and the tools at your disposal is staggering and can define your playstyle. And this isn’t even getting into how your game plans change when dealing with supernatural creatures, or even how special abilities and powers factor in.
There’s just so much stuff that I want to dig into and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. My favourite example has to be when I was sneaking around a camp and saw that there were two guys just patrolling around near a bunch of ammunition, so I shot it and blew them the kingdom come. Or Another where I saw three guys all in an area and I needed to get past, but couldn’t sneak. So I took out my rifle, activated the power that makes the next shot silent and deals increased damage to enemies unaware and sniped them all. It was so good.
Weird West is a game that I’m going to go back to and finish one of these days, especially with releases slowing down a bit. If the examples I showed are anything to go by, this could be an immersive sim I find myself going back to again and again and seeing what changes,