The Weird West is a brutal place to live. The prairie boomtowns are overrun with bloodthirsty outlaws, the vengeful undead are climbing out of their graves, and scheming witches are brewing dark magic on the outskirts of society. A heavy, dirgeful soundtrack follows the player everywhere as they cash in bounties, stave off the carnivorous wildlife, and stay one step ahead of everyone who wants to see them dead. In Wolfeye Studios’ debut game, everyone is a suspect and nobody should be trusted; good thing you always have your trusty revolver.

Wolfeye Studios is composed of former Arkane veterans, and unsurprisingly, Weird West is steeped in that ill-defined “immersive sim” subgenre emblematized by games like Dishonored and Prey. This is a top-down action-RPG with a huge swathe of incisive, interlocking systems — all working in unison to submerge the player in this perverse interpretation of the American frontier. Weird West has multiple protagonists, but I spent my time with the game under the guise of an amnesiac bounty hunter tracking down her missing husband. You navigate to each encounter by moving from point to point on an all-encompassing map of the backcountry. As players carve through the main quest, they’ll stumble into side quests, random encounters, and the occasional mysterious locale off the beaten track. My favorite of those was a band of mysterious cultists guarding a stone temple that seemed to hold some ancient, terrible secrets. It’s exactly what you want out of a single-player adventure set in a beguiling, eldritch universe; the feeling that there’s always another macabre layer of intrigue left to find.

The combat in Weird West is expressive, modular, and christened by the aforementioned Arkane tradition. I had plenty of fun pumping out lead in vintage, John Wayne-style shootouts; the game lets you swap out your entire arsenal on the fly, and packs an awesome bullet time feature that adds an extra bit of cinematic oomph to your coup de gras. But Wolfeye is clearly encouraging players to be more cerebral in their approach. Case in point: in one bandit stronghold I found a well that could be explored with the rope that happened to be sitting in my inventory. My character plunged into the depths, discovering some vital intel, good loot, and a perfect flanking position on my enemies. The alternative tactical pathways in Weird West aren’t always that comprehensive — sometimes we’re just detonating an oil barrel next to a target — but the game is at its best when it engages our Dungeons & Dragons logic. It took me forever to realize that you could drink water from the cacti out in the desert, restoring a small touch of health. I can’t wait to learn about everything else I’ve been overlooking.

Wolfeye is clearly encouraging players to be more cerebral in their approach.

Weird West doesn’t overburden the player with a progression system. You won’t spend hours staring at a character sheet redepositing talent points. Instead, I found troves of purple “Nimp Relics” on my journey, stashed away like Zelda chests, which could be spent to unlock a variety of special powers. Within a few hours of play, my bounty hunter could lay down shrapnel mines, fasten a silencer to her rifle, and chuck the bottles and crates she found lingering around the arenas at a terminal velocity. You also uncover the occasional Golden Ace of Spades that are cashed into a perk system for some more conventional bonuses — faster reload speeds, more max health, and so on. It’s possible to minmax out an impeccable build in Weird West, but thankfully, nobody will have to calculate any percentages.

Frankly, the only notable concern I have about Weird West is its optimization before its January 11 release date. The gunplay is visceral, but the controls could be a little tighter. A number of my firefights devolved into both sides circle-strafing around each other, waiting for someone’s health to drop to zero, which doesn’t encapsulate the high-minded tactical flair that Wolfeye is going for. I also experienced one hard-crash to desktop, and a hilarious bug in which a cowboy devolved into a horrible polygonal monstrosity after I knocked him out. Those issues will likely be ironed out when Weird West is in the public’s hands, and if Wolfeye pulls it off, players might finally have the occult, grimdark western we’ve all been waiting for.


Source: IGN Video Games All
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