It’s not common that I’m floored by a game just from playing a preview build of it. Weird West‘s creative director is Raphaël Colantonio, who also directed Dishonored and the Prey reboot, in addition to having been the president of Arkane Studios for years. One day, he decided he didn’t want to make AAA games anymore, and so he started his own studio along with former Arkane producer Julien Roby. The unsurprising thing about playing this game is that it’s super easy to see how those guys, with that background, made this game because it’s almost obscenely good, which is exactly how I felt the first time I played Dishonored.
Weird West is described as an immersive sim broken up into several campaigns. I only got to play the Bounty Hunter campaign, and it slammed itself into the pleasure centers of my brain with relentless force. This campaign focuses on a retired bounty hunter named Jane. When her home is attacked by the Stillwater Gang, they grab her husband and child. They kill her kid and abscond with her husband, leaving her to dig up her six-shooter and go make them pay. The sheriff of the nearby town shows up and gives you some helpful info and you set out on your way.
Travel in Weird West is accomplished by clicking areas on a map screen. Your character then either walks or rides a horse to that area, depending on if you’ve got a horse yet. Days are counted and getting somewhere else takes a certain amount of hours. Many side missions are on time limits too, so you can’t dawdle after you accept them. In this campaign, Jane’s obvious first order of business is to track the gang down. At this point, the game lays out what you can do. The camera is either top-down or isometric depending on what you want, since you can choose the angle and zoom level.
It’s not nice to stab people you’ve knocked out, but the West isn’t nice
When it comes to combat encounters, you can approach them however you want. I preferred being as stealthy as possible, as I don’t really care for shooting in isometric games. You can sneak up behind enemies and knock them out. Holding the stealth kill button causes you to pick up the body, which you can dump wherever. If other enemies find a body, they’ll come check it out — the stealth system is really rewarding.
You can also throw projectiles, such as wildfire cocktails and dynamite, to flush enemies out of a room or just burn enemies to death. If you kick certain barrels at foes, they explode. There are plenty of options and Weird West is indeed an immersive sim. You can’t take clothing items that aren’t vests, but you can pick up any guns or weapons you feel like, although the game doesn’t let you carry multiples of the same gun. You’ll also be able to loot all sorts of things and then sell items back at the general store.
In town, you can accept bounties and other side quests. You can also attack whoever you want, rob people if you’re feeling up to it, and you can recruit or hire followers. Weird West is extremely robust and I’m already kind of hooked on it in a gushy way, as you can tell from reading this. Simply put, if you were wondering whether this game would be as deeply compelling as Colantonio’s other games, the answer appears to be a giant “yes” shouted from a megaphone from on top of a bus, at least based on my playtime so far. I wish there were more camera angle options, but this is shaping up to be one of the best games of a year that hasn’t even started yet. Writing about it has made me want to play it some more and, y’know, I really need to decide on my perks and upgrades. Let’s go do that.