Weird West, developed by WolfEye Studios, is set to launch today. The game is also being published by Devolver Digital, known for giving quirky and offbeat games a shot. With the success of Death’s Door and Inscryption last year, it’s time to see if this latest offering can meet expectations.
Mind you, the game does present a rather engaging experience, one that can keep you playing for several hours just to reach the conclusion of an arc. Unfortunately, your playthrough of Weird West might get bogged down by several issues that I’ll outline in this review.
One for all and all for one
Weird West follows the story of five main characters, with each journey told through different points of view in sequential order. You start out as the Bounty Hunter, whose son was brutally murdered and with a husband who has just been kidnapped. This leads to the successive chapters for the Pigman, Protector, Werewolf, and, finally, the Oneirist. Depending on how you approach progression, each chapter can take you roughly four to five hours to complete. You can add a little more if you’re planning on doing sidequests or wanted missions.
Similar to other role-playing games, Weird West also presents you with choices at certain stages that might affect the conclusion of that character’s arc. Likewise, it’s possible to recruit some companions if you meet the requirements. For instance, a companion named Pigman Joe has a sidequest during chapter 2, whereupon he can join your posse. At a later portion, you might meet him again while he’s being chased by an assailant. If you manage to save him, then he can still be a companion for your other main character/s.
Speaking of main characters, they, too, can become companions down the line. Think of how you’re playing as the Werewolf in chapter 4, but you’d still be able to recruit the heroes from the previous chapters. There’s also an important caveat here which I’ll detail later.
Throughout your journey, you’ll meet corrupt politicians, shapeshifters, evil wizards, people seeking immortality, and a witch who wants you to keep a box without ever opening it. All in all, you’re looking at a peculiar cast of characters, as well as a story that’s cryptic and shrouded in mystery.
Combat in Weird West
The meat and potatoes of Weird West is its combat, and you’re going to be fighting often. Battles are akin to a shooter with an isometric perspective — you’ll aim at a target with the mouse or right thumbstick before firing with your weapon. Armaments include revolvers, rifles, shotguns, bows, melee weapons, and throwable explosives.
Characters can unlock abilities (i.e., active skills) that can help during battles, such as a spinning slash in melee, a rifle shot that ignores armor, and a “High Noon-esque” ability where you’d aim at all hostiles before blasting them with every bullet from your revolver. Moreover, there are perks (i.e., passive skills) that you can acquire to boost your survivability further.
Other default skills include the Werewolf’s shapeshifting, transforming from a human to a beast to gain increased attack speed. Similarly, both the Werewolf and Pigman can eat the corpses of opponents to heal themselves. Lastly, perhaps the most integral mechanic is the use of “Bullet Time,” akin to The Matrix or Max Payne. Dodging while aiming lets you slow down time to line up your shots, making for a dynamic moment.
Problematic skill point allocation for “former” main characters
Sadly, these mechanics also show one of the most glaring issues in Weird West: that of point allocation. Active abilities and passive perks use collectibles called Nimp Relics and Golden Aces of Spades respectively. You pick these up and assign them whenever you please, but they’d disappear once you start the next chapter. Thankfully, you can recruit the main hero from the previous chapter to obtain these again (sort of like retrieving your stash).
There are no problems with passive perks, as the ones that you’ve unlocked beforehand will remain for each subsequent arc. Unfortunately, active abilities are an entirely different matter. Essentially, you won’t be able to assign additional skills to a “former” main character (what they had at the end of their arc is locked in). Their actions as companions are also limited since they can only equip one weapon type, and you have to use a dialogue option just to change weapons.
As such, you’ll only assign a limited number of points, preferably to unlock a couple of movement/support and weapon abilities, and that’s that. There’s also one specific moment where I simply no longer received all the relics and aces that I’ve amassed earlier.
Sadly, Weird West has wonky AI, too. Think of how your posse or party can have up to three characters, including your main hero. Now, your companions won’t be seen as they move if you’re not in combat (only your hero can be spotted if you’re sneaking around). That’s all well and good until the stuffing hits the fan.
When enemies are aggroed, your allies will run all over the place. Sure, they might use any locked-in abilities that you’ve acquired already, but these are fairly random (i.e., they might do multiple shotgun blasts while a target is behind a wall).
Worse, your teammates tend to utterly disregard their survival instincts. Think of how they’re trying to reposition while facing three mobs, but they’ll end up running to half a dozen more that are waiting nearby. In other instances, they’d run straight to burning or poisonous terrain. Combine this with friendly fire at normal or higher difficulties, as well as permadeath for any type of companion (including former main characters), and you’ll have some very messy encounters that may force you to reload your saves.
Bugs and whatnot
Several strange bugs also exist, and they tend to be related to AI scripts or hostility. I’ll enumerate some examples to make them clearer:
- I had a sheriff companion during the Bounty Hunter’s chapter. When I played as the Pigman, I recruited the Bounty Hunter and I went to the sheriff’s house. Surprisingly, the sheriff became hostile. After killing her, the Bounty Hunter also became hostile since they were friends. (She was just shooting her pal a while ago!)
- Upon dismissing one companion to invite another to my party, the two suddenly began to fight each other.
- I rescued a mercenary who became a “friend for life” (i.e., they’d spawn when your HP is low to help even the odds). However, upon re-entering that screen/map, the merc became an enemy.
Although not related to AI scripts, I got stuck in a room because NPCs were blocking the doorway. I used the “loiter” command to pass the time, hoping the NPC would despawn or go to sleep. Instead, I got teleported to the void. And, of course, there were occasional crashes to boot. Lastly, I’ve been told that there’s a pre-order bonus that gives you a horse (it has additional stash slots and it speeds up the travel time on the world map). I was unable to obtain this (i.e., there’s no notification or letter), so I had to keep selling items/farming gold just to have a mount.
All in all, Weird West provides a rather unorthodox romp that kept me interested as I continued to play. Then again, be forewarned that you could encounter frustrating issues, whether technical or by design.