Weird West on PS5
With the legacy of Dishonored, Prey, and all the other games at Arkane Studios, the expectations are that its games are almost always innovative, well-designed, and tell interesting stories set within unique locations. Having left Arkane to set up Wolfeye Studios, some of these veterans have now given us the action-RPG Weird West, and unfortunately, those expectations are not exactly being fulfilled.
As a top-down immersive sim, Weird West transports players to the frontier but with a twist. Here, people are trying to survive not just the outlaws and the elements but also all kinds of monstrosities and creatures. It is a fascinating premise, and giving players the free rein to do whatever they want to progress is a gamble worth taking, especially when the storytelling takes on a life of its own.
Weird West features five different journeys that players will undertake, one after the other. Starting from the Bounty Hunter to the Oneirist, these different characters are all bound by a mysterious brand but are none the wiser to the machinations of masterminds hiding in the shadows. Living out their tale and making key decisions can lead to markedly different outcomes, and helps the game live up to the promise of an open-world sandbox.
Do you, for example, give in to greed and become the very evil that you swore to vanquish, slay all those that stand in your way or find a more peaceful solution? Alternatively, do you try to recognize your mistakes and venture forth to be a better person? It’s these sorts of decisions that get thrown at you constantly throughout the adventure, and this interconnected way of storytelling is definitely one of the high points of Weird West.
Without venturing into spoiler territory, just know that the whole experience is enhanced when you start to see threads that connect between each of the five protagonists, and the roles that each of them and the various factions play in the wider conflicts that take place at the frontier. Just when you think you have a handle on things, the game can surprise you with what comes next.
The game has a visually arresting style, with the colors and shadows used to great effect. It is reminiscent of a comic book come to life, and the cel-shaded graphics help create a living, breathing world that is full of eye-catching detail.
As for the general action in Weird West, it all takes place from a drawn-back perspective, with the option to zoom in. The former gives a much better view of your surroundings but can cause details to be missed, while the latter is simply too tight to offer any other utility. Combine that with real-time combat, requiring you to not just ready your weapon with the left trigger, aim with the right stick, but also then fire with the right trigger, and every encounter runs the risk of becoming a hectic mess.
That is not to say the combat is in shambles, with gunfights and even melee brawls being satisfying affairs when you are fighting a smaller group of enemies, but the larger encounters leave much to be desired. The targeting could also use some work, with no option to toggle between environmental objects and the supposed target of your fury, while adjusting your throwing distance for dynamite and the like is only best used when undiscovered.
When almost every character in the game can die, including your precious horse, the lack of control and precision does not bode well for Weird West, and neither is having to deal with limited ammo and item durability.
You could alleviate that by gathering a posse together to help with the conflicts, but the number of times I have had unresponsive allies getting stuck somewhere or being glitched and missing meant that they are usually not worth the trouble other than being glorified pack mules, with Inventory and item management a clunky affair as well.
Stealth then becomes a much more attractive proposition, with a full non-lethal playthrough made possible with creative solutions to solve the problems at hand. It may require a little more work trying to avoid detection, but compared to the possible messiness, it could well be the best way to experience what Weird West has to offer.
At the very least, the game does its best to keep things fresh. Aside from certain primary locations, everything else is dynamically generated, ensuring that you will see fewer of the same layouts, environments, and enemies. The way you behave will also determine how the world reacts to you, with upstanding citizens getting shop discounts, while the evildoers have to watch their backs for bounty hunters or the ire of their companions.
The time and weather are elements to take note of too, with stealth becoming much easier in the dark and opportunities for burglaries reveal themselves, while rainy weather enhances lightning damage and strong winds can whip up dangerous tornadoes. Learning how to take advantage of the elements is key to mastering the systems in Weird West, and your enemies can do the same.
By breaking the larger overworld into smaller-sized areas and instances, you have the option to travel wherever you like once you have control. Sure, you might come up against tough challenges, but it’s in keeping with the game’s spirit that the choice is there. Every new location is worth exploring for enemies to eliminate, bounties to be collected, quests to be completed, and even in-game books that flesh out the lore of Weird West.
Having that spirit of adventure is probably the best way to enjoy Weird West, especially when your progress and strength come from not just better equipment that can be found, bought, or crafted, but also unique items that can grant you more power.
Nimp Relics can be used to unlock abilities that make your current character more formidable, be it for the different firearms or their current vocation. On the other hand, you also have Golden Aces of Spades, which are used to unlock passive bonuses that apply across all the journeys, think increased health or damage, or the ability to jump higher with less fall damage. With a well-developed character, capable of different combat and support abilities, plus the passive bonuses, you stand a better chance against whatever lies ahead.
Weird West also extends this continuity in some regards to your gear. The horses that you can buy share their saddlebags across each journey, as do the useful bank safe where you can store your precious gear. You can even recruit the protagonists from the previous journeys to aid your current one, and they all come equipped with the gear you left them with. In a sense, each journey becomes easier as you build up a strong foundation, albeit with an increased challenge in what you will need to get done.
Of course, you still have to earn enough cash to purchase a horse on every journey, gather your supplies to keep you in fighting shape, and try to survive getting to these useful companions. I get that the journeys are meant to be unique, but some concessions made here would have made the repetition a little easier to stomach.
All things considered, Weird West is a conundrum of a game. While the storytelling and the narrative threads are intriguing enough to keep you going, the actual gameplay loop is not exactly of the same standard. It functions well enough but contains enough frustrations that can drain the excitement and enthusiasm.
This is one game that is certainly worth checking out, if only for the setting and story premise, and if you could find some way to look beyond the less than ideal conditions of the gameplay segments, then perhaps you already possess the necessary steel and nerve to make it in the Weird West.
Reviewer: Jake Su | Copy provided by Publisher.
- Interesting and mysterious narrative.
- Visuals that stand out.
- Interconnected systems that leave room for experimentation.
- Real-time combat not up to snuff.
- Each journey can take a while to get going.
March 31, 2022