You can find Seasoned Gaming’s review policy here
In the modern gaming industry, we are seeing a breadth of development talent unlike ever before. It’s becoming common place for developers to earn their pedigree at major studios and then setup their own shop to focus on game development that better aligns with their passion. One such example is WolfEye Studios, which was founded by some of the creative talent that previously brought us such classics as Prey and Dishonored at Arkane Studios.
It must be a daunting task to form a studio and produce your first game, and we’ve seen many examples over the years where it hasn’t produced the expected results. Fortunately for WolfEye Studios, they’ve overcome the challenge with their initial outing, Weird West, which is an excellent first effort.
Your journey begins as an ex-bounty hunter who is forced back into action due to a traumatic family event. After some brief introductions you are handed the reigns and set off to unravel a great mystery.
The art direction of Weird West is striking and one of the first aspects that stands out about the game. While isometric, it displays a high level of detail almost as if you took Diablo 3 but then wrapped it in a Telltale Games skin. It’s stylized and adds a certain flair to the game that further extends to the enemy and character designs. Weird West touches on a lot of themes, including some that are darker, and the distinct art style plays into them perfectly.
WolfEye Studios describes Weird West as an immersive sim, and those gameplay elements are readily apparent from the outset. While screenshots may have given the impression that the game was similar to an action-RTS, it’s far more flexible than that. Combat, specifically, can be approached in a number of different ways. If you’re the type that prefers to focus on stealth and slowly find the most efficient and quiet ways to overcome enemies, you have that option at your disposal. Conversely, if you’d rather approach Weird West as a twin-stick shooter, you have that capability as well. It truly is that flexible in its design, and it’s a testament to the development team.
But what truly makes this approach special are the open sandbox elements. At its core, Weird West’s gameplay is about experimentation, and it encourages it at nearly every step. It’s very much a game that will have you muttering to yourself, “Hmm, I wonder if that will work?” and, generally speaking, the answer is typically, “Yes.” There are countless ways to approach combat scenarios that include varied weaponry, environmental hazards, special abilities, and dynamic gameplay elements. At its best, it feels like the most fun game of Mouse Trap you’ve ever played.
These dynamic decisions don’t merely apply to combat, either. Want that fancy new rifle from the gun shop in town? Go buy it. Or, maybe sneak back into the store after it’s closed and steal it. Or simply kill everyone in the town and take everything for yourself. It truly is up to the player, and with each decision you make, there are consequences to face. Weird West has far more depth in these areas than you would typically expect out of a title in this vein, and it’s an utter joy to experiment with.
While I greatly enjoyed the main gameplay elements and scenarios, the core equipment was a bit of a let-down. Weapon and armor variety is minimal, and as looting is a big part of the gameplay, you will find the same weapons and equipment literally dozens, if not hundreds, of times. While I understand a full, randomized loot system might have been too much of a stretch for implementation, the game could certainly offer a little more variety and efficiency with managing weaponry.
Enemy and environmental variety is considerable, and you’ll soon learn that it’s called Weird West for a reason. Not only will you face off against your standard heathens and outlaws, but also animals, wraiths, zombies, spirits, werewolves, and more. Each has their own abilities, animations, and surprisingly adept A.I. as well. When combined with the game’s environments and sandbox elements, things can get out of control quickly, which usually ends up being hilarious more than frustrating. And, fortunately, the game is extremely forgiving with saves, which further encourages experimentation.
Weird West takes you on an extensive journey across five distinct characters, and, as with the rest of the game’s design, player decision-making is an integral part of the story. Throughout each of the character plots, you will be faced with tough decisions that will have consequences for the rest of the game. I adored this approach and was surprised, yet again, at how much depth the game seemed to provide in these decisions.
Upon finishing a character arc, you are provided with the details of the choices you made to reflect upon. These then tie into the next character and eventually culminate with you learning the truth behind the game’s mystery and how you personally impacted the Weird West. The variety on display is extraordinary and provides an extensive amount of replayability as it will have you frequently questioning yourself and your decisions.
By the end, I was truly impressed with what the game presented and the core themes it worked towards. I didn’t expect such a meaningful discourse, and I appreciated how the narrative threads came together to create a full picture. It’s an approach not often tackled in games nor easy to implement well. And, generally speaking, WolfEye nailed these aspects.
Your journey takes place across a world map that is more varied and substantial than I had expected. Journeying to each location can be done on foot or by horse, and you will uncover new locations on the map as you travel. The world is filled with side locations to explore and additional mysteries to uncover. Doing so will typically reward you with additional items and ability unlocks, as well as the occasional story or lore beat. You will also be frequently surprised with dynamic events that had my seasoned mind dating back to Oregon Trail.
There is no overarching character progression or experience system in Weird West. Each of the five characters has four unique abilities that can be unlocked, but otherwise they all share the same weapon abilities (yet need to be unlocked for each character independently). You also have a profile-wide perk system that is shared across all characters. While I liked the perk system and each character’s unique abilities, I would have preferred some sort of character progression system. As it stands, there is very little reason to visit all of the side areas and kill additional enemies, save for the looting aspect. And as I’ve mentioned, as the loot variety is lacking, it means there’s very little incentive to continue exploring once you get some decent items.
Throughout the course of my playthrough, I did experience the occasional bug. NPCs would sometimes behave strangely, and the partner A.I. characters would often get stuck in a location where they were unable to assist me. I also had to restart the game once due to a mission not progressing. But overall, it was a solid experience and generally very well polished. With so many options in combat and for mission completion, I’m honestly surprised I didn’t see more problems.
The isometric camera angle works well and provides three options for zoom (at least on console), though it can be a little finicky at times and will sometimes get caught in the environments in the least opportune of moments. Also, as you are often looting very small objects, it’s incredibly easy to miss meaningful items.
Weird West had me hooked from the moment I sat down with it. It’s a well-designed, interesting game that offers something a little more intriguing than a lot of games. The moment to moment exploration and combat is delightful, and I loved experimenting with different ways to complete my objectives. The sandbox design is Weird West’s ace in the hole, and if you can overlook some of the blandness of other aspects, you’ll have a really good time.
It’s a fantastic first title from WolfEye Studios and you can be sure I’ll be following them closely in the future to see what they do next. For now, I’m heading back into the lab to see what else I can make happen.