Weird West: A hands-on preview

WEIRD West as a genre is basically a supernatural take on the Wild West as we know it. It’s not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination – Alone In The Dark 3 was using it as a setting back in 1994, and there’s strong elements of the genre in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series from before that, and more recently there’s been the game Hard West – but it’s a genre with plenty of storytelling potential and it’s good to see more games using it.

The game Weird West, developed by WolfEye Studios (which include a number of former Arkane team members) and published by Devolver for PC and consoles early next year (currently January 11th) is basically a surreal action RPG taking place in, well, the weird west.

I’ve had a chance to play the opening campaign, where you steep into the boots of Jane Bell, a bounty hunter searching for her kidnapped husband and the people who murdered her son. Oh, and the entities responsible are shape-shifting cannibals.

Weird West captures the feel of an uncanny take on the Wild West.

The game is viewed from a third-person perspective reminiscent of things like the recent Wasteland games¸ but the camera is freely rotatable and combat is in real-time rather than turn based.

It works really well on PC (the preview platform) though – it takes a second to get used to the camera and controls, but then it comes together nicely; like a keyboard-and-mouse interpretation of twin-stick shooter controls.

The main branch of the chapter can be finished in 4-5 hours or so, but there’s a few side quests etc to pad things out.

Skill upgrades are through finding “Nimp Relics” in the game world rather than levelling up and allocating points to specific statistics.

What I played balanced the action with the RPG side of things quite well – as a fan of the OG Fallout games and the recent Wasteland games I was very comfortable with the general presentation, although the RPG aspects of the game are more upgrading abilities with special items found in-game (basically RPG-light) rather than levelling up and adding a few points to a specific character skill (as in a traditional CRPG).

The game is still in development so while the basic mechanics and questlines were in place, it wasn’t a complete game by any stretch – for example, you can recruit members to your posse who clearly have a story of their own, but for the purposes of the preview they felt like extra guns and damage sponges for the most part.

There are a range of weapons in the game, and combat is fluid and intuitive.

The preview of Weird West certainly had the basis of an interesting and atmospheric game, with a range of weapons and easy switching between them via an intuitive weapon wheel system.

I liked the combat and aesthetic but feel I need to play more of the game to get a better handle on the whole experience – what I played was good but unremarkable for the most part, probably because it didn’t really get into a huge amount of the “Weird” aspect of the whole Weird West thing, although there were elements present and hints of far more to come.

There’s a lot of promise there, and the game hints and some dark and intriguing elements, so I’m certainly looking forward to playing the full game once it launches.

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