Weird West is a Western Like You’ve Never Seen Before
Weird West is the type of game that sets the imagination aflame. It starts with a genderbent version of a well worn western trope where a former bounty hunter, who has laid down her guns for a quiet farm life, only for her son to be murdered and her husband kidnapped. This sets her on a path to rescue her beloved and avenge her son. Of course, it soon becomes clear that this is no bog-standard western, as the people who took her husband aren’t interested in his land or money, but instead as meat for some inhuman, flesh-eating monsters. This is a weird west indeed, where crackpot tales about the supernatural turn out to be true and things are always stranger than they appear.
Weird West at first feels like a third person shooter, as you’ll be laying plenty of foes low with the big iron on your hip; but it’s so versatile and strategic in how you can approach every situation that it’s really so much more. At first, the default camera felt obnoxiously far out as I first started moving my character around from the viewpoint of about sixty feet above her head, but the reason soon became clear. Once I went through tutorial bits, all the possibilities opened up. I could kick barrels of TNT down onto groups of ornery cowpokes with explosive results. I could lay impromptu traps by placing a gas lamp down a narrow hallway and shooting it when foes came through, creating a fiery killzone.
Stealth is also an option, as you can hide in the long grass, sneak up behind unaware foes and choke them unconscious. It’s a nice way for patient players to clear out a gang of gunslingers ahead quietly without having to waste your precious ammo, though it can also be a good way of getting in the best position to toss in some dynamite and cause havoc.
The reason for the bird’s-eye view quickly becomes apparent as it easily allows you to see at a glance the whole world of possibilities at your fingertips. Though fundamentally, Weird West is action-oriented, there’s plenty of scope for strategic planning.
The upgrade trees are impressive in their depth, allowing you diverse skills to pick, like one skill that lets you fire, deadly silenced shot from your rifle to take out patrolling sentries, to another skill that lets you wade into the fray and fire your shotgun continuously without reloading. The skills really add more dimensions to the already versatile options you have for completing each mission.
A funny thing I noticed when playing Weird West was how much it felt in spirit like a classic 90’s era RPG like the original two Fallout games (which were set in a post apocalyptic west). You move across the map in much the same way, with time ticking down as you progress and a variety of random encounters popping up. The music is very reminiscent of Mark Morgan’s classic scores and gives every environment the same eerie, unsettling ambience with a distinctly western twang. There’s so many interesting concepts that make random encounters more interesting. Friends who you’ve helped in previous missions will sometimes turn up to help you out in a fight and enemies you’ve wronged can bring a posse along to ambush you on the trail. Even dead characters can turn up as ghosts, haunting you as you explore. It fits so well with the whole weird west concept.
Also evocative of vintage Fallout is how you can walk into each new town and find a whole range of choices of what to do, secrets to uncover and different ways to complete the sidequests you find. One mission seemed like it required me to assist a corrupt mayor to force a farmer out of his home by stealing his land deed. I sneaked in and stole it from a safe upstairs and returned it to the cackling mayor. Afterwards though, I felt quite bad so I reloaded my save and tried to explore the mayor’s mansion for another piece of information to help find the bounty hunter’s missing husband. Lo and behold I found someone held captive in the basement by the mayor and after freeing him, I got the info I needed with a clear conscience!
Along the trail, companions can be recruited to bolster your combat capabilities and obediently carry all your excess junk for selling at a general store later. It’s very easy to get one of your allies killed, and just like in the original two Fallouts, you’ll be reloading saves a lot if you care about them. They have the tendency to run into an explosive trap you’ve got set up or get themselves filled with lead by charging in ahead of you.
Though playing as a lone wolf gives the opportunity to create intricate strategies, having allies along tends to throw a spanner in the works and turn your best-laid plans into totally chaotic shootouts. There could definitely be a bit more put into giving your allies tactics to follow so they aren’t getting in your way. Likewise, though your companions do give some occasionally amusing dialogue when observing different situations, it would be nice if you could talk to them in more depth and find out about their lives (though maybe this is on the way).
There were certainly a good number of bugs to give me an occasional reminder there’s still more polishing to do. Sometimes certain items wouldn’t sell at stores. Information pop-ups would stay on screen after they were meant to disappear. Infuriatingly, my companions would frequently forget I’d told them to equip their long-range rifles and would charge into combat against revolver-wielding adversaries with their bare fists. It’s nothing that stopped me from completing the main missions though, and nothing that can’t be fixed in a month or two of bug-fixing.
When writing this preview, I was practically biting my lip to contain my overwhelming enthusiasm for this game and remember that I’m not evaluating a finished product, merely giving a neutral overview. All its bugs and niggles felt like endearing signs of it straining to achieve its full scope and ambition.
Of course, just like the original Fallout, it’s very much possible to stumble into the ending long before I was intended to, and that’s exactly what I did! I accidentally discovered the final area while exploring around before my bounty hunter had the chance to finish her investigation. Normally, I’d simply call it a day there, but I was enjoying myself so much, I decided to load another save to go back and reach the ending the long way round and it was absolutely worth it. The otherworldly atmosphere and exploring all the different ways I could do things meant it was honestly a joy to play even this unfinished, somewhat rickety preview version to the fullest.
I’ll give a wholehearted disclaimer that there’s always a slender possibility that even the most exciting early access titles can stumble at the last hurdle before release. However, I’d bet my last silver dollar that Weird West turns out to be a stone cold classic and one of my favourite titles of 2022 when it is slated to come out in January of next year.