by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
Welcome to the Weird, Weird West
The following sentence will probably be the strongest endorsement of a game I've made in years. Weird West sent me straight into a nostalgic trance, reliving my time with Planescape Torment.
The opening sequence hints toward mystical powers being used to manipulate a person's consciousness. As you wake up in the body of a female bounty hunter turned farmer, your character is as confused as you are about their origin and backstory. Everyone seems to know you but you. Your son has just been murdered, and your husband kidnapped, so you don your old six-shooters and set off to find him.
This is a dead ringer for the Nameless One waking up in the mortuary room in Planescape, unaware of his multiple previous lives, relying on stories from others and mysterious visions to fill in the gaps. Weird West does this a total of 5 times, as the game's narrative is split into five interconnected short stories that follow one another chronologically. I won't go into spoilers too much except to say that you start off as the aforementioned bounty hunter, and once you've completed her storyline, you wake up as a pigman â€“ a man who's been decapitated by a witch and had a pig's head sewn on in its place. Things just get weirder from there.
Weird West has you battling all sorts of enemies, from wild beasts to outlaws, to cannibalistic monsters, to witches, werewolves, and everything in between. The variety and novelty of these enemy types surprised me, and I must commend WolfEye Studios for writing them into the world in a way that made them feel they belonged there. Studios don't push for novelty in enemies because the standard tropes are easier to make sense of. We've collectively accepted zombies and animated skeletons, but anything new, like human-flesh-eating sirens, is met with a raised eyebrow. The world of Weird West feels whole. Yet another superb piece of worldbuilding that brought me back to Torment.
Five stories are better than one
The game offers a lot of replayability for those obsessed with the consequences of their actions. There are multiple decisions to be made throughout the five stories, and your actions in each will affect the world in which the next character finds themselves. After a story has ended, you can even recruit the protagonist of the previous tale as a member of your posse if you miss them. Makes it that much harder when they fall in battle, though. Careful what you wish for.
Each of the characters you play has 4 racial abilities, and 17 weapon abilities in 5 categories (pistol, rifle, shotgun, bow, and melÃ©e). When moving from one story to the next, your abilities reset. The 17 weapons categories will feature the same options, but the racial abilities are unique each time. Perks, however, stay with you from one character to the next. How you upgrade each character depends on your play style, and I loved the fact that I can play them completely differently while at the same time retaining a feeling of progression.
Character progression is only performed by finding Nimp relics and Golden Aces. The former is used to unlock new abilities while the latter upgrades your perks. These are often found in treasure chests after boss fights but can also be found in the most random places as you explore the world, making exploration and looting extremely pleasurable. I get tired of exploring in games where you know that every barrel and random box will contain nothing of interest, but every cachÃ© is a potential jackpot in Weird West.
Looting is so satisfying, as a matter of fact, that you'll soon find yourself with a chock-full inventory. Weapons you pick up can either be sold or scrapped, and in most cases, scrapping them will yield a greater reward. Mining ore in the world gives you nuggets that you can either trade in (for quite a hefty reward, I must say) or use to upgrade your equipment.
Combat in Weird West is quite obviously not designed with mouse and keyboard in mind. As soon as you start aiming, the camera rotation locks in place, and moving the mouse right to left rotates your character rather than the camera. This, coupled with the relatively fast pace with which the AI moves from cover to cover and the generally hectic nature of the game's fights, can make combat an uncontrollable mess pretty fast. Luckily, some abilities help you take out single enemies without alerting others to your presence, and you can slow down time for a bit when things get rough. But when the sh!t hits the fan... it goes everywhere.
Play your way
Whether you go in guns blazing or take the sneaky-sneaky-stabby-stabby route is up to you. WolfEye Studios have even said that there is a way to finish the game without killing a single human character. But what makes each encounter in the Weird West so much fun (despite its occasional frustration) is the variety in which you can use the environment to your advantage and the hilarious ways you can die if you don't keep your eyes open.
Weird West is a gem of a game with a dark, well-crafted world and an intriguing story featuring choices that carry actual weight. It's not perfect â€“ no indie game is â€“ and I've experienced my fair share of bugs while playing it (nothing game-breaking, though). I will definitely be revisiting it in the near future... right after I finish Planescape Torment again.
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Intriguing story, dark and well-written world, rewarding exploration
Poorly designed combat controls