Third-person RPGs can seem like they’re a dime-a-dozen, with many games looking to create half baked worlds in order to cash in on a quick buck. In actuality, a well fleshed out RPG can immerse a user for hundreds of hours in a world never before seen, and Weird West does just that. Top-downs have a bit of an “outsider looking in” effect, but with the amount of exposition and player choice offered in Weird West, that sensation disappears almost immediately. Aside from some older systems that might not be commonplace in modern games appearing and possibly disorienting players with the opportunities (or detriments) they provide, Weird West is an incredibly unique RPG that players can get lost in for ages.
In lieu of the traditional character creation process, Weird West sees the player assuming the role of an already established character. Starting with the Bounty Hunter Jane Bell, players experience the story through her eyes. As Jane sees her son murdered and husband taken captive, it’s up to her to find them before any more harm comes to her family. As a retired bounty hunter, Jane is tasked not only with finding her husband, but also with collecting bounties or helping locals with treacherous deliveries across the wilds. These all play well into her character, and her dialogue options reflect not only her past, but her current pragmatism towards the situation at hand. What’s more, each of these quests is timed, but this will be touched on a bit later. With other characters like a mysterious girl referring to Jane as “The Passenger”, there is more at hand than a single character’s story. Once Jane’s act is done, there are other characters to experience, like the Pigman. As a Pigman, Cl’erns is reviled by normal people, and this impacts gameplay and dialogue options drastically. These character differences open a lot of divergent gameplay paths, and with a whole host of other characters to utilize or ignore, the world feels incredibly alive regardless of the place you’re exploring.
The tutorials for Jane are well executed in the fact that it shows how many options there are in Weird West. Combat almost plays like a twin-stick shooter, with different guns to choose from and blast people with, as well as a melee weapon. As you find collectibles out in the world, you can exchange them for perks or abilities to make your characters stronger. Perks are universal, while skills are character exclusive. That aside, the amount of freedom afforded to the player in both combat and story is remarkable. There are very few games with this level of freedom, and the only one that comes to mind with this level of depth is Divinity: Original Sin 2. Different terrain and circumstances have elemental effects, like oil catching fire or wet surfaces and enemies being able to be electrocuted. These are the major explosive ones though, as there is a perfectly applicable stealth option to pretty much every mission. When stealthed, there is the option to non-lethally knock people out and hide them, or outright kill them once they’re knocked out. There’s also the necessity of moving the bodies to truly not be discovered, as other NPCs will go looking for their friends if something is amiss. Another feature to touch on briefly is the “Friends for Life” addition, which happens when saving people out in the wastelands. In certain circumstances, optional dialogue and side quests can trigger a Friend for Life, which is an NPC that will randomly come to your aid if a fight is going badly. This is just one of the many features discoverable by being a charitable individual in a world that’s out to kill you, and it’s more than incredibly useful whenever it’s triggered.
Weird West has a concept and charm that is incredibly hard to come by. While it can be a bit ridiculous, the amount of exposition and worldbuilding present backs it up entirely. Even the most minute changes in NPC interaction are remembered by the world and have branching implications down the line. It feels as if every action is etched into the world, and your hard work is remembered down the line when you’re the one that needs saving. Save for some controls that don’t feel the greatest at times, Weird West is a title that might seem hard to approach, but is well worth a time investment.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC