Weird West is an immersive sim from WolfEye Studios and Devolver Digital. It’s an action RPG set in a fantastical reimagining of the Wild West, with danger lurking around at every corner. We don’t see many immersive sims pop up anymore, and it’s a shame because Weird West is proof that player agency is something that continues to not only impress but reward players for taking control. In our Weird West review, we take a look at what the developers of the iconic Dishonored series and Prey have been up to.
Story, and Characters
Weird West opens with an excellent stylized cutscene that paints the world in a grim, fantastical light. It shows a land rich with opportunity, choice, death, and most importantly, the unknown. It’s a strong start to a world that feels well-realized and inviting. The first character you play with is an ex-bounty hunter Jane Bell. She is struck with tragedy as her child is killed by a group of bandits, and her husband taken away. This is the only stimulus you need for now, and it’s clear what you have to do. There’s no extravagant exposition into her past, apart from a few lines here from NPCs. Your motivating factor is fairly straightforward and explicitly shown in the opening.
Over time, you will meet different NPCs in the world, and ones that have recurring appearances. Individual stories for the five different characters you play with feel urgent and have weight. However, there is a bigger narrative that involves all of them. This is a thing I really appreciate about Weird West, that while the bigger narrative still lingers at the back of your head, the focused individual story is mostly the driving force of your journey.
Like many other immersive sims, it’s not just actions that change how the world reacts to you, but your narrative decisions as well. You’re free to practically choose what you want, and these can range from being honorable, to downright repulsive. The fact that the writers still gave these choices shows a dedication to the setting.
Exploring the world, and doing side quests can lead to some very interesting revelations. While the writing isn’t exactly mind-blowing, the variety in dialogue stood out.
Gameplay and Controls
Unlike Dishonored and Prey, Weird West features an isometric view that only enhances the level of freedom you have. Having this particular view during a combat encounter, or stealth allows you to scan possibilities that you simply couldn’t in a first-person view. Immersive Sims by nature push players to get creative with how they handle situations, and Weird West is no different.
Almost everything placed in the game world feels deliberate and something you can manipulate. You can pick up almost anything, including knocked-out bodies, bury those, and continue to dig them back out because you forgot to loot them. You can pierce cacti, and regain health, cook meat at campfires, eat fallen enemies (as the Pigman), and use elemental interactions to your advantage.
Here’s a boring example; I had to enter an area that had been locked behind a gate that required 5 lockpicks. I didn’t have any on me at that particular moment, so I looked around the environment, grabbed different items, stacked those on top of each other, and jumped over the gate entirely.
The game rewards you for coming up with clever solutions. Considering how resource hungry the “safest” possibilities are, it feels intentional that players should find other ways to do things.
It’s an immersive sim in all the right ways and something that reminds us of the importance of trusting the player to make their decisions and live with them.
Combat and Enemies
When it comes to combat, you get a mixture of twin-stick shooting combined with different abilities and bullet time. It’s not exactly a highlight and does feel a bit stiff at times. If you’re clever about dealing with the encounters and treat those as puzzles, there’s a chance you’ll surprise yourself with how dynamic and reactive the world is.
I always started off with stealth and tried to knock out as many enemies as I could, only for it to spiral out of control somehow because I didn’t notice an oil trail that had caught fire, and now I’m on fire. This level of unpredictability creates a world that doesn’t like something you can fully tame, but interact with as situations unfold.
There’s a decent variety of enemies that range from regular gang members to sirens and even zombies. It isn’t so much the enemies themselves that make combat interesting, but how those are placed in a combat encounter. Nothing feels out of place and there is usually enough in the environment specifically for that certain enemy type for you to use to your advantage.
You have a wide variety of weapons, and there’s a good chance you’ll develop a preference. This becomes more apparent when you start unlocking weapon-specific abilities. I really liked the Revolver and upgraded my character around that. You have a “High Noon” attack that aims at multiple enemies or an attack that lets you fire all your bullets in the magazine in one go.
The more characters you unlock, the weirder things will get. Jane Bell is arguably the most basic character out of all 5, and there’s a lot of variation in playstyles the more you play.
Side Quests, Allies, and Exploration
Weird West’s world map feels like a Dungeons and Dragons’ campaign map. Random events can happen as you travel between locations. Sometimes a pack of wolves will attack you, or you’ll end up at a merchant’s caravan. Different towns offer various facilities, and pretty soon you’ll carefully visit locations that fit your current requirements.
NPCs in towns will ask for favors, and you can take on bounties to get a lot of cash. Pretty soon you’ll have tons of quests lined up. These can range from anything as simplistic as taking cargo to another location, or detailed ones with narrative implications that affect the main story.
Throughout your journey, you’ll come across people you can help. In most cases, anyone you do help will become a “Friend for life”. This isn’t simply something that you can see in your quest log, but a friend for life will actually show up in random combat encounters. It’s a neat system that again, creates dynamic encounters that you never really planned for. Similarly, some characters will hold vendettas against you, and hunt you down as the game progresses. It reminds me of the Nemesis System from Shadow of Mordor titles, and I really enjoyed it.
I highly recommend buying the horse first. It not only gives you a faster means of transportation but a bigger inventory as well.
Abilities, and Inventory
Characters have specific abilities that can be unlocked using Imp Relics. These aren’t too hard to come by, and you’ll find plenty across your adventure. Weapon abilities can give you some flexibility in combat, but honestly, I didn’t find most abilities to be that useful. Passive abilities, especially in the Perks section can dramatically improve how you engage in combat, shops, and more. Increasing your health, and jumping higher are highly recommended.
Inventory management isn’t my favorite thing in games, and Weird West doesn’t do much to improve that. The world is littered with items to pick, and if you’re someone like me that likes to pick up junk, you’ll soon realize that your inventory simply isn’t big enough. It’s why the horse helps, as you can offload the useless stuff onto it.
Either way, I’m not a fan of how annoying inventory management is, and how most weapons you loot aren’t exactly that different from the ones you currently have. You don’t get a whole lot for selling junk either, and it feels like a waste of time. Though, there is a Sell Junk option at the store, which is very helpful.
I recommend scrapping the weapon while you’re looting, that way you can get the bullets without having to manage them in your inventory.
Visuals and Audio
Weird West has an incredible sense of style, and it’s something that is consistent in every aspect of it. Its cel-shaded character models and world are complimented with deep contrasts that give it a distinct look.
Character portraits are similar to what we’ve seen in Dishonored and Prey, and I’m floored by how many portraits there are in this game. There’s a lot of respect shown to indigenous people, and their portrayal feels like something that isn’t exploitative.
Towns, swamps, forests, caves, and mines constantly add variety to the world, and you’ll never feel like you’re seeing the same areas constantly.
There is a lot of effort put into creating an immersive, living world, and it’s one of the highlights of our Weird West review.
Weird West doesn’t feature a typical western score either, but something that feels more appropriate to a horror film at times. The heavy synths, layered with harmonious vocals create a fantastical, creepy, and weird world to be a part of.
Interactive items have different sound effects, something which I always appreciate, and small touches like this enhance the experience quite a bit.
Bugs, Big and Small
I’ve gushed over why I think Weird West is an incredible experience, but it’s time to talk about what’s keeping it away from being excellent. There are multiple systems in play here, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the game will break, or things won’t go as you’ve planned. When it’s the world doing it dynamically, I can live with that, but when the game breaks on a functional level, it can really take you out.
A few hours into the game, I found a way to bypass enemies in a mine by riding a minecart. I felt so rewarded for essentially skipping enemies and didn’t take any damage, or wasted my resources. Just as I was about to reach the end, the cart vanished and reappeared a few meters away from me. This alerted everyone in the mine, and they instantly killed me. I reloaded, and it happened again.
Sometimes characters can’t be knocked out, as they instantly turn without any animation playing. When you are exploring multifloored buildings, there’s a chance that you might not even see the correct floor as you are walking back in from a balcony, and run into enemies you obviously didn’t see.
Another thing, which isn’t exactly a bug, but something overlooked is how NPCs can forget who you are at times. I saved the husband of an NPC in the first area and reunited them. They thanked me and even gave me a reward. When I interacted with them again after the quest was over, they said “I don’t talk to strangers” or something along that line.
I understand that a game this complex will have bugs, but maybe a bit more playtesting might have ironed these out, and I’m sure these will be addressed in future patches.
Weird West is an excellent immersive sim that treats players with respect to not only make decisions but live with them. It features an unpredictable world full of danger, mystery, and ultimately, salvation. The overarching narrative with multiple characters ends on a satisfying note leaving possibilities for so much more. It’s brought down by bugs, both big and small that break the illusion of the aforementioned choice, and freedom both in gameplay and narrative.
What did you think of our Weird West Review? Share what you think about it in the comments below.