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Weird West Review – strong but flawed

Weird West, released in 2021 by the founders of Arkane Studio (Prey and Dishonored), is an isometric action game with many interesting gameplay features, but also with its fair share of problems. Players will be transported to a quite peculiar version of the classic Wild West atmosphere. Hang on to your boots!

Weird West is the creation of Wolfeye Studios, a team led by  Rafael Colantonio, one of the main founders of Arkane Studio. They have developed another classic “immersive simulation” title, giving players a considerable amount of freedom. Yet the million-dollar question here is whether this new creation can indeed stand next to classics such as Prey and Dishonored. 

The game tells the story of five different characters: a gun-wielding woman, an anthropomorphic pig,  an Indian, a werewolf and a witch. Taking place in an unknown and remote land of the Wild West, the stories of these characters will unfold singularly. Later, they will join in one single cohesive narrative, which will also tie into the overall strange events of the world of Weird West. 

Wolfeye Studios’ creation combines different gameplay elements from three genres: RPG, simulation and shooter. If one is reminded of the classic Wasteland or Fallout series, then they are definitely on the right track. Like other classic immersive sims, Weird West lets players progress as they wish. For example, you can kill enemies with all kinds of firearms such as revolvers, shotguns, rifles, double-barreled shotguns along with bows and arrows.

Should you decide you are not a fan of pumping lead, then you can use a variety of knives and swords to tear your enemies to pieces. If, well, fighting head-on is not your cup of tea, then you can take them out one by one, ninja-style! 

Further expanding your options, there are two different upgrade systems. One allows you to improve the skill of one of the heroes in a single category (for example, improvement in using a revolver, shotgun, rifle, or any other type of weapon). The next upgrade system is generally applied to all characters, adding a specific perk which will remain until the end of the game.

Finally, applied to all five protagonists, perks such as increased health, unlocking doors, moving faster in stealth mode, and more, along with specific ones for each character,  such as shooting magnetic bullets. All of these perks will allow players to design the characters to their tastes and adapt to different play styles. There are also different paths in the game, with specific decisions during certain dialogues, so the story can be modified as well. All of these game design elements together make Weird West a really high-quality role-playing/immersive-sim game. 

On the other hand, we have the actions and shooting sections. Weird West is a Twin Stick shooter with an isometric camera. The three-dimensional  ( sometimes two-and-a-half) nature of the maps does tend to affect the shooting mechanics of the game, along with the player’s experience. This hybrid nature sometimes causes the player to miss the targets, because of the strange behavior of the camera.

This was also mentioned by Colantonio in one interview, talking about the problems in creating the isometric world of Weird West. He mentions this was indeed a problem in development, as the player in similar games can never seem to determine the height of his aim. The developers finally came to the conclusion to make the players automatically target all creatures at the same height. 

Weird West also provides players with a large number of secondary missions. From stealing treasure and catching wanted criminals, there’s definitely lots to do to gain money and experience. Problem is that, after a while, these missions tend to become quite repetitive, perhaps the developers should have spent some more time on them. This becomes clear when doing two side missions in a row, encountering what is clearly the same level in both missions!

In terms of gameplay, Weird West, along with its flaws, has many notable features. From the RPG components and the dynamism of different storylines in the game, along with resource management and trying to stay on top of the trading and selling goods market. Plus, annoying camera aside, the shooting parts are also quite enjoyable. Still, there are a couple more problems worth mentioning, like the enemies’ mediocre artificial intelligence. Fortunately, the enjoyable gameplay features of Weird West make up for its weak points. 

From an artistic perspective, there is much to appreciate. A work that will remind the audience of Arkane’s masterfully designed visual works. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the game is artistically, Weird West’s graphics suffer from technical and optimization-related problems. There are various bugs and significant performance differences on Xbox Series S compared to other platforms. Unfortunately, the game does not perform as expected in terms of soundtrack either, the developers seemed to not care enough about this crucial point of the game, and there is so much wasted potential. 

The first game by Wolfeye Studios is a product that, despite its problems, manages to entertain its audience. While never pushing the standards of the genre, the various gameplay elements seem to be well implemented. Although several of its issues will become problematic, especially in the long run, its deep and extensive gameplay will provide players with significant levels of freedom and replayability. Despite its flaws, Weird West manages to entertain and leave us hungry for more Wolfeye Studios games!

Weird West: Weird West marks a strong yet flawed step from former Arkane Studios developers into the indie games territory. A well-made story-driven, role-playing, immersive-sim twin-stick shooter that suffers from exploitable enemy AI and repetitiveness of environments and side missions. Ali Goodarzi

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