When Weird West developers Julien Roby and Raphael Colantonio left Arkane Studios, they left behind a gaming legacy that defined the immersive sim genre. Dishonored and Prey are both royalty of the modern immersive sim genre. Roby and Colantonio’s new studio, Wolfeye, presents Weird West, an isometric action RPG that takes the immersive simulation genre and admirably translates many of the genre’s best qualities into a top-down format , and an imaginative and stylized take on the Wild West.
Weird West’s setting is all about the surreal and supernatural, a dark fantasy take on stories of cowboys and outlaws. The world created by WolfEye is one of the most complete mystical fantasy westerns fans have come to expect – a video game journey, so to speak, about all things nightfall. Witches and pranksters roam the world as much as bandits and gunslingers, and sometimes the factions work together. Combining Weird West’s mystical flair with the popular story is a cartoon-shaded art style that ties the game to influences from the Jonah Hex and Desperados comics. From an artistic and visual standpoint, the game is a joy to experience, even if it feels limited by the lack of voiceovers and simplistic cutscenes.
Weird West tells the stories of 5 distinct characters, from a retired bounty hunter looking for her husband to a struggling werewolf taking responsibility for his pack. These five stories are cohesive and focused stories with excellent character focus. However, these characters are also bound by a mysterious brand around their necks, interweaving them into an all-encompassing story with the fate of the West hanging in the balance. Weird West’s story often feels like a video game adaptation of a popular Western horror comic book, so it has a unique charm when it comes to storytelling.
Weird West’s story shines when it comes to creating compelling scenarios thanks to well-written characters and a vibrant, ever-evolving world. Throughout Weird West, each character the player interacts with has their own motivations that may conflict with the player’s motivations or with other NPCs that are central to the story. Sometimes, simply showing kindness to a Bandit NPC can turn them into lifelong friends, lending a helping hand when the player needs it most. Weird West gives players a strong sense of agency in the world through decisions that affect them.
Depending on their choices, players can become the hero or villain of the West. It’s possible to show up in a gang-affiliated town, start a shootout, and free the residents from the blackmailers. The consequence of this could be a vendetta against that particular gang, and they will now prevent players from traversing the world map seeking revenge. As players interact with the world, they gradually carve out a place for themselves in the game’s reputation system. Towns, factions, and player reputations can all change over multiple playthroughs.
How the player wishes to interact with NPCs and the world is entirely up to them, and Weird West supports the player’s decisions and subsequent consequences. Everything around character and world interaction culminates in Weird West, which has a persistent, living world that subtly makes players feel like they’re part of everything, rather than the core.
The game’s “say yes to the player” design philosophy has always been a part of immersive Sims, traditionally first-person games. Wolfeye takes that idea and executes it right with Weird West’s game loop. A top-down perspective provides an accessible layer of tactical thinking in its dynamic sandbox environment. Players who’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options a game like Dishonored presents them with — not sure what the best attack is — might feel more comfortable with Weird West.
World interactivity plays a vital role in how players choose to respond to various combat scenarios throughout the game. There’s no shortage of options for completing missions, and fully stealthy, non-lethal playthroughs are entirely possible. However, there are also plenty of gameplay options for shooting and looting border guards.
Players familiar with the Divinity: Original Sin series of games will feel right at home with the way Weird West handles environmental interactions. Except in Weird West, the action takes place in a real-time dynamic environment rather than a turn-based system like Divinity. If Divinity: Original Sin lets players detonate poison barrels, then use fire spells to ignite toxic fumes that incinerate enemies over four turns, Weird West lets players spin house kick poison barrels into TNT barrels, shoot both and watch the chain explode in Destroy a horde of zombies within 5 seconds. The battle loop in Weird West is very satisfying when the plan plays out the way the player envisions it.
Players have access to a variety of revolvers, repeating rifles, shotguns, and dynamite, and an upgrade system rewards players who are willing to temporarily hunt animals and mine veins. Abilities and perks can be unlocked through nymph relics and gold of spades found around the world or by completing various side quests. The loot-oriented progression system greatly incentivizes players to engage in the game’s many side quests or take the time to simply smell the roses.
The pitfall of Weird West is its combat system. The transition to immersive analog elements works well with the isometric structure; however, twin-stick shooter gameplay is often less intuitive and clunky than the top-down format. Aiming the gun relies on a range-based radial system that doesn’t always align exactly with what the player intends to aim at, which combined with the game’s often chaotic combat scenes makes combat even more chaotic than it should be . Expect to accidentally shoot companions frequently.
These problems were exacerbated by a camera that never felt quite right. Moving the camera away gives a better sense of the situation in combat, but players often end up tripping over various obstacles in Weird West’s sandbox, or losing themselves while walking in front of walls. Closer camera angles, by contrast, give more detail to the world, but can blur the view in combat scenes, reduce situational awareness and make long-range engagements very tricky. Additionally, Weird West’s item acquisition system was often frustrating, as the game struggled to decipher what the player was trying to pick up in an item-heavy room. In a game where the player can pick up any unsecured item, looting becomes tedious and tedious as the player has to repeatedly orient themselves to pick up the item they want.
While at around 20 hours it’s a more condensed experience than most other RPGs of its kind, Weird West’s ability to accomplish so much within its confines is where it really shines. It doesn’t have the budget of Divinity or Wasteland, but it punches well above its weight thanks to some excellent world-building, clever writing, and character scenarios that always offer players new ideas.
Wolfeye’s attempt at bringing the immersive sim genre to the isometric game has generally worked out well, though it has some hiccups when it comes to handling combat and looting. Fans craving a game with freedom of choice in both story and gameplay should check out Weird West.
Weird West is out now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. Game Rant obtained the PC code for this review.