When Weird West was first announced at The Game Awards 2019, I was cautiously optimistic. An action RPG developed by the collective headed by the original creators of Dishonored and Arkane Studios, all while being published by Devolver Digital? It sounded way, way too good to be true.
That is, until I got invited to a live demo with the developers. And to say I was impressed is a massive understatement. Appearing over a private Discord session, WolfEye Studios developers Raphael Colantonio, Julien Roby, and Gael Giraudeau showed off a short gameplay demo of Weird West that completely subverted my expectations for the game.
Something that surprised me the most was just how big the scale of Weird West is, with WolfEye stating that its open structure and gameplay is among the lines of games like Skyrim and Arx Fatalis. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be as big as those games, but there aren’t many isometric RPGs that claim to be as ubiquitous as this, and the level of customization and detail showed was pretty astounding. From the world design to voice acting and gameplay, this is a culmination of years of experience from a veteran team, and it shows.
As much as I don’t like comparing games to one another, if you asked me to describe Weird West I’d probably say something among the lines of “if The Oregon Trail took place in Dunwall.” Incorporating elements of spaghetti westerns with the otherworldly creatures and magical powers that defined Dishonored, Weird West’s gameplay goes hand-in-hand with its environment, presenting a world where you can interact with almost anything. The choices you make not only affect the story, but the world as well, and these changes are felt across all five main characters.
Speaking of the narrative, I was surprised at just how well-written the characters and dialogue are. The presentation didn’t dive too deep into the game’s story, but the amount of detail and care put into each conversation reminded me of games like Disco Elysium. I’m a sucker for fleshed-out characters and world-building, so to say I’m loving this take on narrative design in Weird West is a bit of an understatement.
Another thing I was impressed by was gameplay. Weird West is an isometric action-RPG, but given the free range of control over both your character and camera, this translates into combat that’s almost reminiscent of twin-stick shooters. The aforementioned interactivity with the world comes into play here as well, as your character can shoot their way to success or rely on environmental hazards like exploding barrels and mine carts to take out hordes of supernatural enemies. Couple this with abilities and skills to unlock, and the amount of depth the combat system holds is downright incredible.
I fell in love with Weird West when I saw its initial reveal trailer, and this recent gameplay demonstration reinforced to me that this is a game you don’t want to miss as we head into a packed second half of 2021. I feel like most studios created from a pre-existing team lead to concerns about how to accelerate games while not feeling stuck in the past, but Weird West is a fantastic display of a team that isn’t afraid to be different, dark, and distinct. We need more of that in video games today.
Weird West will launch this fall on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Images courtesy of WolfEye Studios.