Image via Wolfeye Studios

Weird West is an impressive immersive sim of cowboys, creatures, and cults – Review

Actions have consequences.

At a glance, Weird West looks like a simple isometric RPG set on the western frontier. Cowboys ride through town; bounty hunters chase down criminals. Then the “weirdness” starts, and you encounter cults, cannibals, and all manner of nightmarish creatures. Likewise, this immersive sim’s strengths lie in what’s hidden under the surface. As you play through its five chapters, you realize how deep its story, choices, and gameplay mechanics really go.

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Tall tales

Image via Wolfeye Studios

Weird West is told across five separate stories, dubbed “journeys,” each of which span a few hours. A bounty hunter tracks down her son’s killers, a cursed Pigman seeks to learn his true identity, a tracker from the Lost Fire Nation hunts a spirit of greed, a werewolf grows his clan, and a Oneirist witch tries to prevent the apocalypse that she saw in her vision. Each of these heroes has their own main and side quests, but they occupy the same supernatural-filled world. One main map is fleshed out among the five of them, and you’ll find yourself returning to key locations.

These locations are the kinds of biomes you’d expect from a western: settlements, swamps, canyons, forts, and mines. The layouts of some of these locations sometimes feel samey, but the quests do not. Whether you’re bounty hunting for extra cash or tracking down a macguffin for a hero’s quest, all five chapters feel distinct and equally engaging. There are exciting twists and shocking sights for every protagonist. In one instance, I checked the basement of a church for some supplies and found a disgraced drunkard living down there, potentially in secret, after her family’s wealth was stolen by bandits. Another time, I found deadly cave monsters deep within a cave, locked inside a separate chamber by fearful miners. These were fascinating bits of emergent storytelling that I only stumbled onto thanks to my own exploration.

Sometimes these moments come from random encounters. As you travel from waypoint to waypoint on the world map, you can be ambushed by wildlife, held up by highwaymen, or invited into a traveling caravan of merchants. I found these moments exciting — you never know what’s around the corner in Weird West. 

We’re all in this together

Image via Wolfeye Studios

The world is shared by all five heroes, which leads to a deeply layered story. Secondary characters from one quest can appear later. The Pigman journey’s Joe appeared in the proceeding Protector journey, locked in a confrontation that was about to turn violent. Given our camaraderie from the previous chapter, I sided with him and helped gun down his opponent. It felt rewarding to both see and stand with him again. Previous protagonists come along for the ride too. You can build a three-person posse by recruiting mercenaries in town, and any of the five heroes you’ve met can join. This is one of many ways in which the world feels like its own living being.

Of course, the world feels most alive when it reacts to the choices you make. Weird West gives players an incredible amount of agency in quests and combat. Dialogue options abound, with the choice to speak peacefully, lean on settlers for monetary rewards, or let your gun do the talking. These decisions escalate as you near the final chapters. You can spare key characters and enact truces with rival factions — or do the opposite.

No matter what decision you make, Weird West constantly reminds you of its impact. Chapters end with a summary of all the significant choices you made during that particular journey. Some choices are clear, binary options at the end of a cutscene, but others are so organic you might not even realize what you’ve done. Let a gang member escape from a shootout, and they may return later with a vendetta against you. Throw a criminal in jail, and their posse can spring them and hunt you down. Free hostages, and they become friends for life, showing up to aid you in combat. There are short- and long-term consequences for all that you do, whether you live as a noble lawman or a conniving criminal. Weird West gives tremendous respect to the player in this way: what I chose to do mattered, and I had to live with my decisions until the credits rolled.

Shoot, sneak, or stack

Image via Wolfeye Studios

Weird West has overarching consequences and quests, but the moment-to-moment gameplay is loaded with choices too. As you’d expect from an immersive sim, you can approach each scenario stealthily or with guns blazing. Stealth is both engaging and forgiving, with opportunities to slip past enemy lines of sight and knock out your target. Picking locks or pickpocketing a sleeping guard can get you into special rooms ahead of time, and sequence breaking feels encouraged by the amount of routes you can take. Special skills like the werewolf’s temporary invisibility or the witch’s teleportation enhance this further. It’s possible to ‘physics’ your way to success too — I stacked barrels to climb onto a roof or hop a fence on more than one occasion. It’s rewarding to find your own path forward.

When gunfights do break out, Weird West starts showing off. Explosive TNT barrels and poisonous chemical barrels can be found in most arenas, and other elements like lamps, oil, and water further add to the combat possibilities. If you think you can trigger or kick over a particular trap, you probably can — shooting the dynamite in a cave dweller’s hand is always satisfying. Revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and other armaments add variety to your gunfights, encouraging you to fire from behind cover or run right up on your opponents. Bows can be used for silent takedowns or fired through flames and chemicals to create elemental arrows.

Furthermore, every character has unique abilities, like the aforementioned invisibility and teleportation. The Pigman can use his rubbery skin to bounce bullets back at the enemy; the tracker can summon tornadoes and bear spirits. There’s also a shared pool of perks that increase your health, lockpicking, and other skills for all heroes. Altogether, these make each character feel special while still keeping their stories cohesive.

The verdict

Image via Wolfeye Studios

Weird West was created by veterans of Arkane games like Dishonored and Prey, and it shows. Those immersive sims have you take out targets in a first-person perspective, while this game has you play five separate stories from an isometric bird’s eye view, but they share a sense of freedom. You can talk your way to success, shoot your way inside, slip inside a backdoor, or find a completely original route — the tools are all there. Quests have set objectives, but the amount of agency means no two players will tackle this game the same way. They’ll have their own stories about how they ratted out a cannibal sheriff who later became a wanted criminal, or how they got caught by a gang while trying to arrest their boss, only to have an old friend show up and help them shoot their way out.

These experiences are made by both deliberate and organic choices. From the top, Weird West tells you that actions have consequences, and it proves that thesis at every turn. The decisions you make, the laws you break, the lives you take — they all blend together for an exciting, engaging romp in the wild west.

Final Score:

9 / 10

+A fascinating, multifaceted story 
+Choices big and small have real, lasting consequences
+Seemingly endless options for every scenario
+Continual emergent gameplay in combat and exploration
Locations sometimes feel repetitive

Gamepur team received a PC code for the purpose of this review.


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Author
Tony Wilson
Tony has been covering games for more than a decade. Tony loves platformers, RPGs and puzzle games.