Published on April 20th, 2022 | by Ben Veress
Weird West Review (PC)
Summary: If the bugs are patched, Weird West has the potential to be a truly excellent game, as there is a lot of fun to be had in the West, you just sometimes have to make it yourself.
Synopsis of Game’s Settings and Mechanics:
Developed by ex-Arkane studio’s veterans, Weird West is Wolf Eye Studio’s first attempt to show the industry what they’re made of. At many points, Weird West feels like a love letter not only to fans of previous Arkane entries such as Dishonored or Prey, but also to veterans of older CRPG titles.
The game takes place within a dark fantasy Western setting, filled with a diverse catalogue of enemies to face off against, ranging from bandits and cannibals to more fantastical creatures such as witches, werewolves, wraiths and pigmen. Just as your enemies are varied, so are the playstyles and builds of the characters you can take control of. Much like previous Arkane titles, the game offers a wide variety of solutions to each combat encounter. Whether you like going in guns blazing, picking off stragglers from groups silently, setting up traps and luring your enemies to a single destination, or knocking people out and hiding them in bushes for a pacifist run, each solution is treated as equally viable within the West.
Weird West is incredibly ambitious in its scope. The world is sprawling with locations, filled with densely scripted NPC’s with unique pathing routines, each serving a specific purpose. These locations and characters are all shared throughout the 5 main chapters of the game, which change and alter throughout each campaign. This ambition is not always to the game’s benefit however, as this amount of ambition, means that bugs occupy the Weird West an equal amount, some game breaking, which ruined the final half of the game as they became too game breaking to ignore.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE GAME
Chapter 1: The Peak of the Game
The game starts with you seeing a character getting branded in a chair. This quickly match cuts to you transitioning to the first chapter, Jane, The Bounty Hunter, writhing in pain in bed while her child is murdered and her husband is kidnapped by a gang of cannibals, the Stillwaters. After losing her child and husband, Jane is forced to pick up the revolver again to avenge her son and save her husband. A classic Western inciting incident.
In this chapter you’ll be introduced to the key gameplay loop that will carry on throughout the 5 chapters of the game. Every character shares the same weapons, what defines each character however are their stories and special abilities. You’ll be able to upgrade these characters through certain collectibles which you’ll find scattered across the world, and as rewards for certain quests. You’ll be able to allocate these to both weapon skills and your character’s special abilities, making them more proficient with certain guns or better overall in specific combat scenarios. You can also find golden ace cards to upgrade passive stats for your characters, which is shared throughout all characters in the game, incentivising you to consider the end game and hunt these down.
The chapter does a great job of introducing the player to the mechanics of the game. Jane already has a reputation within the nearest town of being an incredible bounty hunter to fear, and opens the player up to information only accessible to them. The setup is incredibly grounded as well within the Weird West, keeping your enemies immediately to the humanoid Stillwaters. However their outfits are monsterish, defining features of their face hidden under an almost rorschach mask, reflecting a motif within the game of an “inner monster” becoming external, and what is the line between humanity and monster.
The Bounty Hunter was a tremendous start to the game, keeping it grounded, then slowly revealing the more mystical side of the West was a really smart narrative and gameplay choice made by Wolf Eye Studio’s. A key moment in the game that stands out to me was how many exploratory and combat solutions were offered to the player. In one area, you have to scout around a Stillwater camp to find information about your husband. You can go around and stealth kill everyone, making your way to the head of the camp to find information, or you can take the fights and gun down every last Stillwater in your quest for revenge. Or if you’re paying attention to your environment, you can find rope within the camp and notice you can climb down the well to get the information from a survivor who can tell you everything you need to know about your husband’s location. This blew my mind while playing the game, and it stuck with me the entire playthrough about how many possibilities each encounter offered, and how paying attention to my environment could reward me.
“This is Just Like” Comparisons
It’s at this point of the review that I should mention how this game takes gameplay and narrative tropes from more mainstream RPG’s such as Fallout, Dragon Age and Outer World’s, while also building and commenting on these tropes and gameplay mechanics. A common complaint about Bethesda RPG’s such as Skyrim or Fallout, is the difficult survival aspects of the early game, that eventually becomes an easy cakewalk by the end game. One famous meme pointed out that the endgame of Skyrim mirrors that to being part of the 1% in America, whereas you are bored due to a complete lack of consequences due to being so rich, can pay your way out of any crime and all you do is sell junk to impoverished towns to afford properties you don’t live in. Weird West sort of fixes this issue by making you hard reset after every chapter, with all your items and economy left with the previous character.
This means for the first 2 hours or so of your first playthrough, you won’t be able to access a lot of the resources you gathered in the previous chapter, or if you wish to hard mode your run, you can avoid it entirely. You can choose to add the previous playable characters to your passe, this games equivalent to a Bioware games companion system, and take your items from them. You can also choose to leave all your money in a safety box at the bank in the starting zone. I enjoyed this hard reset and thought it was a clever way of building momentum to an endgame through the passive stats you collect through travelling, while also keeping you invested in exploring for rewards. The big balancing point I want to highlight are bandages and healing items in particular. In games such as Skyrim or Fallout, healing can be a significant obstacle in the early game as Stimpaks and potions can be incredibly expensive, until the endgame where you can craft them easily or purchase them without much concern. In this game, you can only purchase a minimum amount of bandages from a doctor, making the player rely on bounties to afford them, or using the environment to find water or cactus juice to drink from to stay healthy for combat.
In saying this however, there is one negative thing from Skyrim this game inherits as well: Stealth Archer builds. I mentioned earlier in the review that the game allows for multiple solutions to combat and all of them were viable. That was half true, all of them are viable, but one is just inarguably the best and that is the stealth archer route. In the rifle perk tree, which is shared through every character in the game, is the Sentry Silencer ability, which makes your rifle shot silent and does bonus critical damage. It is the least expensive upgrade in the game, and can be unlocked at the beginning of every run. If you catch on early like me, and invest your Golden Ace cards into additional Critical Damage as well, this means you can one shot essentially anything in the game while also not alerting anyone to your location. There were multiple points in the game where I could clear entire camps and dungeons with no one noticing me because I could easily abuse this mechanic. There was also a boss I used this on and immediately took them to the last 20% of their health before the fight had even started. I couldn’t shake this feeling that the game was actively encouraging me to take this build path because the shooting mechanics in this game were incredibly clunky, and melee combat was totally unviable as enemies could easily dodge out of your swings through an RNG mechanic in the game. Swings also don’t always track and put you in more vulnerable positions, so the rifle or shotguns ended up being the only useful weapons in the entire game, with the rifle inching ahead as you can avoid the clunky combat in the game entirely.
This didn’t stop me from enjoying the game completely, and it was still fun to use the mechanic in different ways, such as setting up barrels and a corpse then positioning myself from a distance, drawing multiple enemies in for an explosive kill. The first 2 chapters in the game are sort of great in introducing you to the most overpowered weapons in the game, where the Bounty Hunter highlights the rifle, and Pigman points out the necessity of the Shotgun. A lot of the Pigman’s kit is centred around getting in close, allowing you to reflect bullets off you and charge through hordes of enemies. The Pigman’s chapter also introduces you to the best companion in the game, Pigman Joe (who can only speak in rhymes), and subverts Jane the Bounty Hunter’s chapter, reminiscing Patholigic in their treatment with the Bachelor and Haruspex playthroughs. With the Bounty Hunter you’re renowned and respected, but with the Pigman, you will be chased out of town and actively hunted before completing certain side quests. This plays into the theme of the game as well, the “inner monster” becoming external. Overall I really enjoyed the first two chapters, and felt that they were a great introduction to the game. Both were the most grounded chapters, which build up the mythology and magical side of the world you interact with. It’s a shame however that the game steadily declines after this point in all aspects narratively, gameplay wise and even in its stability.
Late Game: Where it all falls apart
The game however falls off after the first 3 chapters. The Protector quest line has issues, mainly revolving around their purpose within the narrative of the game and what their quest means. The third chapter has the most amazing set pieces, and the only “boss fight” in the game. However at the same time, this chapter felt really loosely connected to the grand narrative of the game. You are hunting the Spirit of Greed, Wendigo, and frequently come into contact with Ravenous, those corrupted by greed searching for gold. This chapter runs opposite to the bounty hunter quest, but not in the good way Pigman does. Whereas the Bounty Hunter was an intimate story that allowed you to immerse yourself in the world more personally. The protector feels like it solely exists to exposition lore at you about the more spiritual side of the weird west, but it’s already too disconnected from the occult connection, making it feel like it’s from a completely different game. That sort of makes sense, the Protector and their tribe is from a different continent, also estranged from the land. However rather than highlighting the West more, it took away from it. An argument I could see being made about this inclusion is that it’s Wolf Eye Studio’s attempt to provide a subversive commentary on Western film and other genre’s connection to Native American depictions. Weird West makes a deliberate choice by letting you play through the perspective of a member of this tribe, and be a witness to their POV, something that doesn’t normally happen in a lot of mainstream media. Traditionally most Western films treat Native Americans as side characters, a set piece for the white protagonist to interact in, or as antagonists. The representation in Weird West should be noted and applauded. This chapter also retrospectively made me realise the influence Bone Tomahawk had on the Bounty Hunters chapter and made me appreciate the storyline in that chapter even more afterwards.
The main weapon of the Protector is the bow, which if we’re being honest, is just a worse version of the rifle with the Sentry Silencer upgrade. I never felt the need to use the bow in favour of the rifle, as sometimes damage would be really inconsistent, which would start large fights that would drain too many resources. In all my criticisms of this chapter though, I have to admit this chapter had my favourite moment in the game, and possibly my favourite moment of gaming so far this year.
The final location of the chapter is the spirit town Olvidado Pueblo. This ghost town is the source of Wendigo’s curse, and has the most haunted and eerie atmosphere in the whole game. The town is invisible however, and you need to take note of a riddle to get the town to appear to you. In this area, the music is incredibly vital to the atmosphere, building in tension as you try to find where you’re meant to stand to summon the town. This builds the first and only instance of diegesis in the game. Diegesis is a term in cinema to describe the sound both the audience and character hears. The music in the scene gets louder when you find the clue, and your companions begin to curse the ghost’s presence. You genuinely feel haunted, and it builds upon the fear and mythology of eventually squaring off with the Wendigo. Exploring the haunted town was also incredibly immersive, exploring the haunted mansion is almost reminiscent of a Resident Evil level. The payoff however leads to needing to go on a fetch quest in another part of the game, which felt very underwhelming unfortunately. This is a recurring problem with the game from here on out as well.
Fourth + Fifth Chapter: A Messy Race to the finish
The fourth chapter starts really strong. The werewolves are foreshadowed within the Pigman’s story, and you interact with their stronghold earlier. However this chapter for me started my biggest issue with Weird West, which was the lack of polish and the insane amount of bugs in the game.
The chapter starts with you being claimed as the hero of the prophecy, the one that will lead the werewolf army in the blood moon to glory. That’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of good setup here, and interesting worldbuilding for religion and cults within the West, as your main villains in this chapter are the Oneirists, a group of witches you’ve been encountering often in prior chapters.
But this chapter is incredibly fast, the story reveals too much too soon and allows you to shortcut throughout the entire story. What’s worse is that this is implied to be the correct way to play the chapter, but lead me to feeling as though I had skipped almost all of the content in it.
After the first mission, you are stopped by an Oneirist that tells you to look underneath your leader’s basement to discover the truth of your religion. When doing so you discover a sole Oneirist working with your leader. On a pedestal there is a note detailing how this Oneirist intends to betray the wolves during the blood moon and claim the West for herself. If you kill her your leader immediately runs in and you have to kill him. There’s no bargaining, despite there being written evidence. Then the entire werewolf tribe turns on you and you are outcast. You then immediately go on to the final level of the chapter and move on to the endgame, without interacting with the tribe ever again. Your companion also becomes the featured bounty in the next chapter, I couldn’t discover any unique interactions between Desi as I couldn’t recruit him in my passe for story reasons.
In this chapter the game fundamentally broke for me and couldn’t be fixed no matter how many times I reloaded or went back to an old save. The final set piece of the chapter is a temple with three puzzles in it. One includes finding a statue among a series of exploding chests. I had a quick save before opening one chest as admittedly, I just wasn’t getting it and at this point opted to race through. So after dying to this chest multiple times and reloading to my quick save, the game broke. Suddenly my companions had duplicated and there were two Pigmen and two Bounty Hunters in my squad, each having their own health bars. That doesn’t matter however as there is no climactic fight, you put the statues on the altar and are given a Mass Effect 3 “Green, Blue or Red ending”. I chose the ending to destroy the moon to save the west, which prompted something to fall to the ground and explode, killing my companions and everyone in the room except for me. Instead of doing what would normally happen at the end of the chapter and transition to the stat screen, the game broke. I could roam around the room on a fixed perspective and run around, but everyone in the room was dead, which made me wonder if the game kills everyone in the room at the end of the chapter, but you don’t see it anyway? I tried reloading a save, but the same outcome happened. Everyone was duplicated, and everyone dies at the end of the chapter except me. To progress I had to leave the room, get shot at by Oneirists and only then did the cutscene end. I was locked in an ingame cutscene, fully able to move around inside it with no natural way to let it conclude. This single bug managed to break the game twice somehow. What was worse was that this meant that Pigman and Jane were dead for the next chapter, but also weren’t at the same time. It was an incredibly bizarre glitch that soured my opinion of the game. What was worse though, was that the bug carried over into the next chapter.
Previous issues with bugs aside, the 5th chapter is the weakest in the game and solidified my opinion that the game was on a sprint to the finish after the third chapter and arguably, a bit before that as well.
In the Oneirist chapter, you only have two missions. To visit a temple and to collect a dagger. These two missions have next to no enemies to fight, which is upsetting at the wasted potential. The Oneirist has the best and the most fun skill set as it gives you so many interesting tools for combat. You would have also spent the last few chapters with your Golden Cards building up your stats. However your encounters are limited to fighting rats and two random back to back overworld encounters that are thrown in there like the Orsino fight in Dragon Age 2. You actively have to search for combat opportunities to play as the Oneirist through side quests and bountie, however there is this race against time being pushed on you within the chapter, that makes it feel inappropriate to go on side adventures.
However this chapter had my favourite side quest within the game at the same time. You are approached to visit this town and investigate this strange magic affecting the town members. It’s that intimate personal story from the bounty hunter again. That grounded, slow burn that the game was excellent with. Despite the reveal that it’s a simple wraith, it adds so much to the world of the West, more so than the Protector did by showing how simple supernatural beings can affect the common folk in the land. It added so much character to the Oneirists as potential ghost hunters, and I really wish the chapter had more of this as another almost counter to the bounty hunter, where instead of hunting criminals, you were hunting evil spirits hurting smaller towns.
The Oneirist chapter was such an incredible let down after seeing the initial potential through their kit, and being handed the strongest gear and weapons in the game, only for none of it to really matter. There isn’t even a final boss to the game, no grand combat challenge to overcome with all the tools you’ve gathered throughout the game. You cannot even travel with the companions from previous chapters when combat starts to happen in this chapter. Desi, the werewolf character himself, is loaded with support abilities which make it seem like he’d be an amazing solo character, or part of your passe. However he cannot join you for any of the encounters after the first mission in the Oneirist chapter, which felt like such wasted potential.
It’s also important to note that for this chapter, that duplication bug was still present, which I found out meant that not only my companions were duplicated, but all NPC’s were as well. That meant towns were crawling with too many NPC’s, which made my framerate tank. This also meant that horses were spawning on top of each other. Horses are immune to crowd control, so this meant that horses were jumping on top of horses and not moving them out of the way, which would do damage to the horse and eventually kill it. So I would enter towns with dead horses at stables or within the middle of the street. Nothing of consequence happens because of this, but it felt important to note.
I could write endlessly about the bugs in this game and how they impacted the game, instead i’ll leave bullet points and screenshots below, but I really wanted to highlight these specific encounters as they really soured my playthrough and therefore my rating on the game.
The game has an incredible start and has some of my favourite moments in a game I’ve played in a long time. The slow burn, personal and grounded story telling made the West seem so exciting and interesting. However the game both narratively and quality wise, nosedives somewhere in the third chapter and by the end, feels like a stammering attempt to get over the finish line. I was very let down by the ending in so many ways and it soured my enthusiasm to play through the game again and experiment with different builds and story paths.
I’m really hoping the game’s bugs are patched very soon, as this has the potential to be a truly excellent game, as there is a lot of fun to be had in the West, you just sometimes have to make it yourself.
Weird West is currently available on Steam, Xbox Gamepass, PS4, PS5.
BONUS BUG DOT POINTS:
I promised below that I would share my experience with bugs in this game and my disappointment in them. There are a lot of small points I wanted to make that couldn’t fit within the structure of the review. I’m hoping that they’ll eventually be patched out and the game can run more stable in the near future.
- Buggy interactions with objects: When meleeing a bear, i somehow managed to pick up a snake body underneath the enemy while trying to attack it. This almost got me killed where instead of meleeing, I was constantly picking up and putting down the snake.
- Sometimes objects will spawn in random and impossible to reach locations. This would give mixed messages as I wouldn’t be sure whether I was unable to reach an object at this point of the game (such as Metroid where you need to back track when the environment changes), or if it was the item spawning bug. For example, I couldn’t pick up a Nimp relic either as it was sandwiched between a shelf. I would be standing on top of it and it still wouldn’t let me pick it up. Reloading the game made it spawn in its correct place. This happened multiple times, especially with Nimp relics throughout every chapter starting from the third.
- In the fourth chapter I discovered a bizarre combat bug where I couldn’t switch to my secondary weapon. I would get stuck on the primary weapon, even if I ran out of ammo. I could spam the electric grenades over and over again however even when unarmed due to running out of ammo. This happened even in werewolf form, where as a werewolf, I could spam grenades endlessly instead of meleeing, which is important to highlight as you should only be able to melee as a werewolf. So the animation on throwing grenades was them spawning randomly from the werewolf midair. This bug would continue after dying and reloading multiple times. At one point I managed to keep the shotgun, and transform into the wolf. It would fire two shots within the round, however I couldn’t reload, meaning my werewolf was just stuck T-posing and I was unable to do anything until the timer ran out. This bug eventually fixed itself after beating the combat encounter, and I didn’t encounter it again throughout the rest of my playthrough.
- Clunky interactions occasionally with aiming. Went to stealth kill a Stillwater with a rifle, accidentally shot the chair instead of the stillwater, didn’t alert the Stillwater however as he was just floating in the air and then randomly stood up to walk around.
- To further expand on the duplication bug, in the next chapter after Pigman and Jane had died, the map was saying they were located underground in this random town. However there was no way to get to them no matter what. After accepting that they were gone forever, I got the quest to recruit them in the game and they were back at their home locations, but there were two of them. Interestingly, one was the quest NPC and the other was one I could only recruit into my passe. There was a lot of bizarre logic with this duplication. NPC vendors would be duplicated, but would share the same inventory, meaning if I bought all the bandages or ammo from one vendor, their twin would also be missing those supplies.
Duplication Bug Spawning Horses on top of each other
Companion Duplication Bug
Duplication Bug affecting Map in Next Chapter
First Playthrough Statistics