Weird West is an extremely unique take on the Wild West genre. There are cowboys and Native Americans, outlaws and bounty hunters, as well as horses and saloons, but there are also eldritch horrors and cosmic beings plaguing the land. I recently got to spend some hands-on time with WolfEye Studios’ Weird West and I can say that it looks like the game will deliver on both of those: it’s delightfully weird and most certainly a western.
The story in Weird West follows the lives of a handful of different playable characters that all start out as strangers, but whose actions and decisions cause them to converge. For my hands-on preview, I got to experience the opening campaign, the Bounty Hunter’s Journey. This story centers on Jane Bell, an ex-bounty hunter who is suddenly not so much an “ex” and more like an “active” bounty hunter. She dusts off the old iron and starts looking for revenge after some no good folk come into her town, kidnap her husband, and murder her son. Her story weaves through various towns and settlements as she follows any clue that might lead her to her husband.
In terms of gameplay, Weird West lets the player control the movement of the characters in real-time with the WASD keys while the mouse dictates where you’re aiming your six-shooter, rifle, or some other type of weapon or ability depending on your character. From here, you’ll be using tall grass for stealth, boulders and sides of buildings for cover, and your slow-motion ability to outgun your foes.
The game also includes an upgrade system, with various abilities, perks, and improvements being available for your equipment and character. By finding relics and cards, points can be assigned to a variety of skills, like increased health, more money discovered in containers, higher damage dealt to unaware foes and more. Weapons can also receive new abilities, like being able to fan the hammer of your revolvers, make your next rifle shot completely silent, and give your arrows some nice splash damage. By picking and choosing which abilities and perks to focus on first, players can hone the perfect character for them.
You’ll be using every trick that’s up your sleeve in order to dispatch the various enemies you’ll encounter out in the wild. Part of what makes Weird West, well, weird, are the types of enemies trying to stop you. There’s the usual fare of bandits and outlaws and the common western animals like coyotes and bison, but there are also horrific beasts and outlandish monsters to contend with.
Moving to a new location isn’t a simple quick travel process. You’ll tell the character to begin moving to a new location via a map. Like The Oregon Trail, as the sun rises and falls as you walk to the location (or ride, if you’ve got a horse), you run the risk of a random encounter. Bandits will ambush you or you’ll stumble upon a group of coyotes. These moments ensure that even travelling to a new location is exciting.
Weird West utilizes a cel-shade art style that makes the environments pop. There’s also a sense of authenticity to each of the locations, with minor details standing out, like the weather-worn painting on wood or the flies buzzing around the pigsties. Attention has also been given to the border of each playable area, with the perimeter looking like an old-timey map, complete with tears, distance scales, and the lines of landmasses. It’s a subtle design choice that adds to the atmosphere.
It’s not just a linear experience in Weird West, either. There are side quests to go on, bounties to hunt, and plenty of trades to make. Bounty boards offer targets for you to hunt while some characters may ask you to help them with a task that only a gunslinger can handle. While out and about, you might also encounter animals to skin and ores to harvest, which can be used to upgrade your gear at the right vendor.
Despite being a preview build, there was a lot to see and do in Weird West. The team at WolfEye Studios has something really unique here that fans of the western and dark fantasy genres are sure to love. So keep your eyes on the horizon and your trigger finger itchy, because Weird West is scheduled to release on January 11, 2022 on PC via Steam, as well as Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
This preview is based on an early build of the game provided by the publisher. Weird West launches on January 11, 2022 for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.