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Having left Arkane Studios and AAA development behind back in 2017, Raphael Colantonio instead started WolfEye Studios to work on Weird West - an isometric immersive sim that combines six-shooters with mysticism and a great degree of freedom.
And with the game now approaching its planned Fall 2021 release window, we can check out several previews and learn a thing or two about the systems at play in this intriguing project.
Let's start with IGN's video preview:
And here's Rock Paper Shotgun:
According to the designers, the intention for the game is to start out as a fairly played-straight western, and introduce more strands of strangeness as the game goes on. As the trailer at the top of the post has it, "The deeper you dig, the stranger it gets". And sure enough, as I watched Giraudeau pursue the case of the player character's gunished son, interrogating one of the captured marauders at the sherriff's office and then being tipped off to the location of the gang's badlands hideout, things got odd.
Stealthing around by the entrance to the hideout, the player character eavesdropped on a conversation between the gang leader and some sort of fluid, silvery wolf... thing? According to the devs, this malevolent entity was a "siren", although I'm taking that designation in a figurative sense, since it was not in any way a mermaid.
Those specks of RPG DNA are reflected in developer Wolfeye Studio’s own assessment of Weird West, which it places between Skyrim and Arx Fatalis on its continuum of the immersive sim genre, with open-ended gameplay and a much more open structure than games like Dishonored and Bioshock. It’s worth pointing out that Wolfeye’s 25-person dev team consists of 15 former Arkane devs, many of whom have worked on Prey, Dishonored, Arx Fatalis, and – as evidenced by the bounty hunter’s kicking prowess – Dark Messiah. “We love kicking things,” Colantonio says. “It’s expressive, what can I say?”
It’s too early to tell just how far players will be able to push Weird West’s world and mechanics, but from an early glimpse I’m excited to start messing around in one of its outposts.
WolfEye's entire focus with Weird West is to create a sandbox where players can find new ways to express themselves as they explore the frontier. Similar to how previous games the studio's staff has worked on saw players coming up with new ways to do things the developers didn't even realize would, so too does Weird West give players that opportunity while telling an intriguing western mystery that aims to subvert the cliches of the genre.
Finally, this AusGamers preview doubles as an interview with Raf Colantonio:
And on pouring itself into systems and maybe going overboard on getting it right, something as seemingly trivial as handling weapons became a bigger hurdle than the studio anticipated.
“Frankly, we didn’t see it coming,” Raf recalls of the issues faced with the game’s aiming mechanic. “In our mind we were going to go with, like, a Twin-Stick Shooter [setup], but twin-stick shooters are usually top-down or if not top-down they’re in one plane anyway. Which is not the case for this game -- it has verticality, so if you’re on top of a roof, for example, you can still aim at things at the bottom. And we didn’t want to do things simple, like just aiming at the characters, we also wanted you to be able to aim at objects. And [so] this is the kind of design we always like to invest a lot of time in because even though at first it doesn’t seem necessary, it feels very good and it feels very expressive to be able to shoot at anything you want. [And] it also provides opportunities for emergent tactics.”