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You may know Raphaël Colantonio as the founder of Arkane Studios, the team behind such titles as Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Dishonored, and Prey. However, over the past few years, he's been busy getting Wolfeye Studios off the ground. The goal there was to have a smaller indie team that traded Arkane's publisher-supported budgets for some extra creative freedom.
This endeavor has resulted in Weird West - a gunslinging isometric immersive sim. And having played through Wolfeye Studios' debut project, we now bring you our thoughts on it.
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First things first, we have to figure out what an immersive sim even is. It's a terrible name, for starters. Games classified as such are not true simulators, and neither are they a part of The Sims franchise. And immersion is just a nebulous buzzword that doesn't really mean anything.
But if you don't get too stuck on the literal meaning of the words, you'll understand that when someone calls a game an immersive sim, they actually mean a stealth game with a progression system where you have multiple ways to tackle just about any challenge and an option to eschew subtlety in favor of a brute-force approach. A game that is somewhat similar to Deus Ex would be another way to describe immersive sims.
Weird West then is one of those. At the same time, Weird West is also a literary subgenre that combines a Western setting with some supernatural or occult elements prevalent in the so-called Weird fiction. In other words, if H. P. Lovecraft were to write a script for a Clint Eastwood movie, that would be an example of Weird West the genre.
Weird West the game, as you may have already guessed, uses that particular subgenre for its setting. You get a world where an expansive frontier of plains, bogs, steppes, and deserts is dotted with tiny settlements, mines, ghost towns, and haciendas. And in that world, you have farmers growing crops, prospectors lusting for gold, outlaws causing trouble and bounty hunters chasing said outlaws.
But underneath the surface, you also have ghosts haunting their graves, werewolves howling in the night, shapeshifting monsters running slaver gangs, and strange cultists prophesizing doom and despair.
As you play Weird West, you'll get an opportunity to explore this world as five different characters. You will start your journey as a bounty hunter on a quest for revenge. Then, you'll play as a cursed pigman, a demon-hunting native, a god-fearing werewolf, and a witch who can see the future.
These characters all come with their personal stories and an overarching thread that connects them in some way. While playing as any one of these characters, you'll be able to tackle all the optional content you wish. You'll get to take on side quests, bring outlaws to justice, rob banks, hunt bears, explore ghost towns, and so on. But once you're done with a character's main story, you will have to switch.
And while these characters and their stories are pretty good overall, I see this general structure as one of the game's biggest failings. In a game like Weird West, chances are you want to play as either The Good, The Bad, or The Ugly. You know, the classic Western archetypes. And seeing how it's a game with a great degree of freedom, let's face it, it's probably The Ugly, an unabashed agent of chaos. Not being able to create your own character here is a great shame.
This character-hopping thing also ties into the game's progression system. Your characters in Weird West have Perks and Abilities. You unlock them by finding special items while exploring the world. The caveat here is that Perks unlock new stuff for all your characters, while Abilities only upgrade your current one.