You have to hand it to publisher Devolver Digital for giving unconventional games from promising yet unsung developers a platform. Thankfully, WolfEye Studios, made up of the team behind Arkane Studios’ smash hits Dishonoured and Prey, fits that profile to a tee, and its wonderfully unique take on the wild western frontier is the developer’s triumphant example.
A good ‘ol fashioned western’s greatest strength is the vast potential it can take in its story. Anything can happen in the unforgiving deserts with questionable law, and Weird West takes this to an exciting, supernatural level. Going into the top-down immersive sim with action-RPG elements, I didn’t have a clue what I was in for. How could I? It’s hardly the specific genre gamers come by very often, if at all — but by George is it refreshing.
From outlandish stories about monstrous Sheriff’s feasting on wrongdoers and poetic pigs to the level of freedom in nearly everything you interact with, Weird West takes top-down action RPGs and even twin-stick shooters to a new standard. But there are a few tumbleweeds blowing around its otherwise enthralling world, including its combat encounters resorting to feeling mechanical and quests that have you slowly jumping around its expansive map. Regardless, if you’re ready for weird, prepare for this peculiar take on the west.
Weird West is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and definitely deserves a place on our list of the best PC games you can play.
Attention to detail
True to its word, Weird West really is an immersive sim. The freedom of tackling every scenario is thrilling, and Weird West encourages you to experiment in the mayhem you cause. Didn’t like the long-winded stealth approach? Go in guns ‘a blazin’. While combat is satisfying, especially with the destructive, punchy sounds of iron hitting gunpowder, it’s also a thrill to use your noggin. At first, it’s just the usual well-placed barrels standing next to an oblivious goon, but you soon spot other environmental death traps you can set up yourself.
Every object interacted with has a purpose, right down to a seemingly random oil lamp on a bunch of crates. During a stealth run, I switched it off because, well, I could. But I then saw a goon come by to switch it back on — now ripe for taking out. To get the attention of six thugs camping inside a house, I mounted a horse and set it free, kicking up a commotion to lure someone outside. It’s the little things in a life sim that make the experience feel grounded, leaving me impressed with Weird West’s attention to detail.
What’s this? A barrel leaving a trail of oil as it rolls? Sounds like the perfect opportunity for a pyromaniac. An open chimney leading straight down to a sneaky spot that’s perfect for an ambush? I’ve become a maniacal Santa. But these nitty-gritty details aren’t just in combat. From breaking a shovel when digging up a grave for loot or gaining a drop of health by piercing a cactus to drink from it, nearly everything has its place.
But it isn’t all hunky-dory. While I enjoyed how each character had a stylish portrait, the characters themselves are simply designed. Sometimes, the portrait didn’t match the character standing before me at all. I also wasn’t too keen on the inventory system, especially having to go into it every other minute after gunning down an opponent and taking their loot. You soon find out not everything is worth carrying, but the limited space fills up quickly, especially when you need the cash. That said, I’m a fan of the easy way to dismantle weapons to gain extra ammo on the spot, instead of having to dive into the inventory menu to do it.
NPCs also have a habit of doing their own thing. This is both a pro and a con: while it’s nice to see a fellow bounty hunter sit down on the closest bench because they’re tired, it’s annoying to see bounty catches stand idle — leaving me unsure if they are supposed to follow me or if it’s a gameplay mechanic where I need to threaten them to keep up. Result: it’s a bug, they’ll follow to the next area anyway. This is only a minor issue, however, and is largely expected in immersive sims.
The sense of realism plays in travelling, too. It takes hours, if not days, to get to places on the world map. This means if you take too long getting places, some missions — such as bounties — will no longer be available. Plus, there’s a real choice in knowing what needs doing. Should I kill the bounty and just report back to the Sheriff at my leisure or have the handcuffed crook tag along in my wild adventure before handing them in? That could be a movie in itself, and actually is (3:10 to Yuma, anyone?).
This semi-realistic traversal also lets the game down. It can take a while to get to different towns or points of interest, especially if they’re at the other end of the map. It almost counts as a loading screen of sorts, which isn’t ideal when you’re being pinged around the place. Sometimes, I needed to go to a location to talk to someone, only for them to tell me where I actually needed to go. It can get tiresome, especially since you need to go to the edge of an area in order to travel — and characters aren’t exactly fast on foot. Luckily, you can get a horse to make getting around faster, but they come with a high price tag.
Poetic pigs, suicidal trees, and more
You’re thrown into the game not knowing what’s going on, being branded by a cult leader and beginning your journey as one of five heroes. Well, I’d use “heroes” loosely, as this is an immersive sim, after all.
There are five characters to play as, including Bounty Hunter Jane Bell, Pigman Cl’erns Qui’g, Protector Across Waters, Werewolf Desidério Ríos, and Oneirist Nell Bitterleaf. Each character’s story is engaging in its own right, often looking at moral parallels such as revenge vs forgiveness, corruption vs integrity, and more. I did find that while playing as the heroes, I couldn’t connect with their journeys as much as the story wanted me to. This is due to them being mostly silent, leaving it up to me to decide if they were likable or not via dialogue choices.
There isn’t just one story in Weird West, as there are several characters with their own bizarre stories. These aren’t just one-shot novels, either. Each character is part of an overarching story that links each of them together, meaning the path you lead as one character will affect the others in their own storyline. You can even meet up with past heroes you played as throughout Weird West, picking up unused Golden Spades or Nimp Relics and recruiting them into your posse. Although, you’ll also experience the wrath of those you wronged in past playthroughs. I was generally good as Bounty Hunter Jane Bell, meaning my Pigman Cl’erns Qui’g gained a trusted ally — who can also die if you’re not careful.
The crossover doesn’t end there. Other familiar faces pop up from time to time, with some understanding that there’s a link between the heroes you play. These random encounters while traversing the map are entertaining, as you’ll sometimes meet a mysterious little girl calling you “The Passenger,” knowing all too much about you and mocking you for being oblivious to your weird as heck circumstances.
You meet an assortment of interesting characters along the way. One that stood out was called Snack, as he was literally a walking snack for the Stillwater gang and the creatures to nibble away on. It’s a weird arrangement that he doesn’t seem too worried about but prefers the kind of people that don’t want to chip away at him. Although, he refuses freedom as he doesn’t mind being snacked upon (poor soul). That’s just one example of what makes Weird West weird, but it’s the developers’ writing chops that make each encounter so engaging. There’s also a Soul Tree worshipped by a witch who feeds pigman souls that no one can hear except you, and it actually hates its life, swears a lot, and tried to hold its breath once for an entire century so it could finally pass on. Not something you’d expect from a worshipped tree, which is exactly the strangeness many gamers will be intrigued by.
I was always engaged with each story being told, and even more intrigued by how the story would come together during the final, satisfying playthrough as the Oneisrist. WolfEye states it should take around 20 to 25 hours to finish the main campaign, but I was well past 30 hours once Weird West came together — and it’s a treat.
Combat in immersive sims can sometimes feel a little janky as anything is possible in a world’s set limits, but Weird West does an excellent job of delivering satisfying, chaotic action. However, once you know what method works, encounters eventually start getting repetitive.
Weird West tries to change up the formula with its five various characters, all equipped with three or four unique abilities, and some that are shared. For example, the Bounty Hunter can turn foes into allies and slow down time, while the Pigman can become invulnerable to bullets and leave a trail of poison in his wake. These abilities are a blast to use and can change the tide of battle in your favor. Shared abilities come down to weapons, which is a huge plus if you prefer a particular style of gameplay. My favorite is the bow and arrow, as it appeals to my stealthy approach in encounters. While every character starts with a different weapon, it doesn’t take long to find and equip the one that appeals to you most and start maxing out its abilities.
These abilities can be bought with Nimp Relics, which are randomly scattered throughout the world. They allow you to get the ability you want, such as a deadly stealth shot with a rifle, applying electric damage to revolver shots, or ignoring armor with an arrow. While I didn’t use these as much as the unique abilities, they are fun to mess around with in different scenarios.
Characters also share perks, which carry on to each character. These can be upgraded by Golden Spades that are also randomly picked up. Acting as passive abilities, these perks can increase maximum health, give you better discounts at stores, move faster in stealth, and more of the usual passive abilities found in action RPGs (although I found one perk that makes you jump higher to be useless). One ability that all characters share from the get-go is a bullet-time dodge, which brings Max Payne-esque gameplay to Weird West — and I adore it.
Weird West can be challenging at times, especially if you’re not prepared with limited ammo or specced-out weaponry. But I loved knowing that I could try a different approach if one narrow-minded method of just attacking didn’t work. Using the environment was helpful, but I found the best way to go around dealing with the many humans and monsters you encounter is by sneaking up behind them and knocking them out. But that’s the problem; I quickly found that stealth was my best friend, as there was no point wasting ammo and health potions in an encounter that would quickly be followed by another. I would pick off foes one-by-one and if I get spotted, deal with the rest of them with a quick hail of bullets. Freedom became a method, and it doesn’t help that quite a few enemies can be taken out the same way.
Don’t get me wrong, enemies are varied. There’s everything from sirens, cultists, and zombies to outlaws and towering cave dwellers. There are even wraiths that summon the undead. However, a quick bonk to the head, well-aimed shots, and a bit of dynamite all puts them “under snakes,” as Weird West’s expression for death goes.
Weird West also lets you pick up other outlaws to form your own ragtag posse, but it’s not just a throw-away feature. These sharpshooters come with different strengths, abilities, and quips. That last one I enjoyed the most, as my first recruiter, Deputy Monte Clasp, would either complain about how “it’s too early to be bothering folk” or spit on the ground in territories of rich snobs. Each will also have different bills of health, and while it can be upsetting if they die, you can make sure they’re in tip-top shape by equipping them with the best equipment or constantly healing them up.
But this is the Weird West, and that means supernatural beings come with the territory. It isn’t as if the creatures are some rumor; they’re out in the open, reported on in daily papers, and bring about new products for gunslingers to use as they please. By products, I mean bizarre weaponry. Things like a Bioshock-esque “lightning in a bottle’ electric grenade or amulets that offer special perks like resistance against the elements or simply moving faster during windy weather. Most of the time, however, you’ll be relying on good old-fashioned repeaters, double-barrelled shotguns, and punchy revolvers.
Weird West PC performance
Weird West is by no means a graphically demanding game, and hasn’t reached next-gen standards (yet) seeing as it’s only available on PS4 and Xbox One. That’s good news for PC users that don’t have the latest specs in their gaming laptops, but you’ll still need some power to get it running.
I played Weird West on PC, with my Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2021) sporting an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and dual 1TB PCI m.2 SSDs. This is more than enough to handle the game’s requirements.
The recommended PC requirements include an AMD Ryzen 7 2700 or Intel Core i7-6950X CPU, AMD Radeon RX 460 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU, and 12GB of RAM. Minimum requirements include an AMD FX-6100 or Intel Core i5-2380 CPU, AMD Radeon HD 7770 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti GPU, and 6GB of RAM.
The west is more weird and wonderful than ever before in WolfEye Studios’ first attempt at a top-down immersive sim with action RPG elements, and its story and characters made me want to dive deeper into the unique world the developers created. There’s clearly a lot of attention to detail in just about everything you do, and this shines through with the bizarre character interactions, expansive gameplay options, and twists in its mysterious story.
There needs to be more variations in encounters and a different way of traversing the world so quests don’t feel as tedious. Otherwise, Weird West is another excellent entry in Devolver Digital’s catalog of unconventional games that many gamers yearn for. I’d love to see upcoming top-down action RPGs and shooters take a few notes from Weird West, as it will turn them into something more than just a loot ‘n shoot from a different perspective. If you’re after a supernatural immersive sim with a western twist, Weird West will satisfy your curiosity.