Strange West is a mesmerizing, isometric depiction of the Wild West. humiliation and victimization from the back of the mindThis compelling immersive sim is unlike any western story you’ve ever experienced. Its sinister range is not just a land of cowboys and cattle, but is filled with old magic and terrifying monsters such as werewolves, flesh-eating sirens, gold-hungry zombies and trees capable of trapping the souls of men.
The game’s main narrative is a five-chapter compilation following the lives of five “heroes”—a benevolent hunter, a man-pig, a tribal protector, a werewolf, and a spirited—whose journeys are inextricably linked. You play as the Traveler, an unknown entity that for mysterious reasons has a new hero in every chapter. The story begins by following a cattle rancher who has given up his old life as a benevolent hunter, but must humiliate himself in order to save his kidnapped family member. What begins as a tale of revenge for a safe, traditional cowboy settles into a tale of incredible results. You will help a poet lift a curse in a moment that he will only speak in rhyme. In another, you’ll consider turning into a sheriff, after discovering that they’ve turned a prison into a meat market and are feeding the corpses of imprisoned criminals. After a slow start, Strange West moves fast in thrilling and absurd ways, and once you figure things out, something unexpected turns up. It’s so fun to see how each chapter delves into another with every new revelation.
While the legend of the Weird West is fascinating, its sandbox gameplay brings the world to life. As long as you stay out of sight and hide the body enough, you can solve most problems by stealth, though a multitude of guns, bows and melee weapons will let you shoot the game’s raucous twin-stick-style Tempts to engage in -out. Blast enemies to pieces with a screen-shaking blast of shotguns, fan the hammer of a revolver to unleash a rain of bullets, or quietly eliminate opponents with a sentry silencer. This unlockable rifle ability cools your next shot and doubles the damage done to unsuspecting enemies.
Each of the five characters has unique spells in addition to perks like increased health or movement speed shared with other characters. The Pigman can deflect bullets with his rubberized skin, soak the surrounding ground in venom, or be the first to attack enemies to deal devastating damage. At the same time, the protector is able to summon spirit beer or tornado which can be influenced by elemental properties. Combat requires a level of precision best suited to a mouse and keyboard, but if your only option is to play Wear Vest with a controller, I’d recommend using the game’s Tactical Mode, which helps you plan your movements better. slows down time.
You can aim the clear red-tinted TNT barrel for a loud explosion or detonate a box of ammunition, sending a barrage of bullets in every direction. However, if you’re short on ammo, I don’t recommend the latter method. Many enemies have weaknesses like fire or poison, but sometimes you’ll find yourself short in supplies. Instead of using a dynamite stick or a Molotov cocktail to start a fire, equip a bow and arrow next to a nearby flame to make a fire arrow. Make sure you don’t accidentally blow yourself up, as I have done many times. If you do start a fire yourself, quickly find a water source — a pond, bathtub, or even a water pump — before you get burned. These physics-based interactions give me the pleasure of solving the game’s challenges, though it’s frustrating when awkward camera angles hinder my best plans.
The overworld of the Strange West is large and populated with dozens – almost hundreds – of diamond-shaped nodes, which represent the many homes, towns, and parts of the forest between which you can travel. The abundance of locations on the map is sometimes overwhelming, with new areas emerging on almost every trek, although I’m often rewarded with new loot when I stop. In addition to serving as business centers and places of rest, cities are often places where you can hire mercenaries to join your crew as party members. While some rented hands will help your cause free of charge – revenge often serves as a better currency than coins – many will require a hefty upfront fee before lending their trigger finger.
However, how will you make money? If you have enough dynamite or lock you can break into the bank and plunder its treasure. While choices often come with consequences (even outside of story moments), it’s better to come back at night when the bank closes if you want to avoid a shoot-out or criminal reputation. With a rope in your inventory, measure the roof of the bank and enter quietly through the chimney slope. Regardless of point of view, Strange West entertains a bevy of play styles, often encouraging me to look at situations through a different lens.
Whether in remarkable moments or otherwise forgettable encounters, Strange West remembers everything you do. Side characters you betray will appear much later, sometimes during critical moments, to inflict swift vengeance. On the other hand, new friends – such as the woman whose land deed I retrieved – may show up in your time of desperation if you had helped them earlier on their journey. These consequences value even the tiniest of choices, and you never know how the world might react to a decision. If you wipe out all the people in a town – yes, I’m looking at all of you sick people who did this while playing Skyrim in high school – the space would be empty. After enough time has passed, it will become a real ghost town, as terrifying monsters, attracted by the smell of rotting corpses, take up residence and permanently turn the establishment into a hellish domain.
Strange West’s best assets are its well-developed characters and deep gameplay system, but its overall production value is tremendous. The game’s cell-shading looks great at high settings and on the big screen, but the composition quickly becomes muddy on less-powerful machines like my Steam deck. Additionally, a minor bug sometimes prevented me from saving my game, leading to several frustrating deaths.
Regardless, developer Wolfeye Studios has prepared a hell of a a first release, Weird West subverts expectations, twisting well-crushed cowboy tropes into dark fantasy vignettes brought to life by immersive sandbox elements.