Dissociation is a helluva thing. Whether we’re zoning out to screens, books, or illicit chemicals, the things that detach us from reality are readily available for purchase. Reality is rarely as fun as the escape, but the best escapes are ones that feel grounded in something. They need to feel like a real alternative, a place we can go to in our minds. For gamers, the immersive sim genre offers those worlds that feel like liveable fantasy. And one of the best is also one of the weirdest.
Weird West from WolfEye Studios is, on the surface, exactly what it sounds like. A westerns-meets-gothic eldritch horror mashup, it’s got roots in legendary titles like Dishonored and Prey thanks to the Arkane Studios vets who founded WolfEye. And this new studio’s take on the genre is a dark fever dream come to life.
Weird West is a game oozing with atmosphere. It’s got a graphic novel aesthetic with the narrative chops to boot. The story here is rich and dynamic, with lots of side quests and found narrative bolstering the plotline. The reactive, persistent world is the bedrock here both for worldbuilding and gameplay. Your choices have tangible impacts across a story told through five different characters. A persistent world ties it all together. The people you eliminate stay dead. The things you break stay broken.
The weird in Weird West is introduced by way of witches, werewolves, and zombies. One of the main playable characters is a Hogman, a gruesome manbearpig-esque abomination that will … teach you about civil rights? The lofty storytelling marries perfectly with these big fantastical swings, and on writing alone the game is worth your time. There are lots of dialogue options too, including some truly dark character paths for the sadist in you.
Beyond the great writing is an ambitious immersive sim that is more hits than misses, but the occasional sour note can mar the experience. The biggest prevailing criticism surrounds the many objects in the game. They’re tiny, often stacked close together, and can be difficult to sort through. You need them to pull off the creative, emergent gameplay that makes Weird West so much fun, but it can be frustrating when you’re trying to pick up one specific thing amid some clutter on an end table. The isometric camera may also be a dealbreaker for some players, and the twin-stick shooting isn’t as intuitive as you’d expect.
See past the rough edges, and you’ll find a really interesting combat system powered by some cool abilities. There’s lots of action to be had in sprawling gunfights and supernatural encounters. Environmental hazards can be a huge help, and the game encourages you to scout for things like exploding barrels and oil lamps before making you engage in combat. Even a rain barrel can be an asset, provided you’ve got an electricity-based attack ready to turn it into a powerful AoE attack.
Weird West is a pitch-perfect immersive sim that rewards creativity, exploration, and trial-and-error failure. The persistent world and lasting consequences invite reloads and repeat playthroughs, and the dialogue and story are a true pleasure to read. If you feel like you’ve been playing the same old things, then its time to head west.
Weird West is available on Game Pass. It’s also for sale on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.