Strange West Review – A Fantastic Frontier

Weird West is a fascinating isometric portrayal of the Wild West. From the thinking behind Dishonored and Prey, this engaging immersive sim is unlike any Western story you’ve ever experienced. Its creepy frontier is not only a land of cowboys and cows, but is filled with ancient magic and terrifying monsters such as werewolves, carnivorous sirens, gold-hungry zombies, and enchanting trees capable of trapping human souls.

The game’s main narrative is a five-chapter anthology that follows the lives of five “heroes” – bounty hunter, man-turned-pig, tribal protector, werewolf and fanatic – whose journeys are unknowingly linked in Together. You play as a passenger, an unknown entity who for mysterious reasons has a new protagonist in each chapter. The story begins by following a rancher who abandons her old life as a bounty hunter but must dig her hardcore to rescue her kidnapped family. What started out as a safe, traditional cowboy revenge tale morphed into an incredible ending. In a split second, you will help a poet lift the curse of speaking only in rhyme. In another case, you’d consider handing over the sheriff after finding out that they’ve turned the prison into a meat market and fed on the corpses of imprisoned criminals. After a slow start, Weird West quickly ups the ante in thrilling and absurd fashion, and just as you’re figuring it out, things take an unexpected turn. It was so interesting to see how each chapter spirals into another with each new revelation.

Weird West’s mythology is captivating, and its sandbox gameplay brings the world to life. As long as you stay out of sight and adequately hide corpses, you can solve most problems with stealth, although there are plenty of guns, bows, and melee weapons to lure you into the game’s raucous twin-stick gunfights. Blast enemies to smithereens with the shotgun’s screen-shattering blast, fan the revolver’s hammer to unleash a rain of bullets, or use the sentry silencer to quietly eliminate opponents. This unlockable rifle skill silences your next shot and deals double damage to unsuspecting enemies.

In addition to perks like increased health or shared movement speed with other characters, each of the five protagonists has unique spells. Pigman can deflect bullets with his rubbery skin, soak the surrounding ground in venom, or charge an enemy first to deal devastating damage. At the same time, Guardians can summon spirit bears or tornadoes, which can be given elemental attributes. Combat requires the precision that works best with a mouse and keyboard, but if your only option is to play Weird West with a controller, I recommend using the game’s tactical mode, which slows down time and lets you plan your moves better.

You can aim for the obvious red TNT barrel for a loud explosion, or blast a box of ammo to fire a barrage of bullets in all directions. However, I don’t recommend the latter method if you’re low on ammo. Many enemies have weaknesses like fire or poison, but sometimes you’ll find yourself running low on supplies. Instead of starting a fire with a stick of dynamite or a Molotov cocktail, equip a bow and arrow next to a nearby fire to create a rocket. Make sure you don’t accidentally blow yourself up like I did a few times. If you set yourself on fire, quickly find a source of water—a pond, a bathtub, or even a water pump—before you get burned. These physics-based interactions make me happy to tackle in-game challenges, though it’s frustrating that awkward camera angles get in the way of my best plans.

Weird West’s overworld is large, with dozens (nearly hundreds) of diamond-shaped nodes representing the many homesteads, towns, and wilderness you can travel through. The abundance of locations on the map can be overwhelming at times, with new areas appearing on almost every hike, although I often get new loot when I stop. In addition to being trade centers and resting places, towns are often places where you can hire mercenaries to join your team as party members. While some hired people will help your cause for free—revenge is often a better currency than coins—many pay a hefty upfront fee before lending a trigger finger.

However, how will you make money? If you have enough explosives or lockpickers, you can break into a bank and rob its vault. While choices often have consequences (even outside of the storyline), it’s best to return at night when the bank is closed if you want to avoid gunfights or criminal fame. Using a rope in your inventory, climb onto the roof of the bank and enter quietly through the chimney chute. Regardless of the approach, Weird West employs multiple play styles and often encourages me to look at the situation from a different angle.

Weird West will remember everything you do, whether it’s the big moment or other unforgettable encounters. The supporting cast of your betrayal will show up much later, sometimes at critical moments, for quick revenge. On the other hand, if you help them early in the journey, new friends—like the lady I got my land deed from—may show up when you’re desperate. The consequences of even the smallest choices add meaning, and you never know how the world will react to a decision. If you wipe out everyone in a town – yes, I’m watching all of you patients who did that while playing Skyrim in high school – the space will be abandoned. After enough time, it will turn into a veritable ghost town as ghouls attracted by the smell of decomposing corpses take over the residence and permanently transform the building into a hellish realm.

Weird West’s best assets are its well-established characters and deep gameplay systems, but its overall production value isn’t impressive. The game’s cell shading looks good enough on higher settings and on a big screen, but on less powerful machines like my Steam deck, the composition gets muddy quickly. Also, a small bug occasionally prevented me from saving my game, resulting in several frustrating deaths.

Regardless, developer Wolfeye Studios has made a hell of a first release. Weird West subverts expectations, twisting well-known cowboy tropes into dark fantasy vignettes powered by immersive sandbox elements.