We take a look at West of Dead, a refreshing action roguelike that fuses several genres and features an interesting story.
West of Dead is one of those indies that has attracted attention since it was announced. It appeared first in June for PC and Xbox One, later it has been coming out on other platforms. The goal is for players to take double weapons to the Wild West and don their cowboy boots for a different roguelike. We take a look at the Switch version of this wild action game.
This video game has been developed by a small team of developers known as Upstream Arcade, and edited by Raw Fury, publisher of independent games such as Atomicrops, Mosaic or Night Call, among others. The great surprise of West of Dead begins when the narration of our character comes from the hand of Ron Perlman, actor who gave rise to Hellboy, and who undoubtedly makes an excellent dubbing throughout his narration.
Death shouldn’t be like this
Purgatory, Wyoming, year 1888. Condemned to live, our protagonist, the late William Mason, descends into a chaotic and turbulent world that takes shape from the memories, culture and beliefs of the souls that travel through it like a wandering spirit . When he wakes up, he realizes that he is not in the right place, with a single memory of a figure in black and without understanding his surroundings, it will be this way when he tries to search for answers, embarking on a chain of events with unimaginable consequences.
And that’s right, West of Dead introduces us to a challenging and quite dark world, where our agility with weapons and strategy will be part of every step we take. With a coverage system we will have to take advantage of each one of them to be able to advance in the game, so be patient, nobody said it was easy to be alive in purgatory. Difficulty is another aspect that a roguelike is important to get right and, unfortunately, West of Dead doesn’t get it right. We start from a neglected canteen, we continue through dark corridors until we reach the different rooms with enemies, but be careful, once we die we will return to the canteen alive again. The first level is fine, we will have a lot of space with few enemies to learn how the game works. But after this, they greet us with a difficulty peak that doesn’t get any easier, since in the second level we will find some enemies that can kill us in a hit or two.
In each new game or “round” as the video game calls it, the levels will be random and will be designed to generate the player more variety and encouragement to try again after losing. There is nothing predetermined, the map will be discovered as we advance, the rooms will always be located in different ways and there will come a time when we will advance without thinking about where we are, we will only want to get out of there.
Submerged between darkness and lights
The most interesting and sometimes somewhat convoluted mechanic in West of Dead is the way the lighting affects our gameplay and, above all, the fighting. The rooms that we find and enter will be partially dark with enemies scattered around, sometimes hidden in the dark and others simply standing in the open air and that we can see with the naked eye. We will have to illuminate these areas by interacting with lanterns that will also help to stun the enemies, since we will not be able to point our weapon at them while they are in the dark. Unfortunately this can become a problem and a challenge with the fixed camera angles that the video game presents us, since sometimes we will have to run blindly into the room, find the first lantern, interact with it and quickly find a refuge before that a bullet hits us.
There are several maps, each of them will have different types of enemies, which will result in a variation such as gunmen, fanatic clerics, demon dogs and other strange creatures, but in the medium term they will become very repetitive. Even those enemies that are similar will show different behavior depending on the level we are at, which makes the combat unique and challenging in each scenario. The first levels will definitely get us into the mentality of having to take cover and wait for the right moment to shoot the enemies. However, this falls apart when melee enemies come into play. These will come running towards us and if we are taking cover, we will practically be forced to leave the room while we shoot them, however this can become a problem when we are trapped in a narrow corridor without cover.
A wild west underworld full of gunfights
In this grim and grim world of purgatory, our Ghost Rider-style cowboy will wield a double weapon, thus becoming a Twin-Stick shooter video game. Two weapons will be the initials, a shotgun and a pistol, and throughout the map we can find various chests where random objects will appear and among them also weapons. From time to time we can also find some between the corridors and on the way to the next room, most likely at first we will choose the one that causes more damage instead of the weapons that do much less damage, but have different effects (bleeding, plague , etc.).
Will we be able to unlock more or will they always be the same? Of course, we can unlock more and that is where two of the elements that William Mason will have to get come into play: iron and sins. Iron is a kind of currency that we will obtain as we advance and eliminate enemies, this will allow us to buy weapons from a merchant, if we find one; on the other hand, sins are a kind of fragment of memory that we can exchange between level and level to obtain improvements in our games, new weapons … etc., and this will be maintained throughout the game. But it is quite overwhelming and slow to unlock things, as some require more than 300 sins and we will arrive at each level with approximately 10 to 20.
We can also get other types of weapons to defend ourselves and that will act as secondary equipment, such as bombs and knives. Thanks to some altars located in a totally random way, it will allow us to improve our skills: resistance, perception and ingenuity, serving only that specific challenge. Choose well, take cover, measure your range, shoot, hide again and so on until all your enemies have been eliminated, because here it is not the one who kills the most, but the one who shoots first survives.
A unique and interesting art
There is no doubt that the visual style of West of Dead is quite remarkable and causes a lot of interest, it has a unique and interesting art that is reminiscent of the legendary modern gothic comic artist Mike Mignola, abusing the combination of colors and shades, and calling the attention immediately with its long shading. His art style is perfectly suited to a dark purgatory of the Wild West because of the way the character is designed for enemies. Every new area we explore will be dark and gloomy, creating a perfect atmosphere along with the soundtrack.
Upstream Arcade hit the nail on the head to make Purgatory, Wyoming feel as wild as the Wild West, and that’s because music is going to play a huge role in our gameplay. The melody rise as soon as we enter a stage full of enemies, the rapid reload of our weapon, which is done automatically after not firing for a short period of time, projects small noises of bullets filling its slots. Along with the sound of an old cash register opening after each enemy falls, the five-note melody of an acoustic guitar that means the battlefield is empty and we’ve done a good job. When all these pieces come together, the sound of the battlefield at this fast pace is quite stimulating.
West of Dead is a very grim and courageous game, with a captivating look that mixes the western genre with the mystical legends of the late 19th century, with a competent soundtrack and intense shootouts against demonic creatures. It features a slow but steady pace with challenging moments that can be relentless, but once mastered, it’s incredibly fun to play and anticipate our enemies. It has become a novelty within the roguelike genre, setting a new standard by doing things differently, although we can never feel too comfortable in this game because we will always be stepping into the unknown.
- The lighting is undoubtedly a unique and original mechanic.
- The narration with the voice of Ron Perlman.
- The atmosphere is fantastic.
- Proposal that tries to do things differently within the roguelike genre
- More variety is missing in challenges
- The difficulty, somewhat unbalanced
- Some camera problems
It meets the expectations of what a good game is, has quality and does not present serious flaws, although it is missing elements that could have taken it to higher levels.