Weird West: Hands-off Preview
Wild West is an upcoming action RPG that has been built by a small group of developers going under the name Wolfeye Studios. But don’t let the fact you haven’t heard of the studio before put you off. The majority of the devs in this brand new studio came from the hallowed halls of Arkane and after seeing the game in action it shows. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on a preview session with Wolfeye devs, Raphael Colantonio (Creative Director) Julien Roby (Executive Produce) and Gael Giraudeau (Game Designer) and watch as they made their way through some of the game’s opening missions.
The Arkane influence is evident immediately. There is that same, slightly distorted reality that is present in all of Arkane’s games and even though Wild West is an isometric title as opposed to a first-person shooter, there is no mistaking the DNA. But from there, things take a turn into new territory. As I said this is an isometric ARPG set in a supernatural infested old west, something of a cross between Tombstone and Hellboy, and it comes loaded with everything you would expect from such a setting. Six shooters, taverns, the sheriff’s office, abandoned mines, it’s all there with a layer of the occult draped over the top of it for good measure.
The gameplay is a mix of the traditional along with a host of systems and interactions that take things to the next level. Special attention was paid to the aiming systems with the team at Wolfeye wanting to give the player as much control as possible, even in situations where elevation and cover would usually cause problems at the isometric angle. There are fire promulgation systems, adaptive AI, random encounters and multiple tactical options are just some of the concepts in play here giving great scope for players to tackle things how they see fit. We saw one instance where a dev went into a gang hideout, guns blazing and then replayed the mission using stealth and misdirection. Despite the setting, my mind was immediately comparing it to something like Deus Ex, the developers give the player a range of tools and it is up to the player to use them as they see fit, with no “right” way to proceed.
That philosophy extended even further with the team confirming that the world is changed by your actions. You can kill quest-givers, you can alter events, you can change the world’s destiny and the game will adjust, still letting you finish the game. This really gives off a feeling of freedom to approach the game in a way that suits the player, not being led by the nose to follow the “correct” path. The fact that the story is told from five perspectives, with each picking up as the previous one finishes, is something that seems very cool too. Obviously, this isn’t something we could see in action, but the team at Wolfeye were very proud of how the stories, choices and actions all flowed into each other to create a whole.
On the RPG side of things, it seemed to be more common ground. Skill trees, loot, upgrades, it was all there. Once again this is hard to get a full impression from this sort of session, but what I saw leaves me with the impression that there will be everything a player could expect from this sort of title. I am very keen to see how the supernatural element plays into the skills and progression systems, it could really set Weird West apart from its contemporaries. The melding of the magical with the mechanical is something that we don’t see enough of in this genre.
It is easy to see this game being a hit. There is no doubt that Wolfeye has the talent and the nous to hit this one out of the park, the only thing that will stop that from happening is the story. If the story is less than stellar, I feel that all the good work that they have done may be forgotten, but if they get the story right, Weird West has the chance to end up in game of the year conversations. I know one thing for sure, after this demo experience, I am more excited than ever to find out.