When you find yourself in a cruel land, full of monstrous enemies and others who want you dead, it’s best to have some choice. Strange West, an upcoming western RPG, wants to give you as much choice as possible. Developers at Wolfeye Studios are using what they’ve learned from their past as game developers to bring a new way to the simulation genre.
I sat down with several developers for a preview event and saw what players could expect during their playtime. Strange West. The game takes place in a stylized wild west tale of cowboys, cultists, and indescribable horrors. The focus is on giving players plenty of space to explore the mechanics they want to play with.
Choose your poison
The first thing that emerges from the game is its unique art style. With hard lines and almost brush-like coloring, the game feels almost like a comic book. This art is purposeful, as the developers wanted to give it a timeless feel where aesthetics are not constrained by current technological standards. The landscapes that I have experienced in the process of playing through are: A house, a town where no one wants to kill the player, a town where everyone does, and tunnels at the bottom of a well.
One interesting thing I noticed is that the color palette is very earthy and brown. Normally, I would complain about how everything was just cropped together and how hard it was to distinguish what was the roof and what was dirt on the ground. However, thanks to the art direction, everything was presented clearly despite a small color spectrum on the screen.
The developers say that they want to bring what they have learned from previous games to create an engaging simulation game. Many developers are working on Strange West from Arkane Studios, the studio worked on Prey and Arx Fatalis. That DNA can easily be seen throughout the game, as the developers really want players to interact with the world. As soon as the game starts, players can interact with anything they can get their hands on. Move and sit on chairs, rummage through crates, even grab bottles and throw them. In the demo, the player threw a picked bottle into the air and shot it like a gunner during an ancient long-distance run. It’s not a useful combat skill, but it’s definitely a novelty. It shows that anything and everything can be interacted with.
This became apparent as we went through our first combat encounter. The developers ran across a walled town filled with wells that kept blaring sirens. Yes, the actual siren. After the cutscene is over, I see how many options players will have Strange West. In general, each conflict can be resolved using combat or stealth. However, these two broad options ramify a lot for players. You can walk into town with flaming guns and try to shoot your way through each enemy. Alternatively, you can maintain your scopes and remove them at a time. You can even subdue the guards and start sneaking in by hiding behind objects. Or you can locate the boxes and stack them on top of each other so you can climb over the wall and avoid the starting guards entirely.
That’s what makes Strange West convince. Sure, the dark magic, weird cryptography, and leveling system are fun, but those are just tools to play around in the open playing field that Wolfeye presents. Every conflict situation in this game can be approached in many ways and the real fun is finding a way or two that you find amusing.