West of Loathing – The Wild West Has Never Been So Weird

A follow-up to popular browser-based game, Kingdom of Loathing, West of Loathing is a charming Wild West adventure RPG by Asymmetric with a lot of character, a novel aesthetic, and a great sense of humor.

One day, after the apocalyptic Day The Cows Came Home, in which portals to hell turned every cow into a demonic killing machine, the child of a small town farmer (I named my character Real McCoy) decides he has had enough of the pastoral life, and hitches a ride West to seek his fortune. On the way, he literally falls off the turnip truck and ends up thrust into a surreal Western world filled with murderous bovine, alien technology, undead abominations, and tons of snakes.

In classic RPG fashion, your first fight involves fighting a goblin in the basement of a bar.

Players choose one of three starting classes; Cow Puncher, Snake Oiler, and Beanslinger (I legitimately remembered this as Bean Wizard, so that’s my headcanon now). Cow Punchers excel in dishing out powerful physical attacks, Snake Oilers attack utilizing pet snakes, and have the ability to create various potions to heal and harm, and Beanslingers are masters of culinary-themed magic.

While I chose to punch cows for a living, spells and various other skills and abilities are obtainable through side quests, and by the end of the game, I had a wide variety of attacks and support abilities. The more I explored, the more control I had over customizing my character.

Combat is turn-based, with special abilities, attacks, and various weapon types, as one might expect of any RPG. What one might not expect is for one of those weapons to be a revolver you found in the depths of an outhouse, which poisons enemies (on account of being “comprehensively toileted up”).

This gun carried me through much of the early game. There are all manner of powerful weapons to discover in West of Loathing, for those who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty.

Battles are team-based, with the player’s party facing off against up to nine enemies on a 3×3 grid. Melee attacks can be used to target anyone, but guns won’t be able to hit back row enemies if another foe is standing in front of them. Special attacks, which use AP (a very limited resource which is fully replenished, along with HP, after every battle), have various areas of effect, and come in a variety of elements like Hot, Poison, Spooky, and more.

Certain characters (such as my chosen companion, Susie Cochrane) can create barricades to block projectiles, or use a lasso to stun enemies, which adds a strategic element to the game, especially during some of the more difficult encounters.

Although battles are largely easy, occasionally I would stumble upon a horde of enemies who killed my partner and I in a single turn. The only consequence of dying is the loss of stat boosts gained from consumable items, but it still felt mildly frustrating, in large part because (most of the time) the game doesn’t tell you how difficult a fight will be before you initiate combat.

West of Loathing is refreshingly self-aware, and when it wasn’t making me smile with cute jokes and its stick figure aesthetic, it was poking fun at Western films, video game tropes, and a whole lot more. In one of my favorite quests early on, I was actually mocked for volunteering to be the sheriff of a small town I had just discovered.

West of Loathing toys with expectations, and subverts them at almost every turn. This attention to detail is one of the most enjoyable things about the game.

Even in the first half hour of West of Loathing, I laughed more than I did during my entire playthrough of South Park: The Stick of Truth, but although there are rich veins of witty humor to discover, my hearty recommendation comes with a word of warning; there is a lot of reading in West of Loathing.

If you get bored by the books in Skyrim, and avoid visual novel games like the plague, you may find yourself annoyed by the constant stream of text. I love reading, and even though there are myriad puns and jokes to be enjoyed throughout, I will admit I skimmed a bit as I neared the end of the game, because I was ready to get back into the action.

VERDICT

Overall, West of Loathing is charming, absurd, and a whole lot of fun. The odd tedious puzzle or difficult enemy encounter may stymie progress, but that doesn’t take anything away from the joy of discovering what is around the next, very silly, corner.

The main story takes around 8 hours to complete, and those wanting to explore every corner of the world will have around 20 hours of content to enjoy.

My recommendation? Buy West of Loathing immediately, turn on Stupid Walking, check every spittoon from Boring Springs to Frisco, and get lost in the weirdest Western this side of the Necromancer’s Tower.

Moments like these are plentiful. Assymetric took every opportunity to fill West of Loathing with flavor, and it shows.

Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Asymmetric
Developer – Asymmetric
Release Date – May 31, 2018
Price – $11.00
Genre – Adventure, Role-Playing
Players – 1
Size –  467 MB

Brian Barnett has loved video games ever since his uncle Jimmy introduced him to them at the ripe old age of five. His wife, Audrey, was also introduced to video games by her uncle, lending credence to Brian’s theory that behind every gamer, there is a cool uncle.

Since playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES, Brian has had a passion for Nintendo games. The first thing he did when he started earning money was save up and buy himself a Game Boy, and they quickly became inseparable. Through the years, this led to his special love of portable game consoles, so the release of the Switch is the perfect storm of Nintendo action he has been waiting for.

In addition to his gaming obsession, Brian enjoys playing drums, writing and listening to music, and hosting a weekly video game and nerd culture podcast.

He is an extrovert, and loves talking about and playing games with others, so let him know if you want to team up and play together!

Plays: Switch, New 3DS, SNES, NES, GBA, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Vita

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