West of Loathing (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 09.06.2018

Review for West of Loathing on Nintendo Switch

How often does it happen that one title dips into so many different well defined genres that it becomes really hard to pinpoint what to exactly call it? Is something like the Metroid Prime sub-series a first-person shooter or a first-person adventure? Where can the line be drawn between being able to soot things in first-person view and going on a big exploration of an environment? What to call a game to delves into even more different genres all at the same time? West of Loathing certainly appears to be one of those genre defying titles; however, this comes expectedly with the danger that it may try to do too much of everything to be good at anything, or to not be understood or appreciated because it spreads itself too thin. Cubed3 is thankfully there to check out how it all pans out in the end.

A nameless hero, quickly named by the player at the start of the game, leaves his or her parents' home in search of a career in the Wild West. Going from searching the disgustingly gooey depths of a spittoon at a saloon to hunting bounties... the player starts with next to nothing in hand and soon builds up an arsenal of equipment, meat (the game's currency), and friends through little quests as he or she explores the environment, ever moving more westward towards the North American West Coast. Along the way, a particular event of interest comes to the hero's knowledge, called "The Cows Have Come Home." Belligerent cows have indeed started raiding people's homes, wreaking havoc, and killing entire families in their path. This serves as the backdrop for West of Loathing's many events.

For all intents and purposes, this plays out as a cross between an adventure game and a text adventure, with turn-based, non-random battles thrown into the mix. The hero explores 2.5D side-scrolling environments and interacts with the scenery much like in an adventure game, with a level of interaction coming close to point-and-click titles, and with an amount of text for describing scenes and events that is close to text adventures of old. Interspersed in are turn-based battles that are mostly triggered by the events themselves or by the player's choices in dialogue trees. Battles, however, really do take a back-seat in the grand scheme of things and are not too prominent. Careful perusing of every area that unlocks over time quickly grants the player with the means to defend themselves and a "pardner" quickly joins, as well, to help out, among other things, with fighting off enemies.

Screenshot for West of Loathing on Nintendo Switch

Different "pardners" have different effects, but one such example sees the hero or heroine accompanied by a gunslinger girl with a huge grudge against cows for wiping out her family, so she gets stronger as she carves notches in her rifle's butt, yet not from taking out any other types of enemies.

This game doesn't really follow any well established conventions when it comes to its battles and because they are not so prominent that the hero should spend a lot of time building up stats, it feels all the more refreshing for it. It's an "anything goes" kind of recipe that keeps taking the player by surprise along the way. Whenever the hero dies, for example, if he has acquired this ability, he may get the "angry" status that makes him super mad in the next battle so that he will not take as much damage and will deal more to the enemy, as well. Likewise, purposefully hitting cactuses repeatedly will unlock the permanent passive ability "mostly scabs," which adds a permanent 5HP boost to the player's maximum HP pool. Other abilities are completely useless, such as "silly walking," which simply makes the character's sprite walk in wide array of comical ways. Such abilities are only there for the fun of it but there are so many such seemingly useless things included that are just there to entertain that it instils a sense of expectation in the player, pushing him or her to press forward to see what other surprises are in store that will bring a smile or a fit of laughter.

Screenshot for West of Loathing on Nintendo Switch

A lot of the humour, however, is conveyed through text descriptions more than through the visuals themselves. In fact, the simplistic graphics are only there to give a bare bones feel for what is around the hero, as well as to make interactions way easier than if this was just a plain text adventure. Still, the graphics themselves in all their simplicity can induce many a laugh, as well, such as seeing the hero walk around in a pope's mitre, shooting demonic clowns. All in all, then, while there is no well-defined goal from the get-go, this plays out as a quest to simply discover what awaits next, with new places and side-quests progressively unlocking along the way, some larger in scope, others that are quickly completed and don't affect the overarching plot at all.

Beyond all this, of course, lies the RPG element of actually growing the player's strengths, of which he has many. Other than things like "muscle" (the hero's physical strength), mysticality, and moxie... there are more nonsensical things like grit, glamour, or even "intimidatin'," which may open up new options to get out of certain situations through conversations. Upgrading all of these stats is done by manually spending XP earned in battles or by doing any number of random things, like searching drawers or fixing a messy stack of wooden logs. Regularly, there will be places or situations where the player will not be allowed to move forward without a high enough stat in a certain category so, in those cases, having XP stored can help unlock the way forward. If that is not the case, different locations in the game make it easy to fight weak enemies that make earning XP rather easy and, besides, stat requirements are usually not so high that grinding should become a huge necessity. After all, pieces of clothing found throughout the game may also help raise the player's stats. It is a very open-ended system where it isn't really possible to mess up or become completely stuck.

Screenshot for West of Loathing on Nintendo Switch

From what appears to be a very simple looking title come a surprisingly deep adventure that doesn't take itself seriously at all and plays that card to its full extent without stopping at anything to surprise gamers. While things may look very simplistic and unrealistic, some effects like the hero's lantern in caves and mines shedding light at nearby rocks or mine carts and so on, casting long shadows across the scenery, do give an edgy vibe to the visuals, which means it is certainly not lacking in production values despite its artistic direction. The lack of voice acting actually isn't a big issue because character voices will play of their own accord in the back of players' minds as they read through the hilarious dialogue. Music is mostly ambient and expectedly Wild West themed. It fits the atmosphere perfectly and enhances it like any good soundtrack should.

There is truly very little to complain about in West of Loathing. The amount of text may be off-putting to anyone who doesn't like reading too much in their videogames, so that's one thing. Lastly, the inventory system doesn't really make it easy to see what can be equipped or not, so with all the random stuff that the player may come across over the course of the adventure, some of it seemingly completely useless, equippable elements are not so easy to identify beyond browsing through dedicated sections. Other than these, West of Loathing only really suffers from a very strong personality that doesn't try to please everyone but goes all the way with its choice of topic and tone.

Screenshot for West of Loathing on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While this is obviously not Red Dead Redemption or anything of the sort, West of Loathing proves to be truly entertaining for what it is. The huge amount of text to read through to really appreciate the humour may be deterring to some of the audience, as much of the events and details are conveyed solely through the text on-screen, and the simplistic aesthetic may not do this game any favours to attract attention, but let nobody be fooled as this is indeed a truly awesome story to sit through.

Developer

Asymmetric

Publisher

Asymmetric

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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