Announced to be heading to Switch just a few months ago, West of Loathing is a title that will certainly catch anyone’s attention when first seen. The characters are all stick figures and it boasts a colour scheme comprising of only black and white. I needed to learn more and I soon found out that it’d been on PC for a while and received pretty good reviews.
I got to play West of Loathing briefly at EGX Rezzed and enjoyed it, but now that I have the full game in my hands does warrant its $11 price tag?
West of Loathing is a slapstick comedy adventure RPG. It features turn based battles, quests, items to equip, and more jokes than you can shake a stick at. At the start of the game you pick your class: Cow Puncher, Snake Oiler, or Beanslinger, and after you make your choice you leave your house to embark on a story that overall can be summarized as “You head West.”
West of Loathing introduces you to the mechanics of the game in quite a masterful way. Prior to your main journey beginning it sets you up in a smaller town with some quests to undertake. Through these errands given to you, you will get to grips with the basic principals of the game. Searching bookshelves, holes, and spittoons for items. Finding bandits and bringing them to justice and traveling to different locations. It is a very organic tutorial and I didn’t realise it was one, until I left the town with my partner of choice and found myself in the main town of Dirtwater.
Upon arriving in Dirtwater you receive your main objective of helping a train head west. The main plot in practically non existent and the game is fully aware. Instead the real charm comes from exploring the world around you and interacting with its inhabitants. There is no overworld to travel, but a map that will unlock new locations to visit as your progress, complete side quests and other methods. Each locations is relatively small, but absolutely packed with charm and character. Each one being more outrageously silly as the last, you’ll visit places like: The Perfessor’s House, The Daveyard, The Big Apple, Baker Boys Hideout, and even literal ghost towns. At the end of my playthrough I had discovered 56 locations, but I am confident there’s at least 20 more for me to discover.
Each locations typically has one sidequest for you to complete or is linked to one and will net you new gear, meat (That’s the currency) and other items to help you on your journey. These sidequests are what make West of Loathing a real joy to play. A lot of them are fetch quests, but due to the great writing and comedy, you’ll look forward to interacting with everyone.
If the world and sidequests are the good part of West of Loathing, then sadly the combat is the bad and the ugly. You gain specialize in physical combat, gun combat or magic in West of Loathing and at first the battles seemed ok. There aren’t any random battles and for the most part there aren’t even that many mandatory fights. The reason why at first they seemed ok was that the fighting system was a bit lacking. It is a turn based system where you can do a basic attack or an attack that uses “AP”, then after you make your move, you pick your allies and then your opponents retaliate. Simple stuff, but I then noticed that when you use an item, it doesn’t end your turn. The issue with this was that, you can attack and heal with no end and just cheese your way to victory. On top of this issue, the actual difficulty level seems all over the place. I only actually noticed this flaw when fighting against a boss that seemed impossible for me to kill despite having decent equipment and not shunning any fights. It is a real shame as it isn’t a game breaker, but I did find it to be quite an issue.
You may have gleaned that I’ve had a great time playing West of Loathing, but most of what I’ve described as seemed quite generic. What really makes West of Loathing standout is its writing and comedy. I was skeptical of it at first, but I found myself laughing quite a lot through my adventure. These game is absolutely stuffed with jokes. Some may fall flat, some might not register, but some will get you laughing and put a smile on your face. From running gags about searching through spittoons, real world commentaries, wordplay, cows from hell and so, so many more. It’s the writing and jokes that make West of Loathing an excellent game. Typically in any RPG, you just want to find the NPC handing out quests and get on with it, but West of Loathing will have you inspecting every bin, talking to every citizen and taking in all the world has to offer.
As I mentioned West of Loathing is a black and white game featuring stick figures, so make of that what you will. The lighting effects were nice. As you explore caves, your lantern will make the shadows move, but y’know it isn’t much to look at, but that is part of the charm. What really stood out to me was the soundtrack. It delivers an authentic collection of songs that sound like they came right out of a spaghetti western and are quite catchy. On top of that the sound design is on point and hilarious.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for West of Loathing was provided by Asymmetric.