I really love playing games that don’t take themselves too seriously. Not so much to the point of breaking the fourth wall (with some exceptions who get it right), but at least taking whatever genre they have and making fun of the idea while also making it an interesting game. The Kingdom Of Loathing was one of those games where you got to play an RPG in a stick-figure world where it poked fun at the genre and some of the absurdity of it, but also gave you a great adventure to embark upon. Asymmetric has now created a sequel of sorts called West of Loathing, which I happily got to play for review.
The game puts you in the role of a young man or woman leaving their family to head out west and make a living for themselves. You come across a tutorial town of sorts where you learn how to find objects, get treasure, deal with enemies, barter, talk to town folk, and everything else you would expect in an RPG set in the west. The part that makes the game entertaining is that you’re doing it as a stick figure in a world that is drawn like someone was sketching in history class. So it looks like Guild Of Dungeoneering, but with a humorous twist.
After you leave the first town with a horse and someone to help you, you hit the town of Dirtwater and begin the real adventure of finding out why so many of the undead are walking the earth. Or, at least, that feels like the main storyline. But when you get deeper into things, you discover there’s no one main storyline to the game. You get to deal with pushing a train west, dealing with crooks all over the west, find hidden treasures and solve a lot of problems. You even come across some alien technology, but we won’t spoil much for you.
West of Loathing works a little bit like a tactical RPG where you travel around to locations, scope them out for clues of what to do, then get into small grid battles. Depending on the vocation you chose before leaving home, you’ll either be a brawler, a wizard, or a weird alchemist/rogue hybrid. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still fighting with guns and swords, but you’ll have extra abilities that will help you out in battles.
Depending on who you brought with you as company, you can also examine a lot of things along the way and get through battles easier. A good example: one of the characters deals in skeletons, and had a power where they can saw up a skeleton for instant death.
A lot of West of Loathing relies on questing, as you’ll find yourself roaming around in search of specific items or tasks that need to be done. At one point, you’ll run into a town with a ho-hum mayor that needs your help, and you’ll basically spend a chunk of your game helping him resurrect the town. You’ll find forts that have people looking for a better life where you can send them off to find it. You’ll encounter strange creatures that need to be dealt with as you piece together how they got there. You’ll learn skills that will help you make it in the crazy world as you progress west and try to make this a better life.
The one downside to the gameplay was that I couldn’t take more than one person with me at the start. The game forces you to choose among people you’ve become friends with at the beginning, and depending who you take, it will affect how you get around and do things. It would have been helpful to have a party, especially in big battles, to help with different circumstances as they came up. I’m also a little disappointed that there’s no way to remove bad perks and that you’re stuck with them. You could chalk it up to saying I should have made better choices, but honestly, I should have the option of ridding myself of the bad parts if needed.
West of Loathing is one of the best indie titles of the year, hands down. It’s an awesome experience and made me want to go back and play it again, choosing a different horse and side character. Even with its flaws, this was a fantastic experience with great replay value, as no two adventures can be the same once you make the early choices. I loved playing it so much that I didn’t care how many hours I spent glued to the screen. I highly recommend it both for the humor and the gameplay. West of Loathing is a must for RPG fans, and something so simplistic in nature that casual gamers will enjoy it, too.
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