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Review: West of Loathing (PC)By devidise At 10.08.2017 04:01

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West of Loathing starts the player off by randomly giving them a name, and letting them play a gallery shooter type mini-game to determine how much cash they start with. The random name can be changed, but it doesn't matter all that much. What does matter are the moments following shortly after. Select a class and a starting skill, then head off into the dusty plain of death.

Multiple games can be started in order to share horses and pardners (spelled just like that, for the sake of realism) among the player's various characters. Any new characters used will be able to skip the tutorial area, but garner many of the benefits they would have received had they played it. It's nice to be able to skip the tutorial, but not miss out on any of the rewards that would have been received anyway.

This also allows the player to decide if they want to use one of the game's more unique features, where they can either have their XP spent automatically for them, or they can decide how to spend it themselves. Mind you, this feature can be toggled on and off, so it's not a huge deal to try both methods throughout the journey. Using the 'do it yourself' method obviously allows for more control, but also leaves the player a bit more susceptible to spots where they may have to grind a bit more than if the game were to spend the XP for them.

Grinding in West of Loathing is not easy, as enemies in specific areas do not respawn. In order to grind out XP, travel between areas is necessary, and hoping to get into a fight. If not, some extra items might be stumbled across, like dynamite, or a new area to explore might be discovered. It's fun that things are so random, but it makes progressing much more difficult. Enemies are often significantly more powerful than you, and grinding is an absolute requirement that is often not available - at least not in a way where it feels like it can be done reliably.

Most of the story is handled through long text sections, more akin to a text adventure than traditional RPG narrations. It is peppered with humour, but not enough to be irritating. Mixed with the game's stick figure style art, the humour manages to land just about as often as it misses. This makes the experience playfully charming without being downright hilarious.

The fact that the stick figure artwork looks so good, despite being what it is, speaks wonders to the skill of the artists behind this project. Many will likely write it off as lazy, but, honestly, it's a lot of what makes the game work. Any other art style would likely have felt flat and unimaginative. Rest assured, if the art style bothers you, things like shadowing and good use of depth in the background make the art style feel perfectly realistic, despite being so completely absurd.

Combat is handled through somewhat traditional turn-based fighting. There are certain moves that don't exhaust your turn, and some that take up AP, or action points, instead. There is a nice variety of attacks and manoeuvres at one's disposal, and it is fun to experiment. The various classes start off with different basic abilities, and those who want to experiment more always have the option of assigning their own XP to find new ways of blowing through enemies.

The open world set up is followed very well, and different players will find new and exciting ways to explore the land. There are books to learn new skills from, and crafting that can be done. All of this gets handled through a text adventure style of menu choices, which is a nice use of imagination. All in all, West of Loathing is a remarkably capable experience, even if it stumbles to be the smoothest.

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Final Score
[i]West of Loathing[/i] makes remarkable use of the space it inhabits. It just doesn't make navigating that space very fun at times. There is enough to this adventure to make it is easily recommendable to fans of CYOA style games, and those who enjoy tougher RPGs all around. For those who don't fall into those categories, there's nothing here that will likely entice you to stick around very long.



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