A wild west themed roguelike shooter has a lot of appeal on the surface. When you get a look at the visual style, this game seems like a must-play for fans of the genre. Getting stuck into a western vision of purgatory has a lot going for it but with a genre that is quickly filling up with some incredibly fun and addictive games, how far can the six-shooter blow its way into the ranks?
First impressions of West of Dead are incredibly strong. Atmospheric audio with high-quality voice acting pulls you right into this world of high contrast artwork. The visual style is incredible! Your character has a flaming skull which on its own is pretty badass. As you explore the gritty environments, your eyes feast on some highly attractive scenes.
The gunplay is quite exciting when you get the hang of it. You can slide behind and over cover as you pull off some epic combos. You have two weapons and two abilities, each of which is mapped to the four shoulder buttons of the controller. This makes it so easy to unleash everything you have at a room full of enemies as you run across the room and slide behind cover.
Darkness and light is a major mechanic. Unfortunately for you, enemies can see in the dark, but you can’t. Each room will have a few unlit lanterns hanging from the roof. When you run over and light them, it causes a large flash of light to illuminate the room, stunning nearby enemies, allowing you to see.
These lanterns don’t always light up a room fully. You will occasionally find your step on a random dog who proceeds to kill you because you didn’t see it. Can feel a little cheap for a game with a permadeath system and will annoy you when it happens.
The game’s visuals may be strong as hell, but the camera seems to have a mind of its own and does a great job at spoiling the experience. For starters, it is zoomed in way too far. You can’t rotate or modify anything. During larger scenes, it will attempt to rotate and zoom automatically which totally throws you off. To make things worse, it will often hide your character behind walls, making it easy to lose where you are standing.
The camera is only the start of the technical issues you will experience. For roguelike games, any death needs to be entirely your own fault. As soon as enemies have the upper hand like attacks clipping through walls to damage you, the game is no longer worth playing. Unfortunately for West of Dead, this is a real and massively frustrating issue.
A useful tactic for clearing rooms of powerful enemies is to lure them out one at a time. It is a very frequent problem for them to get stuck trying to get through doors. The pathfinding is very poor, resulting in them running against the wall to the side of the door. You have now created a deadly trap where you need to go up close to an enemy to unstick them. These enemies are often faster than you. Fixing this glitch is quite often a death sentence.
Enemy attacks clipping through walls is by far the worst part of this game and will likely be the reason you call it a day. Enemies get bigger and stronger as you get onto the later chapters. Taking them out requires some strategy. Running away when things go wrong becomes quite difficult when enemies are attacking you through walls. Walls which you can’t attack them back through.
Combine enemies getting stuck in walls with being able to attack through walls and you are going to be replaying the same levels over and over. West of Dead might look pretty and have a lot going for the cool shooting mechanics but it has far too many technical issues that make the game cheap and frustrating to play.