West of Loathing Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Asymmetric

Publisher: Asymmetric

Release Date: Out Now

Price as of Article: $11.00 USD, £9.00 GBP

Game code provided by Asymmetric for review purposes 

Story

Asymmetric’s first project was a game called the Kingdom of Loathing which was a browser-based MMORPG. It built up a community of over 1 million players worldwide and has become a cult classic. It was therefore really exciting to see what Asymmetric could do next as both of their games have a very similar style.

The story in West of Loathing starts off with you looking to head West and what becomes apparent right away is that you are able to choose your own motivations as to why. It may be to seek fortune, or it may also be because you are sick of living in some tiny place with your folks. I really enjoy games where you can to a certain extent control parts of the story. Let me make it clear that the story and the writing is one of the best things about this game.

The writing is superb and the dialogue between characters is just so funny that the game kept me completely glued. I could not wait to see who I was going to meet next. Would it be Cactus man or some drunk who loves drinking whisky? Maybe it will be a horse salesperson who is not very good at selling horses. In fact, they are so bad at selling horses that I had to trek to find 3 that he had lost. Weirdly, my reward was 300 meat per horse. Meat being the game’s currency in case you didn’t know. Which meant I made a tiny 1200 meat. The problem was the salesman then wanted to sell me one of the horses for 1k meat, and I had no choice but to pay this handsome fee as I needed the horse to head West! It’s hilarious moments like these that kept me wildly entertained.

Gameplay

West of Loathing is described as a single-player slapstick comedy adventure role-playing game set in the wild west of the Kingdom of Loathing universe.  Honestly, I could not have described the game better myself if I tried.  You can choose a Cow Puncher (Melee) Bean Slinger (Caster) or a Snake Oiler (Ranged Rogue). Each has differing skills which you can upgrade much like any good RPG throughout the game, and while each class has certain specialisations, it by no means pigeon holes you which is great. There are also powerful weapons that you will find throughout this game to help either class you choose later on.

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What’s really interesting at the beginning is how dialogue absolutely determines your starting skill. I won’t spoil what they are but suffice to say its clever in how it’s determined much like if you want to play on hard mode you can find a hat in the game with the option.

The game auto assigns experience points to the character you choose, and it’s up to you whether you want this or not. For ease and casual players, they may want to leave as it is as the game will create a balanced character for you. For those that are more interested in creating a class with a certain skill set then manual is the way to go. Dialogue while exploring and talking to different NPC’s will allow you to pick different skills like being good at lock picking or battering called Dickerin here.

As you traverse through each area of which there are nearly 100 unique ones, you will speak to NPC’s and have a range of different dialogue options. Make sure you read the dialogue properly because it could be really important to solving a mystery or acquiring a key item. Early on I had to take down a couple of bandits for the sheriff. A key item I needed to trade was a bar of soap. I chose the wrong option and the opportunity had gone much to my dismay. I needed it to trade for a lock to give to the sheriff in town. If you mess up a situation like this, then you will need to find an alternative way or move on. Be aware that once you leave an area on your horse you cannot return so make sure you uncover as much as possible.

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The game is full of puzzles and mysteries to solve, and I loved this part of the game. I could not get enough of it. I needed to find a needle to perform a certain task, and without giving too much away I found it in a funny place. Afterwards, you will get that lightbulb moment and know exactly the type of humour this game is going for.

I think the game may be a step too far for younger children to understand all the jokes, goofball gags and such but for everyone else, this will appeal to your inner child such is the hilarity of it all.  The puzzles are really fun and so are the quests which handily come up with the location on the map. You can then just fast travel to each location. Each location is fun to explore and to discover new things. Maybe you will find another Pint glass from the Bar to take back and exchange for meat.

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Travelling from place to place often get’s interrupted due to enemy battles or treasure to dig up amongst others. As you progress abilities can be furthered by reading books which leads me nicely onto battles.

Battles are by far the weakest part of the game. Each fight is turned based, and it’s all simple stuff. Choose your gun, take a shot and your enemy’s HP will reduce. They take their turn to try and reduce your HP until one is left standing. Dependent on the class you chose are the skills that you excel at. There is a lot of variety within the enemies from poisonous snakes to guys with sniper rifles who can take you down in a shot.

I like melee, so I was going in with punches. I shot my pistol every now and again, but casters will do damage from afar. It’s all really simplistic stuff and was the part of the game I think I least enjoyed. That is saying a lot about the quality of the game elsewhere. Later on, it does get a little bit deeper which gives you more options in how you approach each attack so it does get better and more challenging. Abilities in some fights will play a significant part in your success or failure. If you die, you get to try again, so it’s not all doom and gloom!

Audio

I really like the audio in this game. It starts off really quiet, but as you make it out of home and decide to move West, the game breaks into a full Western musical track which feels like your about to watch a film. As you explore each area, they all have their own music track which makes each area feel distinct. The sound effects are also really immersive considering visually it is quite a simple-looking game. Walk pass a fire place and the fire will crackle. Walk into a bar, and the piano player will play a tune. All very authentic sounding, and I really enjoyed it.

Visuals and Performance

Let’s be honest here, at the first look of this game you may not give it a second glance, but to so would be a major disservice. While the game is fully drawn in black and white, everything has a surprising amount of detail to it. I love walking into a Bar or Saloon purely because of everything going on, and there are always little details to look for and clues to pick up within the game which are drawn superbly well. The number of times I stepped in Cow poop made me laugh. No idea why as I’m not a child that finds toilet humour funny at all. Nope. That’s not me at all. I have a confession: I find it all tear-inducingly funny.

I think it’s great that we can play an indie like this and it can have a really nice simple hand drawn feel but be something you end up loving. It’s really charming, and everything comes together to make a very well-formed package. In a day where graphical fidelity seems to be everything, I am really pleased to see games like this which are able to make an impact.

Value

The game is worth the cash. It’s as simple as that. For 11 bucks, you get a wealth of content and a game which will last you around 8 hours in the main campaign. It will double that if you are a completionist. It’s a game you will want to play again with a differing class as the game can play out differently depending on which you choose. You may have missed certain things the first time around. It’s such a great adventure that I would gladly play again without hesitation, and that’s the best compliment I can pay it.

Pros

P

Awesome story with great writing and humour

P

Puzzles  that make you think

P

Great sounding soundtrack

Cons

P

Visuals may not be to everyone's taste

P

Battles are a slight let down overall.