WEST OF DEAD
By Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee on June 18, 2020
A couple of months ago, I received an email from Raw Fury about a game called West of Dead. The demo of said game was available at that moment and I download it right away, because I was intrigued about this dark-looking, Western-themed game. I had a blast while playing the demo, so I was looking forward to the full game! Well, I had to wait for a bit, but the time has finally come! So let me take you on a trip to the Wild Wild West of 1888.
West of Dead is a procedurally-generated, cover-based, twin-stick shooter game with rogue-like elements. This basically means that you always should consider using cover when facing an enemy and stay unnoticed for as long as possible. And if nothing else works, try to dodge incoming fire while shooting at basically everything that moves! The game is divided into chapters. Every chapter, you enter a level, which you'll have to find your way through. When you find the exit, you can proceed to the next chapter. Sounds simple enough right? Yes well, it does SOUND simple, but reaching the exit without dying is an entirely different matter.
In West of Dead, you step into the boots of a dead man called William Mason, who just happens to be voiced by the one and only Ron Perlman! Mr. Perlman flawlessly manages to really give the right attitude to our protagonist who, besides being dead, also sports a flame-engulfed skull for a head. Talk about a true western badass, right? Luckily, William has got character and attitude pouring out of every inch of his skeletal body, because you're going to need it if you want to stand any hope in hell of surviving in this sin and damnation infested tunnels of the town of Purgatory, Wyoming. Together with this great noir-like comic art style as well as the game's awesome use of light and dark, West of Dead is definitely a game you're going to remember!
At the start of the game, tutorial tips are shown on-screen as you go. These tips explain the basics of the game. And yes, here comes my one and only problem with the game, because I get the advice to use cover but there is no actual button to go into cover, like ducking behind a crate or rock. Instead, William automatically goes into cover when close to an object, which can make running away somewhat slower than you'd hoped for. I also came to realize it is better to keep moving and use the objects in the level to my advantage, putting them between me and the enemies shooting at me. This is also where cover comes into play because, although you can hide behind a casket or other chest-high objects, these objects tend to break when suffering to many hits from enemy rifles or explosives.
That's the thing with enemies; they tend to be kind of single-minded and will try to shoot you on sight. There is actually an indicator that shows you an enemy is aiming at you. If this happens, don't get too comfortable, because a few moments later, bullets will be travelling at you at quite some speed, so it's always better to make yourself scarce. If such an indicator is shown, it is always wise to duck behind something or try to keep a larger object between you and that enemy. And if you manage to do that while, at the same time, dispatching 5 or 10 enemies surrounding you, you are going to be totally fine, don't worry.
And if things weren't challenging enough already, enemies that are in the dark cannot be aimed at. This is where the light and dark mechanic of the game comes into play. Scattered around the tunnels are unlit lamps, which you can ignite by walking up to them and pressing the appropriate button. This mechanic can be used to your advantage, because enemies will be temporarily stunned when the lamp ignites, because it will send a burst of light throughout the room you're currently in. This gives you the opportunity to quickly survey your surroundings, choose the best defensive spot and maybe even dispatch an enemy or two before they regain consciousness. Some of the bigger rooms need a few of these lamps to be lit in order for the room to be completely visible, so keep an eye out for the glittering white ring that indicates where these lamps are! And better light makes for far better shooting, wouldn't you agree?
Talking about shooting, West of Dead has no ammo counter. No siree! William is equipped with an everlasting supply of all kinds of bullets. Awesome, right? This is yet another great feature the developers put into this game but, as always, there is a catch. In this case, that catch is called reloading. Now, a weapon is reloaded automatically after you stop shooting or run out of bullets in the weapon's chamber, but it will take some time. time you sometimes wished you had! Plus, as we all know, you cannot fire your weapon and reload at the same time, so it's always about trying to balance your shooting with the time it takes to reload your weapons, so always keep an eye on the available shots you have left, before you leave the relative safety of cover.
There are numerous weapons to be found in West of Dead, ranging from revolvers to muskets, to shotguns, to throwing axes, to even dynamite. Of every type of weapon, there are a couple of different versions, each coming with new and exciting perks. Some might have a larger ammo chamber, while others may do more damage per shot or even fire two shots at once. My personal favorite is the Lucky No. 5, because this cool pistol can fire five shots in a row, of which the fifth always results in a critical hit! I also liked the musket that doesn't just damage an enemy with the round it fires, but also inflicts bleeding damage over time as a result of a successful hit! Curious to see what other weapon gems the game has to offer? Well, play it for yourself and find out! During your quest, you can hold up to two firearms and two throwing weapons. So if you come across another weapon, you can choose to leave it be or exchange it for one of the weapons already in your possession.
While exploring the dark and dangerous tunnels and looking for the exit that'll take you to the next chapter, you will come across numerous rooms, filled with even more numerous enemies. Defeating these enemies and breaking hanging crates will provide you with the two main currencies of the game: Iron and Sin. Both of these are very useful, but more on that in a few moments. You might also stumble upon something else that is very useful to any undead adventurer: treasure rooms. In these rooms, you can find new or better weapons and items, as well as a sort of upgrade altar, which enables you to choose an upgrade for your character. These upgrades come in three varieties: toughness, perception and resourcefulness. Toughness enhances your max health, Perception increases your weapons' damage and Resourcefulness lets you enhance the usefulness of items. Apart from treasure rooms, you might even be so lucky to come across the incidental lone merchant. Here you can spend your hard-earned Iron on firearms and deadly throwing weapons.
If, for some reason, you die (which you will, trust me on that!), you'll have to start again from the beginning. and yes, I literally mean from the beginning of the game. This also means that you'll never get to know the layout of the level you're slogging through. Plus, starting over also means that your weapons and upgrades will be gone. NOOOOOO, ALL MY HARD WORK HAS BEEN FOR NOTHIIING!!! Yeah, I know, I was a bit sad about this as well. But, after a couple of rounds you'll get the hang of it and will manage to reach the exit of the level. When doing so, you will be transported to a kind of hub, in which you will meet a Witch and a kind of doctor. When meeting the Witch, you can spend your Sin points (I told you I would get back to those!) on cool items that cannot be found anywhere else, the most useful of which has to be the flask. This little life-saving item holds one helping of healing elixir and restores up to one hundred health points. Plus, unlike everything else you find in the game, this flask will be available to you from that point on, even when you die and have to start all over again!
So, what to think of West of dead? Well, It might not be the game for everyone, but if you're into challenging games than you should really give it a much-deserved whirl! The procedurally generated hunting grounds will never let you enter in the same level twice, so the game's replay value is very high because of this. Also, the art is absolutely awesome. Again, this might not be for everybody, but I sure liked the grim look and feel it adds to the game! The game's controls are really intuitive and easy to master, so you'll be bagging bad guys in absolutely no time flat. So if you're not afraid of a grim and demanding challenge, than West of Dead definitely has a pair of cowboy boots that'll fit you!