The mythology of the Wild West is a world heavy with tropes. And it’s a world that West of Loathing tumbleweeds into perfectly—by turning the whole thing upside-down with its own brand of outlandish humor.
Developed by Asymmetric Publications, West of Loathing is, in a sense, the follow-up to Asymmetric’s Kingdom of Loathing, an online game that focuses on quirky humor in a fantasy setting. But while the stick figures and sense of humor carry over, West of Loathing is a much more streamlined game than its predecessor.
Essentially, West of Loathing functions as your standard, turn-based RPG. At the start of the game, one immediately chooses between one of three classes: Cow Puncher, Beanslinger or Snake Oiler—the fighter, wizard and rogue/ranger of the game, respectively.
The game then leaves you to set out on your own, as a boy/girl out to seek their fortunes in the wider world that neither character nor player knows much about yet.
Despite being fairly laissez-faire, West of Loathing isn’t a hard game. Combat is fairly simple, with player and enemies trading numbered blows across turns, and the ability to spend action points to use special abilities. Everything resets between battles (including health), meaning each encounter allows you to go as crazy as you want.
Items, perks and skill levels play an especially important role in West of Loathing. Most in-game obstacles simply require a certain level of a skill or trait to overcome. For instance, picking any locked door requires both a certain level of lockpicking and a needle to pick the lock (an item conveniently found in haystacks). But while certain classes or certain avenues taken might unlock the only access to certain events or items, most any character has the ability to deal with any in-game situation.
Creative solutions are particularly important in this. In hunting down bandits, an important line of side quests, one has the option to take the bandits dead or alive, letting a few go, or even convincing a giant spider to do the work for them. While a Cow Puncher might lack the wiles of a Snake Oiler, it’s entirely possible that you could just Intimidate your enemy into doing what you want.
I don’t much like Westerns myself, but it’s hard to ignore the charm of West of Loathing. In approaching any Wild West environment, one comes with certain expectations. And West of Loathing does an amazing job in playing off those expectations.
In any Western, one can probably expect a lot of cattle. But in West of Loathing, cows come from hell, and the uprising of demonic cows is known in-game from the catastrophic event of ‘When the Cows Came Home’. Dealing with the war against the demonic cows is only one adventure hook, however, in a much larger story that also includes a necromancer cult and the journey of the railroad out west.
Without spoiling any of the game’s surprises, it should suffice to say that West of Loathing’s setting is a little like a science-fiction Western, with weird things popping up in each location. For one, the strangely-speaking goblins of Kingdom of Loathing still find their way into the story somehow.
The game’s unique sense of weirdness is probably the largest part of what makes it so memorable. If you love bad puns, there’s plenty of those, alongside some clever wordplay and funny situations. The spittoon scenes alone display a great understanding of both how players act and what’s sure to get a laugh. West of Loathing’s humor has a good spirit to it and its absurdity usually catches one off-guard.
West of Loathing is a stick figure game, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an aesthetic. While obviously not the most impressive game, West of Loathing’s haphazard style seems to fit fairly well with its humor. Its relative simplicity helps enable a lot of the game’s best gags, including the many silly walks of the game’s free ‘Stupid Walking’ perk.
And after a while, it kind of starts to grow on you. As someone who has a lot of nostalgia for the online games he used to play when growing up, West of Loathing brings back some good memories. But objectively speaking, it all kind of works together.
Overall Score: 8.9 (89%)
Summary: West of Loathing is a game sure to work its unconventional charm on you. Whether or not you like Westerns, if you like a good laugh, you’ll like West of Loathing.
- Awesome, quirky humor
- Loads of personality
- Tons of adventure hooks
- Decent character customization specs
- Gary the Goblin
- Soundtrack consists of six songs
- Combat is usually fairly easy (unless you unlock the hidden hard mode)
- WoL only has an autosave function, so all decisions are final