As someone who enjoys a Western as much, if not more than, the next guy, I was looking for a game to tide me over until the release of Red Dead Redemption 2. Who would have thought the game to tide me over would be a hearty helping of wholesome Spaghetti Western 2-D goodness? If you guessed I was writing about West of Loathing, you were right.
West of Loathing is a refreshing indie take from developer Asymmetric Publications, which was responsible for the browser-based RPG Kingdom of Loathing. KoL was released in 2003 and received funding exclusively through donations and the purchase of merchandise, as opposed to having members pay for an active subscription, or resorting to advertising. West of Loathing was initially floated on Steam’s Greenlight service (which was closed June 2017) and received almost immediate, amorous support from fans of the the Asymmetric team. As a spiritual one-off successor to their previous title, Asymmetric Publications released West of Loathing in early August of last year.
The game begins with the “Protagonizer” selecting the gender, name and class of character they will be playing as for the next few hours. I don’t say this jokingly, as the game immediately envelopes players with its sardonic humor and rewards for exploration and interaction.
For example, within moments of starting the game I ambled my stick-figure cowboy to a nearby bookshelf. Interacting with it cycled through a series of titles belonging to the books on display, as well as a bit of flavor text accompanying each one. After clicking through the selection, I was informed that I had learned a new skill, “dumb walking,” which causes the walking animation of the Protagonizer to take on several different and ridiculous forms. Whether it be slithering along the ground like a rattlesnake, or riding an old-timey lantern around like a hobbyhorse, I was immediately amused. There is, of course, an option to turn this feature off in the options menu, but who would want to do that? Certainly not this Protagonizer!
Every minute that passed in the game became more and more ridiculous. The comedic writing of the dialogue and flavor text caused me to legitimately laugh out loud more than I reckoned was appropriate for such a basic-looking game.
The combat is surprisingly smooth, but felt at times to be lacking in overall difficulty. A Hard Mode does exist, but it takes a little bit of legwork to access. I opted against donning the spooky Stetson that enables this type of gameplay, but I will probably indulge my curiosity on a second playthrough.
Four uninterrupted hours into the game, I decided to write this little review. In part because I needed to take myself out of the game for a second before I found myself muttering the word “tarnation” to myself repeatedly in a corner of my room. However, more than that I wanted to share how enjoyable I have found this simple game to be. I hope you guys might enjoy it too. Asymmetric’s team really outdid themselves with this offering while staying true to their roots of a simple browser-based game.