June has certainly been a profitable month for the gaming community, including presentations of new consoles and major announcements of titles in development. Public attention is focused on what the future holds and how far we can get deep into this multi-faceted medium.
However, in what will soon be renamed “old generation”, there are still pearls capable of making an innovative contribution to such a varied panorama. One of them is new work from Raw Fury (Swedish publisher also linked by GoNNER, Dandara and Bad North) and Upstream Arcade.
We are talking about an independent title, nothing to do with the many publications on triple A during this period. However, the new gem presents itself with a harsh and sassy character, without detracting from a minor resonance title. Let’s talk about West of Dead, a roguelike double stick shooter that will catapult you into the hellish world of the dead.
Our adventure begins by meeting a charismatic and mysterious protagonist, William Mason, an armed man with vague reminiscences of Ghost Rider. Died in unknown circumstances, the bandit “wakes up” in Purgatory.
He remembers almost nothing of his past and how he met death. The only vague memory represents a preacher, an ambiguous and dangerous figure who brings great harm to damned souls. In fact, they are looking for the path to rest, wandering through hell to find a path to follow. Our protagonist finds himself in the same situation, in search of his past and the mysterious figure who captures his memories.
However, the realm of the dead does not appear in its most common Dante reference, or any other fantasy portrayal that we are used to. We find ourselves nothing less than in Wyoming in the 80s, a place infested with bandits, sins and especially weapons, many weapons.
Our journey begins in a living room, a place where every lost soul awakens and is greeted by a friendly bartender. The route continues and takes place mainly inside long and dark underground tunnels located inside the iron and coal mines.
A few steps in this cinematic panorama and we immediately understand the mechanics that characterize this place. Each path, in fact, is procedurally generated for each turn of the game we start, in full roguelike style. Objects, enemies and aisles are arranged randomly and never in exactly the same pattern. Whenever we die, we will lose everything we have acquired, whether it is the skill or the arsenal itself.
Whenever you wake up, the protagonist will be inside the show and will have to walk through the thousand mining tunnels. There will be tongue-in-cheek jokes and considerations about that deadly loop that characterizes the cursed place. This aspect guarantees a pleasant replayability of the title and a greater longevity.
The key and winning point of this repeating circle is the gameplay, a perfect mix between a shooter and action elements. The view is mostly isometric and will expand or shrink depending on the size of the surrounding environment.
Our protagonist has two slots for weapons, mainly guns and with different ranges and modes for each of them. However, there will also be special items that can improve his melee attacks. He will also have an agile somersault that will allow him to avoid enemy fire.
Armed clashes, indeed, will be a tightrope with an urgent and frenetic pace, typical of raids in the Wild West. Inside each “room” (larger spaces between one gallery and another) we will find enemies and useful objects, always arranged at random. In addition, we will have the opportunity to take shelter behind crates, essential during the most excited fights, given the fragile health of Mason.
Our opponents will cause us a lot of trouble, also thanks to the variety of enemies available: from melee bandits to those with grenades, including monstrous and very agile creatures. The accuracy of the shots is fundamental: a well-placed headshot will save our life, unlike missed shots (which could be more than expected, given the millimeter precision that this shoot’em up requires).
What makes West of Dead different from its siblings is the timing required to load the weapon, a feature that lends a bit of realism during excited retaliation. Although this situation is not high, it still increases the risk of exposure in a crash. However, of vital importance is the use of light.
The decor, in fact, fell in the shade but strewn with lanterns which once activated illuminate the surroundings. It is fundamental to our objective. An enemy in the shadows will be virtually impossible to aim, and turning on the light will not only allow us to see but also temporarily stun our opponents.
The more we kill, the more pieces of iron we get. These can be used as currency for weapons and useful items (which will however be lost in the event of death). Additionally, to improve Mason’s strength and health, we will find altars along our path that will increase weapon damage, life energy, and recharge speed.
It is a fun sector which has pleasantly satisfied us, and which is even more supported by the technique and graphics, perfectly on site. The decor indeed excels in the representation of a universe both ghostly and infernal, and in a world characterized by the speed of the gun.
Wild West is the master but it doesn’t get tired or out of sync with the overall feel of the game. To load that wild aura even more, you have to use an excellent voice actor, Ron Perlman (“The name of the Rose ”,“ Hellboy ”,“ Pacific Rim ”), which does the characterization work of The Mason.
West of Dead is an interesting find, an independent title that shows all its grain and value. Roguelike elements make it extremely versatile, able to expand the gaming experience without being boring.
Thanks to the wild but irreverent humor, the breakneck pace of the actions and a dark but intriguing plot, the shoot’em up keeps the player’s interest constant.
West of Dead is a fairly classic roguelike which in the evaluation made us damn (appropriate) not a little push us to constantly oscillate between 7 and 8. It is a title that can be enjoyed by novices and experts of the genre. and that even if it does not introduce revolutionary mechanics that we have decided to reward for the excellent attention to detail and the refinement of the ambiences. Encouraged to learn more about Mason’s fate and the reasons that keep him tied to the land of the dead, even those less in love with the western style and roguelike / roguelite will still know how to be passionate about the entire gaming experience.