There are two things that I hope don’t occur when the time comes for me to leave my physical form. First, I hope that I’m not sent to a horrible afterlife to roam in purgatory Wyoming. Secondly, I hope that I don’t experience a groundhogs day of constant reoccurring death like in West of Dead. If for some reason my maker thinks I qualify for the latter, then I hope I’m at least granted the ability to have Ron Perlman narrate my endless wandering with his words of wisdom.
In West of Dead, you play as William Mason who is voiced by a gift from the god’s actor Ron Perlman. Mason was recently killed and now finds himself in a morbidly beautiful land of purgatory Wyoming 1888. Prior to his death, Mason recalls seeing a man in black. I think it’s fair to say that if we find ourselves sent to purgatory it would be pretty badass to discover we now have a flaming skull head like Ghost Rider and are fully proficient with various firearms. Ron Perlman does an amazing job blending his gritty voice to the overall surrounding of this forsaken land. Everything feels like it belongs, from the eerie dark corridors to the old west style soundtrack. Like dad teaching you how to swim, West of Dead quickly tosses you into the business of permanently ending all lost souls.
West of Dead incorporates bits and pieces from multiple genres to create an addictive gaming experience. The game is a strategic cover-based twin-stick shooter with sprinklings of RPG elements wrapped in a procedurally generated rogue-like hell. The controls are simple. Use Left stick to move, Right stick to aim, and assign weapons to Left & Right triggers. The same triggers also function as melee attacks when up close to an enemy or object. Assign abilities obtained to Left & Right bumpers and press (A) to dodge-roll or slide over cover John Woo style. You only need to press up against a potential object to use it as cover.
You will find a nice assortment of long and short-range weapons each containing unique stats such as weapon damage, magazine capacity, and reload time. Please don’t make the mistake that I made of focusing on just weapon damage. Yes, my shotgun and rifle were sending my enemies to the next level of purgatory. However, the further I progressed the more enemies would spawn with new abilities of their own, such as the ability to sprint straight at you. My weapons had long reloading times which means I spent an unhealthy amount of time trying to melee to create space and spamming the (A) button to dodge-roll. Regardless, this still wasn’t good enough so remember to keep one weapon with short reload time equipped.
West of Dead lets you use the environment as a weapon if timed correctly. Once you enter a new area, you will see lanterns to light. Doing so not only provides much-needed light, but it can also stun enemies within the lanterns radius. These lanterns become instant lifesavers when there are multiple enemies and all cover objects have been destroyed. That’s correct, almost all cover objects are destructible so throw out the plan of equipping long-range weapons and picking off your enemies from a distance. You will need to think fast and strategize a plan to clear the area taking little to no damage. You will also come across upgrade stations which allow you to apply 1 of 3 upgrades:
You will find more upgrade stations as you progress and notice the upgrades also level up. There is also a Witch who provides a wide assortment of weapons and items for a price. There are 2 in-game currencies that are obtained from fallen enemies, iron, and sin. As you can see West of Dead offers up a good variety of ways to keep the game fresh which is essential. Remember this game has permadeath and you will die often, which means you will lose almost everything in traditional rogue-like fashion. As mentioned the game is procedurally generated so each run will feel a bit different. At any point, you can press the menu button to bring up the map. I never found myself lost but at times did have trouble seeing barricaded entrance ways that needed to be destroyed in order to move to the next area.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with West of Dead. It does a great job adding multiple gameplay elements into a twin-stick cover-based shooter. The game is challenging but not unforgiving. You will absolutely have a moment in which you just picked up a much-needed weapon just to die in the next area. I would have liked a little more variety in the melee department, especially when sliding over cover. I’m also not a fan of having two key functions like shooting and melee assigned to the same button. Besides those minor complaints, West of Dead is a solid game with plenty of replay value.