Wyoming State, 1888 In a town called Purgatory, a protagonist by the name of William Mason awakens. His head burns like a torch, and only one image has settled in his memory – the Man in Black. The man at the bar asks: “Where are you going – to the West or the East?”, To which the hero with the voice of Ron Perlman answers: “I need to find the Preacher.”
This is where West of Dead comes from – a dynamic shooter with a top view and part-time “roguelike” (from the English roguelike). In other words, after death, we start all over again, and the world is rebuilt. To survive and reach the finals, Mason needs to use his shooter skills. The main goal of the marshal is to restore his memory, take revenge on the offenders, and find peace after death, which was taken from him.
When controlling a character using two sticks of a gamepad or keyboard and mouse, the player needs to go through 9 locations, survive and get to the mystical Man in Black with the nickname Preacher. But if everything was so simple.
Random rewards, random card generation, and just one life to go through a path full of difficulties from beginning to end. However, the entire depth of the game is not revealed immediately. Any other “bagel” throws a player into the abyss of a mechanic, but the brainchild of Upstream Arcade allows you to understand the basics before giving access to all the features. The first chapter, consisting of three locations and one mandatory boss, has an introductory character. West of Dead slowly introduces the types of enemies that will be encountered throughout the passage, the structure of the game world, as well as with the combat system.
The battle is simplified to please the dynamics. On the gamepad, the weapon is guided, as well as reloaded, automatically. The battles here are tactical missions, with the proviso that the player does not have an active pause to plan his actions. Decisions need to be made quickly, and the terrain and various types of weapons designed for long-range and close combat help in this. Over time, the shelters break down, and the enemies come closer, and you need to change position, which adds dynamics.
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Another key mechanic during combat is light. Rooms with opponents are poorly lit, and to be able to just see them, you need to light the lamps. This temporarily stuns enemy fighters and makes it possible to attack or retreat.
Making a long introduction was a bold step on the part of the developers because it can stretch for a couple of hours of identical and boring runs. But after the battle with the Preacher, who meets the player at the end of the third location, the game is transformed. The second chapter reveals West of Dead, adding new mechanics, expanding the generated maps, and revealing unknown paths to this passage. Bosses appear on an ongoing basis, now they are an integral part of each level. Such opponents are divided into two types: demons and criminals.
Demons are large carcasses with attacks on the area and various weakening abilities that are imposed on the hero when taking damage. For defeating them, runes are given that open access to passive skills: teleportation between special points, falling from a height without damage, or an enhanced attack that breaks even metal barriers. All this allows you to get to secret locations that were previously impossible to get into.
The criminals are dead cowboys who hide behind shelters, like Mason, try to fight from afar with firearms and are not afraid of the light. In total there can be three such bosses for passing, and the location of each can be found at the starting location. After the victory, they leave a drawing of weapons or auxiliary items, as well as a “piece of memory” – a special item that reveals to the hero some of his memories and supplements the story.
You can use all the accumulated drawings and memories in a special hub between levels. Here is one of the NPCs you can interact with – the Witch. She can look through the received pieces of memory and replenish her arsenal with the help of “Sin” points falling from the killed enemies. By investing currency in certain items, the player unlocks them for further walkthroughs and receives one copy at his disposal in this race.
The second NPC, a merchant, also replenishes its assortment from the arsenal, although it sells only three items at the same level. It occurs by chance during the passage of the location, and purchases are made for iron – the main currency that can be found in special boxes or collected from defeated opponents.
As soon as the main character falls into the second chapter, the complexity immediately increases. The number of enemies increases, rooms with enemies become larger, and they begin to beat more painfully. At some crossroads, spirits appear, begging William Mason to take their curse, a special test during which you need to kill a certain number of the dead without taking any damage at all – otherwise death, and begin the passage from the very beginning. Before the test, the damned give a useful and high-level item, which creates a dilemma: “Do I need these things or is progress more important?”
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Strengthening a character does not correct complexity at all. By pumping on special altars located randomly at the level, the player can increase the amount of health, damage from shooting, and auxiliary items. Only the increase in damage helps, and the health bar rather delays the inevitable in the last locations and battles with bosses – here the skill of the one who sits in front of the monitor is more affected.
Designed in the style of comics by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, gloomy and filled with dense shadows, Purgatory catches the eye. The soundtrack complements the atmosphere of the game, resembling the genre of “dark country”, although memorable compositions are not enough. Ron Perlman’s rough voice only adds charm, accompanying any character action with caustic commentary.
West of Dead also had no problems, although they are insignificant: phrases of the main character during the passage begin to repeat when he performs similar actions; when automatically pointing from the gamepad, the first bullet always flies past; sometimes the hero may not stick to the shelter, although the player failed the character end-to-end. Such roughness is enough, but not one of them ruins the pleasure of passing. Rather, it does not allow you to lose concentration and monitor what is happening more closely.
But where the developers “excelled” is in Russian localization and with their Deluxe Edition. The beautiful and stylish font of the original turns into bold Arial, and the character’s comments alter the meaning of what was said in a voiceover. If you play, it’s only in the original, English is simple.
In the Deluxe version, the developers inserted one new enemy, one level “Battlefield” and a partner for William Mason in the form of a raven. He just flies around and does nothing, and sometimes breaks and sits on his head to the NPC. The location and the enemy are simply cut out content from the original game and put up for sale in the form of DLC, which slightly spoils the karma of the creators.
West of Dead is Upstream Arcade’s debut project, and they did it. A strong “bagel” with an interesting story and a cool Ron Perlman in the title role gradually immerses himself, and victory in battles makes you breathe a sigh of relief. The developers carefully introduce the player into the mechanics, as if they are afraid to immediately show everything that they are capable of, opening up new opportunities gradually. This is not good for the game at the first meeting, but it pleasantly surprises afterward.
There are problems here, but they do not spoil the overall impression of the project. West of Dead performs its main function – I don’t want to stop playing. After the defeat, there is an instant restart, in clashes with the enemy, the palms sweat, and from getting cool gear, self-confidence only increases. You should not expect a revolution in the genre from the game – this is a project from an indie studio that can give a couple of dozens of hours of interesting gameplay and plunge into atmospheric Purgatory, made in the style of comics by Mike Mignola.
Available West of Dead so far only on PC and Xbox One, as well as in the service Xbox Game Pass from Microsoft. In August, the release for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 platforms will take place.
- Dynamic gameplay
- Visual style
- Nice plot and cool protagonist
- After “Chapter 1” it becomes more interesting
- Ron Perlman on voice acting
- Protracted introduction
- Uncritical but annoying bugs in battle mechanics
- Russian localization
- DLC for the game does not justify its money