West of Dead Review

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Twin-Stick shooter games have made a comeback in recent years. Along with platform games, tt’s interesting what new ideas developers can inject into a game genre that appears to be simple. Innovation is what keeps the gaming world alive and West of Dead is no exception to this case.

Let’s go back to the old west. Congratulations, you are dead! Whether it was a stray bullet, a disagreement at some saloon, or the unfortunate kick from a horse, you have entered the land of the dead and straight to purgatory. What’s next is figuring out what’s next and fighting some monsters that want you to stay dead.

The first thing I want to mention about West of Dead is the unique background of this game. Although the game appears to be created by an indie studio, they happened to recruit Ron Perlman, Hell boy himself, into the game to voice our protagonist, a dead man named William Mason. Perlman does a superior job in conveying his classic gruff attitude to Mason as he blasts his way through monsters of Purgatory, Wyoming.

As I booted up the game, I kept in mind it was still in open beta. I see this as a strength and a weakness of the game. Because it is in open beta, the developers are taking open feedback from players on what to improve or add, building a strong bond with gamers on how the game will ultimately shape up. Though it is in open beta, this also means there may be essential segments not added into the main game yet. Luckily, from my playthrough of this game, there was nothing missing that stopped me from playing the game.

Graphically, West of Dead is interesting. It reminds me of a fusion of what Red Dead Redemption would be but thrown into a noir situation, sprinkled with some cell shading. The developers made colors a focus, making use of reds and dark colors to resonate the purgatory and hopeless atmosphere that Mason further digs himself into. Mason himself was a mysterious, yet curious figure, dressed in his black garb, but also possessing a flaming skull head. I was getting serious Ghost Rider vibes from this, but this wasn’t a bad thing.

So, what does Mason do in Purgatory? That’s a great question. His only memory is a figure in black. Using this as the main drive of Mason, it was up to me to find out why this figure in black was so important.

Starting the game up, I was planted in an old western saloon. I was able to talk to a friendly bartender, despite being vague about my questions, pointed me in the right direction and I was off.

Gameplay is the standard twin-stick shooter. The added element here is I was able to dodge roll getting shot as well as take cover behind assigned positions. Of course, this didn’t last long, as if I didn’t end my enemies quickly, they would happily destroy any cover I sheltered behind. The weapons are your standard pistols, shotguns, rifles, or even sawed-off shotguns. They are scattered about each area and handle slightly differently as well. For example, the dual pistols were great, but they didn’t deal as much damage compared to a rifle or sawed-off shotgun. There were advantages of switching up different weapons, but ultimately I stuck with my rifle and pistols. Pistols were used for rapid-fire damage and my rifle focused on precision shots and dealing heavy damage. If balanced correctly, using a combo of these weapons made it an effective way to take down bosses within minutes. Reloading was something that had to be timed, or I would have to spend more time than I would like with the bartender at the respawn point.

Each area that I cleared was completely different. The game focuses on procedurally generated rooms. This presents a clear advantage to not face the same set of enemies again but also can be a pain if I was going for a specific item I lost in a previous room before I died. Regardless, this element of the game kept things fresh and challenged me to adapt on the fly to make sure Mason was the fastest draw in Purgatory.

Some other elements of Purgatory that benefited me as I navigated combat was ricochet shots and environmental damage. If I was able to line up my shots just right, I was able to shoot against a wall and it would take down two to three bad guys in an instant. The environmental damage alluded to lamps that I was able to shoot at, causing a bomb effect for nearby enemies. This was handy when I was deep in a firefight and running low on health.

The game eventually led me to a boss fight, which is the standard formula. I began by ducking, dodge rolling, and taking some shots, before either dealing enough damage to end the giant baddie or dying miserably and respawning back at the bar. Regardless, it was challenging, but not impossible to fight the boss.

West of Dead is not a complete game. As mentioned earlier, the developers plan on using feedback from the players to mold the game. From what I’ve played so far, the only thing I’d nitpick about it is how dark it is, but that can be remedied by changing the resolution settings or gradually adapting to it naturally. The gameplay was innovative enough to keep my attention, Ron Perlman nailed it as Mason, and the story kept me roped in wanting to know more about how he ended up in Purgatory.

Based on my playthrough of this game, I’d highly recommend it to players that are fans of twin-stick shooters or gritty stylized action games. I’m interested to see what the developers do next with the game. As a bonus, for everyone that beta tests this game, the developer is offering a discount when the game releases sometime this spring. I believe West of Dead has the strong potential to become a hit IP if the developers continue to connect with the players and take the feedback to evolve the finished product.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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West of Dead Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Graphics - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sound - 8/10
    8/10
  • Replay Value - 8/10
    8/10
Overall
8/10

A gun slinging tale through darkness

As dead man William Mason, fight your way through the mysterious world of Purgatory, Wyoming. You will gun sling your way to find the secrets to your past and what the future may hold.

Pros

  • Breathes new life into twin-stick shooters
  • Graphics offer a unique style
  • Ron Perlman voices the main protagonist
  • Developer is building a strong relationship with the players through discord or direct feedback to improve the game.

Cons

  • Game is in open beta
  • There may be unfinished elements we don’t know about the complete game

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