West of Dead, the new title from Upstream Arcade, is a western top-down shooter in which you will be fighting against some dead cowboys in a western-style dungeon where you seek redemption. The protagonist of the game, voiced by the well-known Hollywood actor Ron Perlman, has been trapped in this doomed dungeon which gets darker and deadlier as you enter its different levels. Read on for our West of Dead review for Xbox One.
Roguelike games are meant to deliver challenging experiences to those who love to get stuck in tough situations in video games where saving and loading is not always available. As a result, it’s really hard to make a balanced roguelike game where you’re being challenged based on the progress you’ve made throughout your journey. Roguelike games need to reward your bravery and value. There should be a major difference between those who stick to the main path of a roguelike title and those who dare to try out other side paths as well.
The story-telling is tightened to Ron Perlman’s monologues during various stages of the game, and the story is sadly not that strong or intriguing. It’s just a simple background to clarify where you stand and what you seek. West of Dead is a gameplay-focused title with unique visuals and creative gunplay that has nothing to boast when it comes to the story.
Starting with its gunplay, West of Dead uses a simple but interesting way of shooting. Based on the weapon you hold, there will be different focus times to shoot a bullet in order to deal the most possible damage. Of course, the time we are discussing is a matter of seconds, but it does affect your combat against enemies like wolves that follow you closely. This is a challenging spot in West of Dead to decide which gun is better for each type of enemy.
Other than the focus time of guns, you will face trouble for shooting in dark rooms. Almost every room that you step into is partially darkened unless you dare to turn the light and immediately take cover. Your bullets barely hit the target when your enemies are standing on the dark side of the room. The two creative mechanics work together properly, generating various struggles within the game.
That being said, West of Dead isn’t balanced since it’s not rewarding enough. Instead of leading to rare and valuable items, side paths usually end up in merchandise where you would be required to pay for items, and when you have nothing to pay, it isn’t reasonable to take the additional risks for things you can’t achieve.
Unfortunately, the same issue appears in the level design as well. Of course, enemies should go higher in rank as you enter new chapters, but your progress is much less than that of your enemies during each chapter, which makes the game unbalanced yet again.
While it takes two chapters to face the first boss fight, it’s still tough to make it out alive. West of Dead features a wide variety of smart enemies, and most of them won’t stop following you until they hunt you down. The good news is you never run out of ammo in West of Dead, but the bad news is that bullets mostly deal less damage than expected which makes it take a lot of shots to take the enemies down, even the small ones.
Visually, West of Dead is a beautiful game with a graphical style that exactly matches its atmosphere. Probably you don’t get to see something like this in many titles, but surely it is the best way to approach West of Dead’s environment. Lighting is the key part of the game’s visuals and fortunately, it’s been excellently done by Upstream Arcade. Besides this, there are almost no bugs or technical issues in the game to interrupt the experience.
West of Dead is a worthy roguelike with some brilliant ideas in gameplay that will make you play it over and over until you beat it. However, it could be much better if developers provided more rewards for roaming in the side paths. It’s great to face some consecutive challenges in a roguelike as you’d feel great after beating them, but the lack of balance might end up losing a part of the community, and that’s the biggest threat for West of Dead.
A key was provided for review.