West of Loathing Review
West of Loathing Review
West of Loathing features Asymmetric’s characteristic stick figure art, a monochromatic world and incredibly clever humor. It is, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable RPGs I have ever played.
Posted: 09/24/17 | Category: Review | Developer: Asymmetric | Publisher: Asymmetric | Platform: Ios, Windows, Mac

Genre: Single Player, 2D RPG
Release date: August 10, 2017

Beyond the Kingdom  
 

Asymmetric Publications, LLC is a small indie team of developers who are best known for their browser-based MMORPG, Kingdom of Loathing. For more than 15 years, Asymmetric has been updating the Kingdom and now has over a million players worldwide. In August, they extended the Loathing universe and made it available as a single-player RPG with a western theme. West of Loathing features Asymmetric’s characteristic stick figure art, a monochromatic world and incredibly clever humor. It is, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable RPGs I have ever played.

Go West, Young Stickman 
 

I had no expectations when I installed West of Loathing. I had only taken a cursory look at the game’s description and I was expecting a stick figure adventure set in the Wild West. I soon discovered that I had launched an experience that would keep me engaged and laughing for many hours…a game that I would have to force myself to walk away from if I expected to get anything else done.

Don’t be fooled by the stick figures. West of Loathing is a full-blown RPG, complete with character classes, skills, statistics and turn-based combat. There are no paladins, mages, or elves. Instead, you can be a Cow Puncher (fighter), a Beanslinger (magician), or a Snake Oiler. Instead of gold, the currency of the realm is meat and you’ll have your choice of hats, pants, and boots in lieu of chain mail and shields. Magic is based on the power of beans.

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Your first task in West of Loathing is to choose your character class and set out in search of a better life. You leave your family’s farm in Boring Springs and head for the dilapidated town of Dirtwater. You begin building character stats and gathering wearable and consumable items. You choose a horse and a traveling companion and the fun begins! Once you ride out from Dirtwater, your journey takes whatever shape you choose. West of Loathing is an open world with countless characters to engage, errands to run, obstacles to overcome and locations to explore. Your map is constantly updated with new places to visit as you wander the region, and you can lose yourself as you try to take it all in. Travel is accomplished by clicking on a map location. As you move around, you are often rewarded by a random encounter with somebody or something. This creates a dynamic game experience that provides an ongoing sense of discovery, even after many hours of playtime.

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Each success is rewarded with experience points used to build your character’s attributes (either automatically or manually). The longer you play, the more you and your "pardner" become forces to be reckoned with.  Your stats, health points and action points can also be augmented by wearing or consuming items. You add skills by reading books that can be found or purchased (with meat) and most skills improve, with use. A detailed character screen is provided to keep you informed of your progress.

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Finally, there is an amazing variety of items to gather, trade, craft and use. At times, it is almost overwhelming. I found myself with more clothing and accessories than a Hollywood starlet and enough weapons to equip an army.  I continued to build an impressive array of consumables as I gathered or manufactured objects to make myself more powerful and more bulletproof. Luckily, West of Loathing does not enforce inventory limits and my capacity to carry appeared to be infinite. My capacity to consume ‘booster’ items, however, was limited each day, as even a virtual stomach can only hold so much.

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The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly  
 

The denizens of the Wild West include townspeople, shopkeepers, bandits, prospectors, ghosts, goblins, demon cows, snakes, aliens, and more. Some impart information; some will send you on a quest; and some just want to kill you. With each encounter, you are provided with options … talk, fight or run. A successful fight to the death is rewarded with experience points and whatever stuff can be taken from your opponent. A surrender or defeat has no lasting penalty, except that you have squandered resources on an unsuccessful confrontation. On occasion, your injuries are so severe that you find yourself back in your bunk and starting a new day without the effects of previously consumed booster items. In some cases, you will need tools (shovel, needle, pick axe, etc.) or skills such as lock-picking or safecracking to retrieve items. In other cases, talking your way out of a bad situation requires moxie and language skills..

In this crazy world of cowpokes, ghosts and goblins, you will also find remnants of El Vibrato – an ancient and alien race that has left artifacts strewn about the Old West. El Vibrato provides a layer of quest items and locations that are accessed through hidden portals that require you to gather scraps and build special keys and batteries. El Vibrato equipment is labeled in a gibberish language that you must learn in order to decipher operating instructions.

Just for the Fun of It  
 

Despite the complexities inherent in an RPG, Asymmetric has done a great job of making West of Loathing easy to play. Game mechanics are simple and use the mouse to point-and-click.  The environment can be described as "2D with depth," with stick figures wandering among hand-drawn scenery elements that are partially animated. Character building can be automated to allow adventurers to focus on the sheer fun of this game. Hard-core RPG fans can choose to fine-tune characters by choosing exactly how experience points are applied.

West of Loathing is the result of creativity on steroids, with incredibly clever humor that never quits. It is comedic on two levels. There is the obvious slapstick layer (no pun intended). Those with a basic knowledge of literature and popular culture are in for a special treat. The constant puns and wordplay are brilliant. There is no voice acting.  Instead, all dialog is presented as text with background music that sets the mood of a classic spaghetti western.

This review can be summarized in four words:  I loved this game! I played through the primary quest of extending the railroad while accomplishing countless sub-quests. I chose to be Sal the Beanslinger and mastered the art of bean magic. I rode a ghost horse and joined forces with Susie - my gun slinging "pardner" who became an impressive shooter as the game progressed. I dabbled in the Dark Arts until my hair turned white and I became concerned that necromancy might be a poor moral choice.

The best news of all is that West of Loathing can be replayed many times. I can keep Sal where she is and start a new game with a new character. The option of cruising the Wild West as a Snake Oiler or following necromancy into the shadows are open to me. I might focus on El Vibrato quests – an area that I have not yet fully explored. Or, I might choose a different horse and a different sidekick. In truth, I might play West of Loathing for months and not experience all that is available. By the way, did I say that I loved this game?

One last note: When I started West of Loathing, my screen was a crisp black and white. Somewhere along the way, it changed to a lower contrast sepia (as shown by my screenshots). It is not clear if this was intended by the developers or just a quirk with my graphics card. When I started a new game, the high contrast returned. This had no impact on my gameplay but remains a bit of a mystery…

Grade: A+
 
Delightful stick figure world and intelligent humor create a place you won’t want to leave
+ Open world lets you choose your own path and increases replay value
+ RPG that is complex enough for those who love the genre, but game options can be used to simplify character development for those who are more into the adventure
 
No negatives

 

 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

System Requirements

MINIMUM Windows:
OS: Windows XP SP2+
Processor: 2.8 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo or better
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: 512 MB
Storage: 4 GB available space
 
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: 10.9+
Processor: 2.5 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo or better
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: 512 MB
Storage: 4 GB available space  

MINIMUM Steam OS + Linux:
Processor:  3.3 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo or better
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: 512 MB
Storage: 4 GB available space
Specials from Digital Download
Cognition - Season Pass
$14.99
Knee Deep
$19.99
Stasis
$24.99
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