I take a look at the witty and surprisingly deep West of Loathing by Asymmetric Publications!
A World of Possibilities
Stick figures, role-playing games and a heavy dose of spaghetti western antics. Who would have thought such a seemingly disparate combination of concepts could fit together so well! I guess with simplicity comes a world of possibilities and with just the right amount of creativity you can transform a few black lines on a white background into a work of art. Especially if you have a sharp sense of humor!
Well my dear backloggers, this time on The Backlog Odyssey, we’re taking a look at the game that doesn’t hesitate to flick its beans and fish around in unwholesome spittoons until the cows come home, West of Loathing. So securely fasten your spurs and don’t forget your fungicide bombs because it’s time for another Backlog Review!!
Crazy Eyed Horse Simulator
West of Loathing is a 2D black and white RPG with a hefty allotment of rootin’ tootin’ cowboys, stick figure cows and whiskey wielding doctors. And let’s not forget, an endless fount of witty dialog. Which was developed by Asymmetric Publications and originally released in 2017 for PC. With an eventual arrival on the Nintendo Switch less than a year later in 2018.
Touted as a follow up to their previous title, Kingdom of Loathing, a browser based online RPG, Asymmetric set out to create a much more “self contained” game that could stand on its own. Only this time around, it would be western themed while still being set in the “Loathing” universe. That and Asymmetric really wanted to approach the development of West of Loathing with a “made out of jokes” mantra. That is, they wanted to make a game that didn’t simply have comedic dialog and jokes found throughout it, but instead a game that oozed humor from every corner of its world. From cans of tuna found in Cacti, to the skewed hoof prints your crazy eyed horse would leave behind while you travel from location to location on the map. It all needed to be silly and fit into the already ridiculous scenarios you find yourself in! And from the second you create your character in West of Loathing, it’s apparent they were successful!
The Path to Frisco
In West of Loathing, you play as… well, yourself. Actually, it’s more like a stick figure version of yourself. And in my case, a female stick figure version of myself. A bean forward Beanslinger who’s ready to leave the nest and make a name for herself by traveling west. It’s going to be a much bigger feat than just trying to figure out which run down motels you’ll be staying in though. Because, you’ll have evil necromancers to usurp, ancient alien technologies to decrypt, and a million and one errands to carry out for complete strangers as you venture toward the fabled Frisco. At least you can take solace in the fact that you’ll be completely sloshed on cactus beer 98% of your trip.
Catsup and Liquor
If I was to sum up West of Loathing in one sentence, it would be that it’s an elegantly uncomplicated, endearing, and addictive game. I find myself humming along with its fantastically composed and whimsical western inspired soundtrack hours after I shut it off. And although at first glance, its simple stick figure aesthetics didn’t wow me. Once I spent a little time wandering the world of West of Loathing, I started to see how truly remarkable it really was! How much character you could extract from a few lines and a circle for a head. And how much variety there was between the people you met, the enemies you fought, and the environments you explored. Then when you take it all in as a singular and coherent whole it all comes together perfectly. That and it suites the quirky shenanigans you’ll encounter from start to finish.
But if you look just below the surface, you’ll see that West of Loathing is actually much deeper than it lets on. Sure you have your standard RPG mechanics and a plethora of quests to complete like any other RPG, but West of Loathing is much closer to an adventure game, than your traditional role-playing game. Where the battle system is primarily used to spice things up here and there instead of being a primary focus. And more often than not, you can avoid a fight if you play your cards right. Or drink the right amount of booze!
Items that are seemingly unimportant can have more meaning than you think and the focus on stat juggling is fun and rewarding. It makes you stop and think before you go in guns blazing, wondering if you could have done something different to reach an alternate conclusion. Like not throwing that fungicide at the goblin in Boring Springs! It all seemed overwhelming at first, what with there being requests thrown at you left and right, with no real quest log. And you will find yourself aimlessly wandering sometimes trying to stumble upon the proper key items. But honestly, that’s where I got most of my enjoyment out of the game.
My only real issue with West of Loathing was its overly simple battle system and it’s open ended ending. When it came to combat, it never asked much of me and I probably only used one or two of my character’s abilities through most of the game. That and my partner never really seemed all that useful. Except for maybe when I acquired the bone saw ability and could dismantle skeletons with reckless abandon. Then it just kind of ended with no real fanfare. There was no final boss battle or a conclusion to the story that felt like it tied up all the loose ends. You did get to watch a short cutscene detailing all the things you accomplished, but that was about it. You are able to go out and finish up any quests you might have missed after watching the cutscene, and I did, but then when I cleaned those up, it felt like I was just dropping the game instead of truly completing it. Minor quibbles really, but it left me a little dissatisfied.
Gem Bones, Gem Bones, Gem Dry Bones
With all that being said, I truly enjoyed my time with West of Loathing and I would recommend any RPG fan with a thirst for nutty humor to check it out. It’s a fantastic game to pick up and play with very little effort required to do so and it’ll keep you laughing until those credits roll. It’s not often I use the phrase “hidden gem” but in my mind this is absolutely one of those and I urge all of you to check this one out! Just make sure you don’t drink too much of that tainted milk!