ROLE PLAYGROUND | West of Loathing is a whole new can of beans…

I honestly don’t know what this game is.

Asymmetric Production’s
West of Loathing is nothing if not unique – it’s world is fresh and vibrant despite the stick figured, black-and-white design. It’s characters manage to be simple, but real enough for you not to care. And it’s story is like the large desert with which it takes place: A huge mystery, just waiting to be solved.

THE GAME

A drunken horseman. (Giphy )

West of Loathing is an comedy adventure RPG that takes place in a Weird Western desert. You take control of the protagonist just as he leaves his family to venture out west to the town of Frisco. The only problem is that the train keeps getting blocked by different obstacles, and you’re the only one who can fix them! But, the farther you venture into the desert, the more dangerous it gets. You’ll have to fight through hellcows, skeletons, cultists, maybe even a clown or two – but it’s a small price for Frisco.

THE GOOD

The world of
Loathing is a strange phenomenon – it manages to be both vibrant and colorful without having any vibrancy or color. The ground is nothing but a few dots against white – mimicking sand. The sky is white, with white clouds and a white sun – the only thing separating them is a simple black line. There are minor details, sure, the buildings are drawn well and so are some of the interactive elements throughout the world – but mostly they all stick to very simple line art.
Normally, this would be a bad thing, but not so in this game. In this game, the lack of detail adds to its intentionally surreal nature. You don’t need astounding, AAA-level graphics and design and to have it would be too much. There’s a lot in this game, and if it looked too realistic – it wouldn’t feel right. The world would be too defined, and you’d be asking yourself, “What the hell?”


The front of your house in the beginning of the game!Yours truly.

It would also distract from the game’s astounding branching narrative. It starts simple enough – you want to help a train clear a path so you can make it all the way to Frisco – a beautiful town in the west. That’s all well and good, and you can do it relatively quick if that’s how you want to play. But the more explore this world the more you get to experience game’s gleefully kooky side quests which involve: Hellcows (yes, cows from Hell), necromancers, aliens, and even clowns! Each of these quests has a lot of twists and turns that take you to some strange places throughout the map. You have to solve puzzles, quest for needles in haystacks, and even learn a whole new language.

And it’s never easy – none of these quests are ever easy. The creatures you fight are always balanced fairly well, and you have to think very carefully about what you’re going to do next. The battle-system isn’t the best, but it works well enough to make the game challenging in a fun way most of the time.

Aside from story elements, the game also manages to throw some of their own beans in the RPG soup – in the place of typical classes, you get Cow Puncher (Muscle), Beanslinger (Mysticality [magic]), and Snake Oiler (Moxie [speech/bartering]). Each affect how you’ll move through the story: For instance, if you pick Beanslinger – you’ll be able to use your bean magic to influence the random encounters you could get, while as a Snake Oiler you’d be able to negotiate with a trader to get some good loot! The classes all seem familiar, but the devs manage to make their lore and application in the world feel totally fresh.


Don’t you just hate when you have those weird character class dreams?Yours truly!

There’s a lot that makes this game great – it’s differences mostly work for this game, not against it. However, like all games, this one is far from perfect.

THE BAD

First, there’s the battle system. The tactical turnbased doesn’t work super well, mostly because it just gets old. Even as you get more and more abilities, the battles become more tedious than fun – it takes a while but it can happen. Difficulty isn’t the problem – as I’ve said, the difficulty mostly works – but its problem lies with the sameness. In a world that has something new around every corner, I expect the battle system to do the same.

A shot the protag fighting the evil Saint Beefus. (Giphy)

Another problem lies within the game’s sometimes punishing nature. For example, I was in a large bull-bone tower (you’ll have to play to really experience what I’m talking about), and I missed one thing and shut it off for the rest of the game. There’s no way for me to fix it, and that kind of thing really bothers me – especially since the whole game relies on exploration. It’d be fine if there was a way for me to reload my save – but you can’t do that, not in
West of Loathing.

It ruins a bit of the experience for me, even though I appreciate the dev’s focus on the consequences of choice.

THE BOTTOM LINE

West of Loathing is an odd, hilarious sight to behold. From the Lovecraftian aliens, hellish demon cows, and reanimated skeletons to the beanmagic and cactus-loving goblins – this world brims with strange, energetic life. Sure, the battle system leaves much to be desired and the lack of load-able save files can throw you for a loop, but that doesn’t distract from this incredibly fun title.

And it’s only $10.99 on Steam!


Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played games since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any games you’d like him to unpack, hit him up!


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