Genre: Comedy, Adventure, Role-Playing Game
Original Release: August 10, 2017
Publishers: Asymmetric, Limited Run Games
Platforms: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, Stadia
Played on: Windows
This is another one of those games that sat in my library untouched for a while. It’s not because of a lack of interest, in fact I picked it up at the recommendation of one of the Co-Optional podcast hosts. It may have been the late TotalBiscuit now that I think about it (may he rest in peace), but when they mentioned stick figure cowboys and the fact that it was a comedy RPG, I was interested. Sadly I didn’t actually start playing it until I started working on Welcome to the Game for this blog. I remember not wanting to be up late at night terrified that someone was going to track me through my phone, so I went for the silliest game I could think of and that turned out to be West of Loathing. Up to this point I’d only seen the image I used for the featured image on this article, a little bit of the trailer on the Steam page, and a few clips from Proton Jon’s streams where he used the Stupid Walk perk to its fullest.
Now since this is an RPG, it’s important to note that you have three different classes you can choose from when making your character. These are: Cow Puncher, Beanslinger, and Snake Oiler. Each has a preferred method of attack (melee, magic, and guns respectively), and each has their own nonviolent method of resolving conflicts as well as how they craft items (intimidation/leatherworkery, outfoxin’/master cookery, and hornswogglin’/potionology respectively), so it makes each class feel different enough that playing one makes me wonder how the others play by comparison. But all things in time. As such, let me talk to you about the adventures of Stubbs Witherton, professional Snake Oiler.
Stubbs began his adventure in the small town of Boring Springs, where he decided one evening to make his way out West to find fortune, adventure, or at least a town that wasn’t named Boring Springs. I don’t honestly remember much from this part, I took a long break between the first two hours I played West of Loathing and when I came back to it. All I remember was I got a spooky ghost horse and named her Misty. She was my best friend from start to finish. Once you leaving Boring Springs, you can’t go back, so make sure that you’ve got everything done that you want to do before leaving, though there isn’t all that much. A few sidequests that you can resolve pretty quickly if you’re so inclined, but that’s about it. After you leave, you’re officially headed out West! And the West proper is pretty darn big…and wild.
Your main goal is just to reach Frisco on the coast, but there’s a lot going on between Dirtwater where you start off and Frisco. You’ll have to deal with demonic cows, skeletons wearing various hats, necromancers, bandits, and plenty of snakes. Fortunately, Stubbs could make plenty use of the snakes as a Snake Oiler. In fact, he was able to use a snake as a whip to poison enemies, deploy a snake of varying age on his side of the field, and use snake parts you’ve accumulated from your dealings with the local wildlife to poison or burn them accordingly. You know, just like the cowboys of old used to do. I think? I’ll be honest, Western movies never really appealed to me growing up. I don’t know if it was just me not finding the right Westerns or my love of science fiction from an early age, but cowboys were never my cup of tea as a kid. Maybe I just needed Stubbs to get me interested.
Anyway, you’ve also got a partner who joins you in Boring Springs! Each of them has a preferred enemy type, and defeating that enemy will help make them stronger. I went with Susie Cochrane, and her preferred enemy type is anything cow-related. I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to, Susie hates cows and has a story reason for it.
As you’d expect from a game set in the Old West, there are plenty of spittoons everywhere you look. If you’re so inclined, you can check them out for goodies! Whether or not this is a good idea I leave to your discretion, but Stubbs is never one to say no to his curiosity. If you know what goes into a spittoon, you know what kind of horrors lurk in them. Like pants.
Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that I find West of Loathing especially charming. I’m hesitant to discuss a lot of the finer points of the game itself since comedy is typically at its best when it’s first heard or seen, at least for folks like me who tend to remember some of the most esoteric bits and pieces of information and the things I’ve seen and heard over the years. But I also know not everyone feels the same way, similarly, not every game is perfect, but West of Loathing does a pretty good job all things considered!
I do have a few complaints though. There’s not really any way to track the sidequests you’ve accepted aside from asking your partner for a reminder, and even that can be a little vague at times. Similarly, some of the encounters can be a little ridiculous to say the least. Like there are some enemies that can do a lot of damage and poor Susie gets knocked out in one hit, leaving Stubbs to clean up all of them and if you don’t have a lot of items on hand to manage your health or take them down one at a time you’re going to get demolished. This doesn’t really set you back other than making you angry, and you can get angry up to three times before you pass out and the game moves forward to the next day. This is also somewhat beneficial though, since each stack of anger increases your stats, but it can be annoying to say the least. Fortunately, most conflicts have a nonviolent method of resolution which is usually pretty funny as well. How you decide to handle everything is up to you, but it’s worth trying some of the nonviolent options to see how it goes!
So yeah, West of Loathing is definitely great. But in February of 2019 they released some DLC for it, and after finishing the main game I decided to check it out, so let’s talk about that now.
Reckonin’ At Gun Manor is almost entirely self-contained. You can access it by taking the ghostly coach in Dirtwater and then you can take it back to Dirtwater as you need. As far as I can tell, Gun Manor is a play on the Winchester Mystery House, with the manor being named after one Terri Gun, the inventor of…the gun. There are a total of thirteen ghosts across the manor, and you can either fight them off in combat or help them move on by solving puzzles or fulfilling their requests. You’ll have the assistance of a ghost hunter named Florence and the manor proper has some very nice equipment for you to use in the main game afterward if you’re so inclined! Some of the requests are a little bit obtuse, and others were comically straightforward, but there’s plenty to do and figure out in your own time. It took a couple of hours and a few consultations of a reddit thread to figure out that I was misreading the details on one of the puzzles, but once I got it sorted out it made a lot more sense.
All in all, West of Loathing and Reckonin’ At Gun Manor took me about 16 and a half hours to finish. Not complete, but finish. I had a lot of fun throughout, though I know for a fact that I missed a few things and forgot others. I’m going to recommend it, but I’d also suggest you keep notes if you want to get everything done.
If you’re intrigued, but not sure if the humor would be your cup of tea, the team at Asymmetric has a browser-based game called Kingdom of Loathing that you can check out for free! I haven’t done it myself, but I might have to just because I enjoyed West of Loathing so much. You did a heck of a job, Asymmetric. I hope you realize that.