West of Loathing is a slapstick, comedy, adventure, open-world, RPG set in the entirely black and white, stick figure-populated world, of the Kingdom of Loathing universe. In West of Loathing, you assume the role of a gal or guy who decides to leave the family farm in search of adventure and fortune in the Wild West. Within the first few hours of playing, developer, Asymmetric shows just how deft their approach to game design has become in the 14 years of experience they’ve had with their MMO, cult classic, Kingdom of Loathing. By the end of my first 10 hour playthrough, I knew that Kingdom of Loathing had struck a remarkable balance between stupidity and profound cleverness.
West of Loathing’s gameplay is for the most part, is point-and-click, inspired by those good ol’ 90’s adventure games like, The Secret of Money Island, mixed with some simple turn-based combat and it works very well. Perhaps, the most complementary thing I can say about West of Loathing’s gameplay is, the integrity of the game’s logic is rather impeccable. In the first few hours in-game you are restricted to a small starting area where the game explains itself to the player. You need a pickax to mine meat veins (the currency in the KOL universe is, meat), and in every haystack, you can find a needle, etc. the game sticks to this throughout the entire game, adding on to the established logic every once in a while in an intuitive way. When you unlock new regions, you are given access to new tools. Whenever there was an action I was unable to take, I knew that I needed to find the tool. If I didn’t have a piece of information for a puzzle, I knew the information would be in a related area. Because of this tight logic, I never was unable to solve a puzzle on my own. Because I knew, unlike in many point-and-click games, I would not be asked to make unreasonable logical leaps.
But it’s not just this tight logic that made the game so good, was also the ridiculous writing. For instance, the classes were easily recognizable as, a warrior, mage, and a summoner/potion maker but, they are called, Cow puncher, Beanslinger, and Snake Oiler. This sort of odd sense of humor weaved throughout the entirety of the game. At one point in the starting area, don’t ask me why, but I decided to search a saloon spittoon and he gave me the option to reach into it which, I did.
The game’s narrator got indignant. It made me say I wanted to search it multiple times before it reluctantly started describing, in great and disgusting detail, what it smelled, looked, and felt like but, at the end of it, I got a really decent ring. Throughout the rest of the game I explored every spittoon I found and with each one, the game’s narrator would get the same indignant attitude the entire time. One of my favorite moments in the game was when I searched in one Spittoon and the narrator said, no I won’t describe this. So, my character started describing what she was doing until she found something. There is an almost confrontational relationship between the game’s narrator and your player character. You constantly tell me that things weren’t a good idea and I do them anyway and when bad things happened it say, I told you. It really was a very clever writing that made me smile more times than once.
I haven’t mentioned combat yet but, that’s because it wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as the rest of the game but, it was still very solid. Though combat seemed easy, on the normal setting, the game’s sense of humor extended to the enemies you fought (like a lot of demon cows). It was still fun to amass items and equipment and find different combinations to create an overpowered character. The combat was a solid 7/10 for me. The inventory management was occasionally sloppy but, fussing with all of the weird stuff I collected for no reason was also very fun. I don’t want to get that far into the types of things you get but, it gets very odd.
I obviously, really love this game and I think that it represents a type of cleverness that the AAA industry just doesn’t seem to have anymore. Asymmetric brings together a colorful world with strong writing, impressive continuity, and genuine humor without half of the resources that most games have today. I believe that West of Loathing is a fantastic game that anyone looking for a laugh or a good RPG should play. And if you don’t feel like paying for a game, Kingdom of Loathing is free and also very fun. Oh, and did I mention you get a horse?
Great writing, fantastic puzzles. Bland, but passable, combat mechanics. Messy inventory system.