This article is part of a series focusing on the most notable games seen at this year’s INDIGO gaming exhibition held September 25-26 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Westerado is what you get when you put several totally different games and genres into a blender and press frappe. The result: a top down, open world western game, that goes like this: a pixelated cowboy roams a pixelated western setting in search of the murderer who killed his family. In this quest you exchange words and bullets alike. Upon getting shot, you lose one of your hats. Lose all three hats, get shot, and it’s game over. No regenerating health bar, not even health pickups, only hats . On the other hand, the bandits you will meet can be downed with one shot to even the odds.
Ignoring the visual aspect, Westerado bears some resemblance to Bethesda games. The decision making, free roaming, and the conversations all point to the genre that Wasteland once started. One of the designers, Wytze Kamp, explained where that influence came from:
We thought that the dialogue in, say, Skyrim or Fallout for example, has a lack of freedom. That’s why we’ve put in things like walking away and pulling your gun as a viable dialogue option.
Westerado‘s small and simple world works surprisingly well, mixing deep RPG features with arcade action. Now, mixing an arcade shooter with an RPG might cause some troubles. In my mind, the worries about accidentally killing quest-givers started to take form, but Wytze quickly jumped in:
To tackle that, we’ve made the shooting very deliberate. To shoot, you first have to take out your gun, cock it, and then fire. You won’t be accidentally shooting villagers that way.
In practice, this changes the whole gunplay a great deal. Without this mechanic, shooting would be a button mashing match. Now, it feels tense, and lining up your deadly shots takes a bit of skill.
Enemies in the world are all balanced to this aspect, and they have to cock their gun as well. This is where the zelda-like combat comes in. To hit an enemy, you have to be horizontally lined up with him (which in turn means the enemy could hit you). From there it’s cocking and shooting before the opponent does. After the shot, you’ll be best off strafing up and down to evade the bullets that remaining bandits fire at you.
Westerado may be an RPG, but death is permanent, at least, if you want to submit your score. It is punishing in the sense that failing to avoid enemy shots can give your progress a real hit. Next to that, the structure of the game is wide open, with unmarked missions and lack of any leveling system. These aspects, playing out in a world where you can’t directly see who is friend and who is foe, gives Westerado a little bit of that DayZ vibe.
The original Westerado has been playable for free as a Web-based game for some time already. However, the developers, Ostrich Banditos, are upgrading the game for a steam release. Westerado: double barreled doesn’t have a release date yet, but in the meantime, you can play the original for free.