Westerado: Double Barreled – What We Think:
I’m a fan of Wild West fiction and think it’s an interesting time period which tested peoples’ morality. It was a wild, under-regulated time, heavily affected by people’s’ good and bad choices. Westerado: Double Barreled by Ostrich Banditos manages to successfully incorporate this concept of moral choice into a fantastic, open world, Spaghetti Western-inspired game.
We Always Hang in a Buffalo Stance
The story starts off with the protagonist living a carefree life of a buffalo herder with his mother and brother. This blissful existence is interrupted, as one day, while out looking for an escaped buffalo someone sets ablaze to your house, and your mother and brother are killed. You set out on a search for the killer, a cliché plot that is standard for fiction set on the wild frontier. Although the set-up for the game may not be all that unique, the game has a clever system to make its revenge plot feel new.
Your quest to find your family’s killer is not an easy one. The identity of the murderer is slowly revealed through knowledge you obtain from other NPCs in the world. After you help NPCs by completing quests, they either reward you with money or information regarding the killer. For example, an NPC might say something along the lines of “Oh, I know who you’re talking about, I hear he wears a colored shirt.” This information is useful and ultimately gathered up at the end until you find out what the murderer looks like.
The Killer in Me is the Killer in You
I really enjoyed slowly uncovering who the killer was, and it kept me engaged throughout. I’d first find out that the killer wore colored slacks, then through doing more quests I was able to narrow it down by finding out that they wore blue slacks. The neat thing about this mechanic is that the murderer is a randomly chosen NPC at the start of the game. You could replay the game multiple times and the person who murdered your family would be different each time. This mechanic is clever and fits in with the Wild West setting.
The game is an isometric, open world action game, much like Retro City Rampage. It’s filled with diverse areas to explore, from a dangerous scorpion-filled desert to a highly populated city with people to talk to. It’s impressive once you see the scale of the game. The world felt not too big or too small; it was well-crafted and you could tell a lot of care went into creating a believable setting.
Take in Them Vistas, Pardner
Westerado has an impressive pixel art style, detailed with small wildlife wandering around everywhere, grass that moves as if wind is blowing through it and bodies of the people you have killed permanently on display in their final resting places. I also appreciated how the game used a wide array of colors: forest areas look vibrant and alive, while the desert areas look desolate and harsh. Everything in this game looks fantastic. It really shows how small details can bring a game world to life.
The game’s soundtrack features a nice mix of Western-themed music with plenty of harmonicas, guitars, violins and trumpets to set that old west mood, transitioning between soft, mood-setting scores or lofty uptempo arrangements that accompany combat sequences. Tracks are tied to specific areas of the game’s world and help create a particular mood for each one.
There are plenty of things you can do in Westerado’s open world; you can play poker in saloons, bounty hunt for people by taking wanted posters, or do quests. Quests in the game are as diverse as you can get in a Western theme and usually involve a lot of gun-slinging. One quest had me escorting bulls on horseback, while another had me helping a ghost in a mine who was looking for his beloved pickaxe. The game is not afraid to go wherever it wants and without taking itself too seriously. It creates a nice tone and aids with the game’s freedom of choice by making it not feel as linear.
Home, Home on the Range of Choices
One of the ways in which Westerado: Double Barreled excels is the fact that you are given a lot of choice. You are free to kill anyone, and in the process destroy quest lines because of it. You can be as good or as bad as you want. You can become a villain of towns or become hated by groups in the game, like the Native American tribe or the oil tycoon’s gang.
The best thing an open world game can do is offer you that freedom to do what you want and play the way you want to play, and I never felt like I was forced onto some linear path; I felt like I was carving out my own, unique, blood-soaked tale of revenge.
It’s a freedom that feels a little contrived at times; most quests in the game usually follow a set path and are rigid with no room for alteration. That rigidity doesn’t necessarily fit cohesively with the game’s freedom outside of the quests. I understand how difficult more branching quest paths would be, but I wish that there were more quests that were affected by your actions within them. It’s that extra step that makes the world feel completely at the mercy of your actions. The lack of more branching quests is overall a minor thing, given how much other freedom you have in the game.
Ten Gallons of Fun
Another bright spot of the game is its fast, frenetic combat. In this game, you and your enemies die in just one shot. The way in which the game offers you more of a fighting chance is by giving you the ability to acquire hats. Hats in the game act like lives. You can buy up to three hats, and when you get shot, a hat is used up. Within the game’s world, this mechanic explains itself by saying that it’s as if the enemy has missed you and just shot off your hat. What’s also neat about this mechanic is that if you’re skilled and quick enough you can shoot off enemies’ hats and pick them up, essentially picking up extra lives during combat. It’s a fun little mechanic that was really enjoyable and tense.
The “one shot and you’re dead” mechanic made for some intense battles that made the combat really engaging. Much like how Bastion‘s combat required that you play smart and not button-mash, Westerado: Double Barreled does the same and makes every gun fight a joyous experience. Even the act of reloading your gun is a bit nerve-wracking, because you have to press a button to reload every single bullet. You have to plan out shots, so make sure to keep count and remember how many bullets you have in your chamber while at the same time you’re avoiding enemy gunfire. The combat in the game was so much fun, in fact, that I reveled when I encountered bandits in the game.
Westerado: Double Barreled is a fantastic Western-themed open world game. It’s hard to find anything wrong or damning with the game, because everything about the it is executed wonderfully. Whether you look at the game’s enjoyable combat, catchy soundtrack, or its slick visuals, everything comes together and creates a fantastic experience. It does what a lot of great open world games do: it offers an engagingly fun world in which you can immerse and lose yourself.
Watch the trailer for Westerado: Double Barreled below: