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West of Loathing Review

West of Loathing

Developer: Asymmetric
Publisher: Same as Above
Released on Aug 10, 2017

West of Loathing is a comedic stick-figure RPG taking place in the Kingdom of Loathing, where demon cows terrorize ranchers, skeletons rise out of their graves, and bandits cause trouble for the local towns. What kind of crazy adventures await you in the wild west? One thing’s certain; you’ll be wearing many hats, as the Cowboys once did in style.

Genre: An Indie Adventure RPG

West of Loathing: When the Cows Came Home Edition

West of Loathing takes stick-figure characters and proceeds to give them funny personalities, tossing in some slapstick humor on the side, to keep the player entertained. Playing a stick-figure cowboy is all about noticing memes and laughing at cheesy puns like the one about building a wall or checking one’s privilege.

Side quests are a dime a dozen in which you get a generous pay off in chunks of actual meat, the valued currency of this game. I mean, where else are you gonna find a quest about fighting a mutant yeast monster using your bare fists? Besides, who wouldn’t want to interact with every object they find to see what it does?

What happens when you get 1337 points? Absolutely nothing!

Every time you select “New Game”, you’re taken to this mini-game where you can test your aim at the shooting gallery, the wild west’s version of an arcade. Aiming at the hanging dolls or stuffed animals changes both your name and gender.

Of course, you can type one by clicking on the wanted poster names. On the West of Loathing title screen, are a bunch of wooden signs that let you continue a game, start from scratch, or switch characters if you have multiple playthroughs saved on here.

The game puts a new spin on the three basic RPG classes.

The Cow Puncher is a fighter who solves problems by pummeling them into the ground. Especially if those “problems” are caused by a herd of demonic cows crawling out of hell itself. The cows aren’t gonna beat themselves up so somebody has to step up to the plate. These guys will intimidate even the strongest foes with their unrelenting insults.

The Beanslinger is what you’d call a wannabe wizard who had to settle for culinary school, where they mastered the art of cooking magic beans to unleash the elements of fire and ice. Wielding the spatula of justice, they know how to cook up one tough can of beans. All they need is a secret hideout with a pre-installed arcane oven.

The Snake Oiler is one smooth operator, whose moxie lets them talk out of nearly any sticky situation. They are quick to draw their guns and peel off the skin of any rattlesnake in the springs. Those guys know a few dirty tactics to weaken their opponents like shooting poisoned bullets and piling on multiple stat debuffs.

You had a dream where you picked a character class. So now it’s time to pack up and say goodbye to your family. The people in the West need all the help they can get! Although the journey may be treacherous, you did come prepared by reading books about surviving in the desert, breaking into people’s homes, and haggling with merchants to get free stuff.

This window below displays your character’s main stats. Cow Punchers hit harder with more muscle, Beanslingers channel their magic through Mysticality, and Snake Oilers improve their aim with Moxie. You could also become well-rounded, but it takes a lot of work to collect stat-raising items and compare them side by side.

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Choose carefully what kind of build you want since you cannot remove XP once it’s already spent. As for the perks you gain, they are given out if you accidentally meet a requirement. For example, the “Mostly Scabs” perk increases your armor, which is obtained by walking into too many cactuses, conveniently blocking your path.

One running gag has your character always destroying a book after reading it to gain a new combat skill. Probably to stop you from selling it for easy meat. Said skills consume action points (AP), helping you finish off a persistent foe. As a cowpuncher, I like to use Beef Up before doing a basic attack that inputs damage based on muscle.

Oh, and did you ever find out how to cheat at poker?

You get knocked off the wagon and land in Boring Springs. This is the town where you choose a “pardner” to protect you against the many dangers that lie ahead. Or better yet, act as a meat shield while you power up your AOE moves. The four available partners are Crazy Pete, Doc Alice, Susan Cochrane, and Gary the Goblin.

From what I’ve seen, certain partners level faster if you picked the right horse to ride into Dirtwater. Crazy Pete ranks up after random events so he should be paired up with the crazy horse. Doc Alice only gains exp by fighting undead skeletons, which makes her easier to level if you choose the ghost horse. For the other two, I don’t think it really matters.

The horses have gone missing so the stable master has enlisted your help in rounding them up again. Upon a closer look, they aren’t your typical horses either. Only one is average in all aspects. The dark horse is a shy introvert, the ghost horse is spooky pale, and the crazy horse has seen its share of disturbing things.

One of the many mysteries of the universe I suppose.

Every town has a saloon for you to grab a drink or two, being the main hang out spot of wandering cowboys. Oh and see that spitoon in the corner? Yeah, you don’t want to know what’s inside. It’s always full of disgusting tobacco spit and god knows what else the narrator likes to point out in exaggerated detail.

You’ll find tons of medical supplies lying around, waiting to be picked up. The real fun begins when you loot for food and shiny trinkets. The game always rewards you a few consumables to give you that bonus stat increase. Drinking “yer booze” changes your melee or spell damage. Your gut, liver, and spleen capacity is limited so choose wisely.

I’m not sure why you’d want to mine for the meat inside a smelly cave but it is the currency used by people in West of Loathing.

Downing a potion is likely to raise your maximum HP or invigorate you with extra AP for executing a powerful, special attack. Food helps to buff your Muscle, Mysticality, and Moxie. It’d be wise to take the leftovers with you whenever you visit a new area. Besides, there’s no real harm in harvesting pizza toppings growing on top of somebody’s grave.

Folks in town are always looking for someone lacking in common sense to run errands for them. These fetch quests often involve killing monsters for their hats, answering “Wanted” posters, hunting for items, or figuring out how to outsmart a goblin fort. Ask your pardner if you ever need to get back on track.

As you wander around aimlessly, random encounters are a dime a dozen. You could get exp by deciding to be a good Samaritan, though it’s more fun to troll goblins and bandits who try to mug you by point out their poor choice of words. More often than not, it’s just another abandoned crate which holds common items you won’t use that much.

Locations on the world map are unlocked by wandering around or talking to your partner when they have that “!” mark above them. Many of these mines, ranches, houses, cemeteries, and caves are discovered using a pair of binoculars at any fort in the area. The map begins at Dirtwater but unlocks new regions as you help the train travel across the railroad path.

What you see here is the stone giant, reanimated from a pile of rocks. In the main quest, you’re asked to blow up the rocks blocking the train’s path at a railroad camp. But to do that, you must have a year’s supply of dynamite on hand. Now, get ready to battle a stone giant. Or um…dispell it with magic? I just chose to insult the guy until he gave up.

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El Vibrato constructs are always summoned inside these activated portals.

This is what you see during turn-based combat. You will gain skills for melee and gun attacks, determined by your chosen class. You could learn to power up your stats and heal minor wounds, whenever you’re in a pinch. The game calculates your damage output after it compares your stats against an enemy’s. Don’t worry, it’s easy to become over-leveled.

For a more strategic approach, you might want to light them on fire with the oil. Silver bullets are super effective against demon cows and clowns. Making a lasso out of rope is not a bad idea either: it disables a target for three rounds. I like to throw some dynamite whenever I can’t one-shot a weakened but stubborn target.

Crafting is one of the main mechanics behind West of Loathing. As a Cowpuncher, I studied Leatherworking which requires skinning evil cows for their hide. Leather quality has three grades: Extra-thick, smoldering, and infernal. The last one produces a set of enchanted cowboy clothes to buff my character.

Of course, Beanslingers have a different crafting station. They sneak into a magician’s hideout to study Master Cookery, learning how to cook delicious beans and forge metal cookware out of bean-iron nuggets. I haven’t tried the Snake Oiler class but I did read about Potionology for brewing potions, tonics, or snake juice.

Who wants to win a cute stuffed animal? Step right up!

Beware of the evil forces at play! Demon clowns have established their domain at this seemingly-normal circus. Necromancers are committing blood sacrifices west of the mountains. Cultists are gaining power from their one true God, Roberto. And the evil cows are escaping hell through a ranch portal.

In West of Loathing, three converging stories will alter the fate of Frisco, a town run by an insane emperor and the final destination of your journey. If you were to finish the Hellcows, Necromancy, or El Vibrato side quests, you might unlock an interesting outcome for the citizens of Frisco. Since this is entirely optional, you might as well aim for a normal ending.

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