More from the West

I don’t think I did a good enough job talking up West of Loathing, so I am going to do a bit more. If nothing else, I feel like I owe them for the amount of time I spent in Kingdom of Loathing over the years.

West of Loathing supports many units of play. Sometimes you want “bite-sized gaming,” something you can play for five minutes between things. You can do that in West of Loathing, visiting a new location or advancing a quest a step. That is usually a sufficient unit of play, delivering a small story or a few jokes, with an increment of advancement. You can put several of those together and clear a side quest. You can methodically work your way across the map, visiting all the locations and trying to do all the things. You can focus on the main quest and complete the game in an hour, or you can explore every detail and spend a dozen hours. You can grind if you want to cap every skill, but the difficulty curve does not require it. The game length is not padded with repetition. West of Loathing supports both casual and hardcore play, at your option.

West of Loathing also supports casual and hardcore play in its mechanics. By default, the difficulty is low, the attack grid is off, “nerd mode” is off, and experience will automatically be spent to level evenly. You can leave the mechanics to worry about themselves on auto-pilot, and it will not make bad choices. They may not be optimal choices for the strategy you have chosen to pursue, but then you can turn off auto-pilot and take control. You can see all the combat details or just whack things. You can turn difficulty way up simply by putting on the right hat (with many warnings about that hat). West of Loathing lets you decide how you want to play the game.

West of Loathing has surprisingly great graphics. It is stick figure art, but it is good stick figure art. It is stylized, not cheap. These are stick figures who carry mobile light sources with dynamic shadows, and they do crossfit. Today’s attempts at photorealistic graphics will tax your video card and look lousy in five years; stylized stick figures will still look good twenty years from now. I long ago got tired of pixel art, as the generation that grew up with 8-bit graphics started making their own games (just like the weekly reboot of some ’80s media). High quality stick figure art is a good aesthetic.

West of Loathing is funny. It has verbal and visual puns. It has literary and pop culture references. It can be silly, including a toggle for silly walks. It has gamer humor and winking meta humor, without descending into the postmodern irony that panders with a tone of “you’re too smart for the usual thing, which we are going to do anyway while rolling our eyes.” It can mock itself and affectionately parody genres while remaining friendly. It can be smart and even esoteric without getting pretentious (stick figure art helps that). It is light and positive fun, even when it mixes in dark and brooding elements.

You should play West of Loathing.

: Zubon

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