Earlier this year, Arkane Studios disappointed on Xbox Game Pass with Redfall, a game that dropped much of the studio’s immersive sim expertise for an underbaked multiplayer adventure. But what if I told you that the person who founded Arkane and helped create series like Dishonored had left the studio prior to Redfall and made an excellent immersive sim that is also available on Xbox Game Pass?
Well, that actually happened, and the game in question is Weird West.
In March 2022, former Arkane Studios founder Raphaël Colantonio released Weird West under the newly formed WolfEye Studios. While it swaps out a third-person perspective for an isometric one, Weird West is a joyfully odd supernatural Western game that manages to tap into the immersive sim design philosophy that made many of the games Colantonio worked on excellent.
Unfortunately, Weird West is leaving Xbox Game Pass on September 30, so we recommend you give it a shot before it’s gone.
Embracing the weird
Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of games set in the Wild West, and even fewer that lean into creepy, supernatural elements like Weird West does. The game’s world is full of supernatural cults, magic, and creatures like pigmen, zombies, and werewolves. Its story is told across five distinct campaigns, starting with one about a retired bounty hunter whose child is killed and husband kidnapped, setting her off on an adventure to get them back.
The individual stories of all five of Weird West’s playable characters are emotionally captivating and quite distinct from each other. That’s very noticeable as soon as you jump over to the second story, which follows a human turned into a Pigman. Still, it’s a living and reactive world, so decisions made and characters killed in an earlier character’s journey do have an impact on subsequent characters’ adventures; you can even find and recruit characters that you previously played as.
It’s here where Weird West’s immersive sim roots start to shine, as a lot of emergent narrative moments with impact feel crafted by the player. This carries over into gameplay, which is done from an isometric perspective. Like Arkane’s best games, there are always multiple solutions to any objective, and going in with guns blazing isn’t always the best option. Instead, players are encouraged to stealth around, sweet-talk characters, and even use some magical abilities if the playable character can learn them as they progress through a character’s journey.
With these more dynamic elements, the isometric perspective, and the narrative focus, Weird West can feel like as much of a CRPG as an immersive sim at times. As such, it might be an enjoyable follow-up to Baldur’s Gate 3 for players finally coming off that lengthy RPG. At the very least, if you enjoy games that emphasize player freedom and also find novel ways to make it influence the game’s broader narrative, then you’ll enjoy Weird West.
The game had some technical issues and rough edges when it was first released, so it has flown under the radar. Most of those have all been smoothed over by now, though. Post-launch updates have fixed most of the major bugs and improved the character progression, aiming, and companion and stealth systems by adding more depth and UI clarity to them. Weird West is in the best state it has ever been in, but still feels as distinct and strange as ever.
In a year with great games that prioritize giving players a unique-feeling journey, like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3, it’s one of the best indies you can play on Xbox Game Pass — and much better than Arkane Studios’ last game. That’s why it’s a shame that the game won’t be on the service for much longer, as it’s a must-play for immersive sim fans.
Weird West leaves the PC, console, and cloud versions of Xbox Game Pass on September 30. If you want to be able to play it after that, it’s currently available at a 20% discount for Xbox Game Pass subscribers. It’s also on Steam, PS4, and PS5. You can even play the Bounty Hunter’s whole journey for free on Steam.