Arkane Studios is known for its immersive first-person Sims like Dishonored and prey. Both titles are liberating sandboxes with a ton of interlocking tools that constantly interact and ricochet off each other to create unique, player-controlled moments. Wolfeye Studios hopes to develop this idea further, but in a different way Strange west. This isometric RPG may not look like the aforementioned arcane games and it remains to be seen if it can compete with them, but it does have many of the same pillars of system-controlled gameplay.
The connection makes sense as 15 of the 25 team members come directly from Arkane, including Raphael Colantonio, who founded Arkane in 1999 and is the creative director of. Strange west. In a hands-on demo, Colatonio explained how the team wanted to dive deeper into immersive Sims. This includes many of the staples of the genre, including always saying “yes” to the player, non-linear exploration, multiple play styles, and rewarding experimentation.
Strange west drives it forward to enable every player a unique playthrough through dynamic event generation. Colantonio explained it as an AI waiting for “opportunistic moments to throw something at the player”. This can also have consequences, which allows even more variation and potential for unique playthroughs.
Strange westThe gameplay seems to be an amalgamation of these types of random events and what the player can control directly. Environments are littered with an abundance of random objects to interact with. Players can choose skills from a number of upgrade trees that will give them unique moves during hectic, weapon-focused combat and allow them to develop their own style of play. You can also choose between stealth and loud gunplay (but players cannot play non-fatally as this is “not the game for it”). Day and night can change hostile patterns or what types of flammable objects can be exploited. Buildings and fortresses can be infiltrated in a number of ways (and each individual building can be breached in some way). Story moments have branch options.
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Murdering a number of NPCs can lead to abandoned cities that a random enemy faction can move them to. Players can even explore the area and find targets before the mission is even assigned. Weather patterns can affect the playing field in different ways. Rain, for example, can render dynamite virtually useless, while tornadoes can pick up fire and turn into a flaming cyclone of death. There are other more mysterious supernatural twists, too, which Colantonio explained as something that enabled more emerging gameplay systems.
“The reason we like the supernatural stuff is because of the taste,” he explained. “There is more to discover and there is more opportunity during the game. If you can come up with some crazy magical things, more funny things can happen. “
It is not entirely clear to what extent these realistic and arcane systems allow for creative problem solving that the best types of these games offer. However, the elements seem to be in place for a compelling immersive simulation that faint echoes of a game like. Has Dishonored, but the isometric view seems a bit antithetical to the “immersive” part of “immersive sim”. There’s a reason many like the best games in the genre Deus Ex, prey, Bioshock, and Skyrim are often in the first person perspective: it brings the player closer to the action. The zooming out of the camera creates a barrier between the user and the game and appears somewhat detached as a result.
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The isometric view is due to the smaller team size and just one of the limitations Wolfeye had to work with. Making a game with realistic graphics probably wasn’t in the cards, which is why the game has a stylized style direction influenced by French comics. This cheaper approach means lots of ink and simplified textures, according to Colantonio. This approach was easier than a more realistic game as it would require resources that Wolfeye doesn’t have. Colantonio said he sees this as “more recognizable and more own” than something with fewer restrictions, as the saturated look makes it seem more timeless. In practice it looks unique and almost like a Telltale game but zoomed out.
It doesn’t have a lot of voice acting either, which can mean players spend a lot of time reading. Colantonio said this allowed them to be more agile and make last-minute changes when needed. Wolfeye is also a remote developer with no head office, so it would probably be a lot harder to keep re-recording lines.
Strange west is a lot to swallow and, frankly, it’s not a type of game that demonstrates well in small doses. Games like this live from the fact that their various options collide and play out over a certain period of time. Showing this in a limited, hands-on setting is difficult as it curtails the freedom that sits at its core, along with possible payouts that might occur later. Strange west has the potential to become a deep action RPG with many interlocking systems as it has seasoned talent in the field, but it will be hard to see how wild this west is until it comes out later this year.