Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Blood West

Blood West begins with a classic western premise. A gunslinger is shot and left for dead, only to return and enact some kind of vengeance. Only this time, the gunslinger wasn’t left for dead but was actually good and truly dead. Thankfully through profane evil magic, you are resurrected into a hellish desert full of monsters, outlaws, and a whole host of creatures that are both. 

Conceptual Meta-Wank:

I will admit. The number one reason I chose to spotlight this game is that it advertised itself as a take on S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which is perhaps my favorite horror game of all time. Even within the tremendous jank, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a masterpiece of immersion, realistic gunfights, and a powerful atmosphere, both in regards to horror sequences and relaxing by the fire. Blood West may not fully capture the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. magic, but it’s certainly close enough for me to thoroughly enjoy. 

The Blood West gameplay is a mix of stealth, gunfights, melee, and inventory management. Key elements of any good survival horror. It’s also set in a fairly big map where you have no real linear gameplay restrictions. Take what missions you like, finish half a quest then run back to the trader to sell fifteen rusty guns, and run back to finish the job. Search every building for a secret stash of bullets, and hope no ghoulies are sneaking about. Blood West more than scratches that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. itch.

Non-Wanky Game Recap:

Blood West is a first-person shooter. You may equip two weapons at once—one big, another still pretty large but not quite as in charge—and set out into the desert darkness. There are some NPCs here and there, giving you some guidance and trading for fun stuff, but more often than not, Blood West is about exploration in a huge and mysterious world. And of course, filling your inventory to the brim with a now-deceased enemy’s supplies that you plan on selling. 

What Works:

What Blood West captures best is some powerful atmosphere. The sights are pretty good; a nighttime western desertscape with ruined setting appropriate, um, ruins, dotted with enemies and danger. But the sound is where this game really excels. Fully voiced NPCs, ghouls growling, revolvers blasting, and a whole host of good crunchy sounds. But more than the atmosphere, it’s just really fun to explore and fight and loot. 

What Doesn’t:

As any good Stalker in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. knows, you raise the difficulty to the highest level. Paradoxically this makes the game easier and more enjoyable, because both you and your enemies have less health, making for better combat. Blood West is lacking in the gunplay. The weapons do painfully little damage, forcing you to put bullet after bullet into a charging enemy, and even penalizing you for executing a headshot from too far away. While I recognize this was to allow the player to utilize stealth better, this also means that once the bullets start flying, you’ll take huge damage from an enemy and not be able to dish it back. I also found it strange that a gunshot (graciously) did not alert every enemy in a 100-foot radius. While this was great for stealth, it did seem odd. Not a huge problem, but certainly a bit weird. 

How To Fix It:

I think Blood West needs some damage adjustments. For one, getting rid of the damage penalty from distance is a must. Attacking from afar is critical in these types of games. Amping up damage in general would be nice. Perhaps compromising this by giving enemies more awareness of gunfire, which would force the player to decide when to ambush, as well as force them to utilize melee more. Blood West would do well to make the game both easier and harder in these regards. 

Wanky Musings:

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was about survival in a hostile zone. The loneliness of exploring a ruined and defiled landscape, rummaging for bits and pieces to sell, in the hopes of getting a slightly better chance of survival. While it may not be a perfect imitation, Blood West certainly does a phenomenal attempt, and in some aspects, does it better. Of this is the Stalker stalk, and the night does not end. 

You can buy Blood West on Steam by clicking here