Blood West Preview – Lonely Stealth Horror

Blood West is an interesting combination of the horror genre and the Wild West setting. The atmosphere is dark and the enemies are punishing, requiring you to use stealth. The gameplay foundations are solid, but clashes with the theme of the Wild West.

Blood West Preview: Lonely Stealth HorrorThe Wild West mythos fascinates audiences from the lawless wilderness and the thrill of exploration. You had the opportunity to forge your own destiny while embarking on a variety of adventures. Blood West draws on this mythos and gives it a darker tone. Supernatural forces have brought you back from the dead to stop evil from encroaching the lands. It falls on you to travel and dispel the evil, one monster at a time.

The atmosphere is gritty and dark, though it also makes it difficult to see and perceive distance at times. Combat is similar to an FPS, with an emphasis on stealth and punishing enemies. The story is generic, destroying evil around the land because it threatens everyone. Blood West is an interesting take on stealth horror, but it clashes against the Wild West themes that it tries to embody.

Blood West is currently in Early Access and is available on PC for USD 14.99.

Blood West reveal trailer #RD2021

Story – Investigating & Destroying Evil

You play as a nameless adventurer, who has been resurrected. After speaking to a nearby totem, you learn that supernatural forces brought you back from the dead. Your goal is to go around the land, destroying evil and making sure it doesn’t come back. This isn’t just about killing enemies, but investigating the sources of evil and putting an end to them.

The story is generic and doesn’t stand out. Your character doesn’t have some overarching goal or strong motivation. Just like a Dark Souls game, you focus on the gameplay rather than the story. Two chapters are currently available, but it’s not enough to present an engaging narrative. You also spend much of your time experimenting and fighting enemies, which makes the story take a backseat.

A generic story that works, but is not interesting.

A generic story that works, but is not interesting.

A lack of characters to interact with also affects the story, since there aren’t many narratives to investigate. The world feels empty other than the enemies you fight, with brief encounters to cut through the loneliness. While the game is taking inspiration from the Wild West, having few characters doesn’t help flesh the world out or make it engaging. The world and protagonist feel bland, and it’s a world where you fight evil because it’s the only activity.

With more chapters in the future, there’s potential for the story to improve. As it is right now, there’s nothing extraordinary or engaging about it. You feel like a lone wanderer going through a hellish landscape. There’s only one thing on your mind, and it’s all you can care about, even if you don’t fully understand why.

Gameplay – Stealth Combat Against the Horrors

Blood West has a large area to explore, and you will need a map to know your surroundings. Every area is different and it changes every chapter, giving you new areas to explore. You will know where your main objective is, but there are always new areas to explore and items to collect. The Wild West has always been about exploring new frontiers, and even the forces of evil can’t stop it. Unfortunately, you aren’t the first person to set foot in these areas. You will encounter large numbers of evil abominations which want you gone. Taking out a gun seems like the best option, but it is actually not recommended.

Stealth – Defeating Enemies in Silence

You find an axe and a revolver early on, which gives you a melee and ranged attack option. Unfortunately, ammunition is scarce and enemies often outnumber you. A drawn-out gunfight will not end well for you, draining you of valuable resources if you choose to fight. Stealth is the best form of taking down enemies, as you deal more damage and stay hidden.

Staying quiet and getting behind enemies is crucial.

Staying quiet and getting behind enemies is crucial.

It is weird to play in a setting known for intense firefights, but other methods aren’t wise. Stealth is the most effective way of dealing damage to enemies, increasing your damage output and keeping you hidden. Enemies can still sense you if you make too much noise or enter their field of vision, and you must be careful.

While it is fun to get the jump on enemies, stealth can take up a lot of time. You must be careful and wait for the right moment, and you will repeat this for several enemies in an area. If you fail, you can always run away and return another time. The thrill of hiding and fighting enemies adds to the horror experience, amplifying the fear that you experience. Unfortunately, most of that fear eventually gives way to boredom as you can only be sneaky. You have to keep trying to kill enemies and refine your process repeatedly in order to proceed.

Experimentation – Slow & Painful Process

Just like Dark Souls, you will be dying frequently as you try to fight enemies. Learning the best way to fight enemies won’t come easily, and you will die as you learn the process. Fortunately, death doesn’t mean the end of the game, as you respawn back at your last rest spot. Unfortunately, this gives you a small curse that inhibits your abilities in some fashion, such as gaining less experience. If you die three times, that curse becomes a large curse that cripples your abilities. You can remove the large curse by talking to the totem and fulfilling their request, but it is frustrating to build out the curse before removal. 

You can choose different skills to help you survive.

You can choose different skills to help you survive.

While the curse is a pressing problem, the time spent killing enemies is a bigger issue. While games such as Elden Ring have fast-paced combat and exploration, Blood West is slow and methodical. Using alternate forms of combat isn’t advised; it is possible but you will lose a lot of health. There’s nothing wrong with failing and trying again, but it becomes dull when only one form of combat works.

Audio & Visuals – Pixelated Visuals & Monotone Audio

Blood West does a good job in matching the appearance of a ruined Wild West setting. Wooden buildings are destroyed, skeletal remains are commonplace, and trains have been ruined. Monsters are the only inhabitants, and it is creepy enough to unnerve players. Unfortunately, you can tell that some of the textures are pixelated, and it does disrupt the immersion. You must look at the textures closely to see the pixelation, but it never goes away once you notice.

It can also be hard to see in the dark at times. Lighting must be low for a horror game, but it can be hard to tell if something is significant. You can’t easily differentiate interactable objects with environmental ones, which can be frustrating.

It's hard to tell if those are windows or entrances.

It’s hard to tell if those are windows or entrances.

The ambient sounds are great at making you feel alone, as you can hear the sounds of the desolate landscape. The lack of noise except for enemy grunts highlights any loud sounds, such as an enemy alert. You will always know when enemies notice you because they will shriek, and it will make you jump. There’s no other sound to hear, and it reinforces the terror you feel when your stealth fails.

If you do talk to a character or hear a voice, it won’t sound like an actual person talking. The voices sound monotone, without much emotion or care. They don’t feel emotional or concerned about the state of the world. The lack of attention to the voices contributes to the lifeless feel of the world you are in. You feel alone, and the only source of life are the enemies prowling around.

Blood West was previewed on Steam with a code provided by Hyperstrange.
 
Summary
Blood West does its best to deliver a horror twist with the Wild West setting. It is appropriately dark, enemies are powerful, and you must rely on being sneaky to survive. However, the horror themes clash with the themes of the Wild West. Exploration, shootouts, and making your mark on the frontier are not addressed. The clash of themes creates a game that has good horror elements, but falls short in everything else. You will be frightened with the gameplay, but the story and the sense of adventure are sorely lacking.
Good
  • Focus on stealth is a unique combat twist in the Wild West
  • Atmosphere is dark and creepy
Bad
  • Generic story doesn’t draw people in
  • Clash of themes leaves out the best of the Wild West
  • Pixelated graphics
  • Voices feel monotone

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