How the West was won
For several years now, Nintendo has been regularly releasing Zelda games. Although they alternate between 2D and 3D styles, fans can expect a new Hylian adventure every two to three years. However, during the gaps between releases, one would expect other game developers to attempt their own take on the Zelda formula.
Although there are currently more indie games that resemble Zelda than ever before, it’s difficult to identify more than a handful. Rain Games’ World to the West, which takes place in the same universe as their previous game Teslagrad, is one such game that follows the Zelda formula. While it’s undeniable that Nintendo’s iconic series influenced the game’s design, it doesn’t hinder the game’s potential.
World to the West (PC [reviewed], Mac, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Released: May 5, 2017, TBA (Wii U)
Two months ago, I conducted a thorough review of World to the West, which delved into the storyline and the various playable characters. For a detailed breakdown of their capabilities, you can refer to that article. In brief, World to the West showcases four distinct characters, each with their own set of skills that are employed in diverse ways for problem-solving and traversing the game.
Each character in the game is introduced through their own chapter before they unite as a diverse group of adventurers. The plot follows a familiar pattern as a primary antagonist has taken something valuable from each hero, and they must work together to prevent him from causing destruction to the world. While the storyline may not be the game’s strongest aspect, it serves its purpose. World to the West offers more than just its plotline for players to enjoy.
The majority of the game bears resemblance to A Link to the Past. You will embark on a vast map and must determine which characters can interact with specific objects. Similar to the classic Zelda games, certain parts of the environment are inaccessible until you acquire new abilities. However, the game’s fast travel system is incredibly generous, encouraging exploration as you won’t waste much time when you encounter obstacles. These fast travel points, represented by totem poles with each character’s head, are scattered throughout the map and serve as checkpoints. Reaching one will save your progress and reset you if you perish.
One of the most appealing aspects of this design is the freedom it offers in exploration. Although certain areas may be restricted, you are not confined to small sections of the map. If you reach a dead end, you can always return to the new area using the fast travel system. As you near the conclusion, you are presented with a choice between two “dungeons,” and discovering how to access them is a delightful challenge. Despite being a linear adventure game, this design instills a remarkable sense of liberation.
The combat in this game is not very intense, as basic attacks are sufficient to defeat enemies. However, the enemies are not solely present for physical challenges. The game’s puzzle design is the main focus, and the enemies play a role in that. They work with the obstacles mentioned earlier to prevent players from accessing areas where they cannot progress. Nevertheless, players can sometimes overcome these challenges with sheer determination, highlighting the game’s adventurous spirit.
When it comes to challenging parts, the difficulty mainly lies in the number of enemies rather than the level of difficulty. Even the boss fights in the game are easy to decipher and can be overcome with just one skill. Consequently, the ultimate battle is somewhat underwhelming, despite the fact that dying sends you back to the first character in the rotation (since it is a multi-character fight).
I find it inconvenient that your characters do not travel together throughout the game. While it may be understandable in the beginning when they have not yet met, it becomes tedious later on when you have to guide each character to different checkpoints. Although it is not necessary for everyone to go everywhere, having to repeat the same journey with each character is tiresome.
It would be preferable to have a system that allows for direct character switching without the need for a checkpoint. It seems illogical for your companion to remain idle at a totem pole while you struggle in combat. Additionally, it is peculiar that discovering a fast travel location with one character does not automatically unlock it for all characters, but this is likely to maintain the challenge of exploration.
The map is scattered with hidden secrets that demand specific abilities to access, adding an enjoyable challenge to recalling their locations or navigating your characters to reach them. While many of these secrets offer life bar extensions, there are also 36 scrolls concealed throughout the game world. These scrolls are identical to those found in Teslagrad, but collecting all of them is not necessary to unlock the true ending. However, obtaining approximately one-third of them is required to reach the final area.
It’s disappointing that there are no markers on the map to help you remember where hidden items are located, making it frustrating when progression is blocked by seemingly unnecessary unlockables. Additionally, the currency system seems pointless as you accumulate a significant amount of wealth before having the chance to spend it. In fact, I had amassed a fortune of 20,000 coins before spending a few hundred of them, and it wasn’t until seven hours into the eight-hour campaign.
The presentation of the game is impressive. The cutscenes are unique and concise, the graphics are stunning, and the music is exceptional. Some of the tracks remind me of the understated guitar melodies in Diablo II, but the majority of the soundtrack features live recordings with real instruments. This gives the game an authentic and distinctive feel.
The content is quite humorous, as each character possesses distinct personalities. I particularly admire Lord Clonington for his straightforward approach and limited perspective, which satirizes the self-righteousness prevalent in many contemporary games. It’s especially amusing to stumble upon ancient ruins with supposedly “significant” inscriptions on the wall, only for Clonington to dismiss them with a curt, “I couldn’t care less about this!”
There isn’t much to elaborate on regarding the game. It is simple to understand, and the tutorials are brief. All necessary information is provided upfront, and you won’t be misled into an unfamiliar area without guidance. Although you may become disoriented at times, there are no obstacles that should completely perplex you. Every challenge, including the concealed ones, has a clear and enjoyable solution that is rational.
Although the combat could have been more significant and the ending could have been better, playing the game was enjoyable. The world created in World to the West was crafted with love and experiencing it was worth it. Despite not being groundbreaking, the game still evokes a lot of fun and I can’t hold it against it.
Rain Games is skilled at producing high-quality games. If you are a fan of Zelda, it is highly recommended that you give this game a try. However, even if you are not a fan of Nintendo’s classic series, World to the West is enjoyable enough to entice even the most serious gamers to play through it.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]