World to the West feels like Teslagrad 2, 3, and 4.
Rain games released Teslagrad back in late 2013. At the time I was just getting into Indie games and reviewing them. Much to my delight, the developer was kind enough to send me a copy even though I was basically nobody. Teslagrad was stylish, unique, challenging, and most of all, a complete blast to play. It was one of the games that cemented my love for these gems in the rough called Indie games. I knew I had to spread the word and let people know how amazing this game was.
Fast forward to 2017 and here I am today covering their next title World to the West and in a way coming full circle. Rain games is back with another tale from its strange world of Teslamancers and Grue’s. This time though the developer has made a complete jump in vision and gameplay design.
Usually when you make a game, you learn from your last and make something similar but better the next time. For starters, its cheaper, you’re less likely to make mistakes and many other reasons I am sure a developer could tell you about. On the opposite end, it’s quite an ambitious idea to wipe the board clean and start from square one. Did Rain games’ risk pay off? Did they make a superior title to their first? Is it fun?
Yes, yes, and hell yes. Keep in mind this is coming from a man who holds Teslagrad in HIGH esteem.
Out with the old and in with the new.
The first thing you will notice when you load up World to the West is a very familiar tower. Anyone who has played Teslagrad will immediately recognize this as the home of the Teslamancers. In case you’re new to all of this, the Teslamancers are an order of scientists/wizards that were betrayed by an evil king and nearly hunted to extinction. A small family escaped and a prophecy was given about their baby boy; the boy would rise up, defeat the evil king and restore order.
World to the West starts off many years later with you playing the daughter of the hero of the first game. Lumina, a Teslamancer in training, accidentally activates some the strange machinery inside the tower and is zapped away to a mysterious land. With the teleporter broken, Lumina explores this new land and meets its many inhabitants.
Which brings me back to why I said this is like Teslagrad 2, 3, and 4. Rain games does an amazing job of expanding upon its lore and crafts a brilliant world. What was once little concept art in scrolls from the first game is now fully realized ideas and characters in the second. World the to West tells four stories. Lumina, and her journey of discovery and to get home. Miss Teri, a Mesmer and hero for hire. Knaus, a small boy from Motorland who is a miner on the moon. Finally, my personal favorite Lord Clonington, a mustachioed strong man who feels the need to prove himself the best at everything.
Now while there is an overall arching storyline that brings all these characters together, all of them play differently, and have different goals. They still have great interactions between them, however. I hate to draw comparisons, but think of Final Fantasy VI where everyone seemed like they could be the main star but blended perfectly together. It takes amazing writing and planning to make everything feel smooth and right. World of the West not only accomplishes this but keeps this wonderful tone of adventure, fun, and joy that becomes addictive. I haven’t had this much fun in a game since Owlboy, my favorite game of 2016.
I could write this entire review about how much the setting, dialogue, and tone are all delightful but I wanna talk about the game itself.
On the steam page, World to the West refers to itself as a 3d action/adventure title. I think 3d Metroidvania sums it up best. The basic gist is that there are many aspects to this game from puzzles, combat, boss battles, to upgrades. They all approach things completely differently depending on who you are playing. The gameplay takes place through chapters, each chapter will have one or two possible playable characters. Things open more and more as you get deeper into the game.
Lumina is obviously your connection to the first game and brings many familiar elements along with her. Her magnetic cloak allows her to float on certain platforms, her shock staff can project lightning. Then of course my favorite ability, she can blink a short distance. She is by far the most easiest of the four to play. Good for about any and all situations relating to combat, bosses, or puzzles.
Knaus the orphan miner is tricky to play and quite fragile without getting him some much needed health upgrades. His primary ability is to dig and avoid enemies. He can use his digging to travel through certain kinds of terrain. He can slip into small tunnels, use dynamite, and has magical ice skates. In all, a really fun character to play. His dynamite is the most damaging thing in the game and his skates allow him to traverse water. Water is a giant pain in the butt generally.
Miss Teri is by far the hardest character to play and reminds me of an MMORPG character. She is essentially a crowd controller figuratively and literally. With her scarf she can charm enemies to do her bidding and let you take control of them. This means every enemy in the game is a power to her. Extremely versatile, but difficult to master.
Lord Clonington is your combat king. Has the most access to health upgrades early on and can stun the enemy. This guy is a power house who prefers to do things in melee. This is great, but long battles can be draining on him compared to others with ranged attacks. He brings brute strength to puzzles like smashing boulders, walls, and he is, as he would put it, “Superior in all ways”.
Now one thing that is interesting about the puzzles, is that most of them are made for you to need someone else. Later on in the game you can explore most of the map by yourself, but actual progress in puzzles is only done with the help of the other three heroes. Most of the puzzles aren’t too difficult but getting to them can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out which character is needed.
There is also a currency in the game that seems to have very little use as far as I have seen, outside of buying pets for Teri.
Speaking of the map, its freaking huge. Oh and did I mention its double layered?
With a top side and cavernous tunnels underneath, World to the West is a very LARGE game with cities, temples, monsters, and secrets hidden around every corner. I have been playing for a good eight hours and still haven’t fully explored the map. It’s just that big. Which is impressive for a 3d action/adventure title.
The map plays a very important role in the game as it enables you to keep an eye on where your heroes are. World to the West does things a bit differently, in that your heroes are all on the map at same time. Meaning when you switch from Lumina to Knaus, wherever you left him last is where he will be. To make travel slightly easier, there are the teleport totems. Once discovered, you can travel instantaneously between totems. The only gripe I have is that each hero physically has to get to the totem one at a time.
This is bad and good for a couple of reasons. Obvious good reasons are that this really gives you the chance to learn how each character works. It gives you the chance to find all sorts of hidden goodies in between areas as well. The main gripe with this though is that it tends to drag sometimes. The best course of action is to head straight to your goal. On the other hand, wanderlust is rewarded but best saved for later parts in the game.
From zapping and bombing, to elbow dropping, combat is a mixed bag in World to the West.
After playing for about five minutes, you quickly realize that this is a hostile environment and just about everything wants to eat you. Even cuddly looking rodents will take a chomp out of you. Thankfully most characters have a way to defend themselves or eventually obtain something to defend themselves with.
For the most part combat works just fine. It can be a bit overwhelming at times as enemies usually do one heart/container worth of damage. You start off with only three containers but can quickly find upgrades. Once you get a couple of these, it becomes less of an issue. The AI itself is rather dumb and easy to trick. Which leads you to finding a strategy depending on the character and slaughtering enemies in droves. Enemies do respawn once you leave a screen so it can be a bit grindy eventually.
One thing that I enjoyed about World to the West is it really doesn’t hold your hand. When fighting an enemy/boss, it leaves you to determine the best strategy. This does lead to some experimental deaths but there isn’t really any kind of loss or punishment for death. Except losing a bit of a time. Anyone familiar with 3d action/adventure games is going to feel right at home here with how smooth the combat can be.
Aesthetically, World to the West is much brighter in tone and graphically compared to its former counterpart.
Teslagrad, while amazing in its own right, had a dark tone to its style. Things have changed for the sequel with a very bright and cheerful color palette and character models. Fans of the original style might be thrown off a bit as it is quite an adjustment at first.
Graphically there are moments that World of the West really takes your breath away. Some of my favorite areas are inside of buildings and cities where detail and style are plentiful. When it comes to the wilderness, though some areas do blend together in the way they look. Most of the time, you are moving so fast through these areas to the next puzzle or battle that you hardly notice. That isn’t to say the graphics can’t grab your attention and they do effectively when it calls for it.
I have very little gripes when it comes to the new style other then I slightly miss the grit of machinery and oil. Everything in the game feels very clean. Even the caves which is strange. I personally love vibrant and bright colors but wish they would’ve kept some of their darker shades. As a side note, water looks amazing, especially when Knaus is skating on it.
About the little things.
Music and sound effects are very well done in this game. I have always been mad impressed with the musical decisions that Rain games have gone with. It’s a great soundtrack and is fantastical and joyous as the rest of the game. There is no voice acting sadly which I felt might’ve taken the game to a whole other level.
I wouldn’t say that World to the West has replay value more than just plain good value. This a huge game with a huge map full of fantastic puzzles, secrets, and probably more I haven’t even discovered yet. While I can’t say for sure I would say you could probably get anywhere from fifteen to twenty hours total for total completion. Making a return from the last game is the scrolls which are directly tied to the achievement system. So make sure you hunt down those in-game goodies for lore and more.
To wrap things up, World of the West was a big risk and I think it paid off. It brings many beloved elements of 3d action/adventure games and does them justice. While it may not re-invent the wheel it certainly makes its own mark and feels so natural and smooth to play. I highly recommend this title obviously and personally feel you are going to get a lot of value. Coming in at $/£19.99 on PC. So be sure to buy this gem of an Indie game.