Seeing as Rockstar won’t come to its senses and launch any Red Dead Redemption titles on the PC, computer players have very few options to experience the wild, wild west in all its immersive 3D glory. Besides Ubisoft’s hit-and-miss Call of Juarez franchise -- whose sole good title was Bound In Blood -- the only other notable old west game was 2005’s fantastic Gun, which has aged quite a bit by now.
Cue in 612 Games’ MMO, Wild West Online. A new IP from a new company, WWO aims to scratch PC gamers itch of roaming the vast American wilderness as a gun-toting cowboy. Right now, the game is running its technical alpha, and I jumped into a saddle to bring you an analysis of it, like a more manly and journalistic version of Pony Express.
Wild West Online is not much of a game at this point. The technical alpha is utterly devoid of any content, allowing you to roam around an empty map populated with nothing but structures and other players. The one activity you can do is mine gold, which basically consists of finding gold veins in mountainsides and taking the metal to town.
Gold is valuable, and carrying it adds a visible front pouch to the ensemble of your character, making you a prime target for would-be bandits. While that means PvP firefights will undoubtedly ensue, the server was so empty that I never saw another soul before reaching the settlement’s safe zone. I just waded into town, walked into a store, and sold my pitiful yield for a meagre amount.
As a technical alpha, Wild West Online is not really meant to give you a fun time -- the idea behind stress tests is to break the game in a myriad of ways before it is launched to the major population. As such, the game is full of missing content -- such as no sound effect whatsoever aside from player movement and weapon firing, including utterly silent horse galloping -- and straight up bugs, like how stepping into mud sounds like stepping in a puddle, and how players walking across town sound like you yourself is moving about.
Gameplay-wise, I can’t really comment on anything aside riding horses through plains and literally shooting at the side of a barn. Both activities were enjoyable and had no faults or bugs whatsoever, and while you can’t shoot from horseback, you can toggle between first and third person on foot. Shooting was interestingly enjoyable, which is a good start -- the revolver’s sound effects are especially satisfying -- but I can't offer a proper analysis without something to goddamn shoot at.
Controls, however, are in dire need of a quality pass. 612’s went with the horrible decision of holdable interaction prompts instead of button presses, meaning every action you take involves holding the damn use button for a couple of seconds -- curiously, mounting a horse is thankfully immediate. For some reason, this shooter MMO requires you to access a weapon wheel and go through 3 steps before pulling out a gun and firing a shot -- it feels especially weird that a Wild West game would have no quick draw (and holster) action.
Graphically, the game is reasonably pretty and properly captures the feel of nature, all while maintaining a very good framerate and performance. The terrain is varied and interesting to simply ride around, dotted here and there with random cabins and towns. Music, like most sound effects at this point, is inexistent, but the VOIP is also non-togglable and way too loud, making me cringe in disappointment of mankind within five minutes of starting the game.
What worries me most is that the game design seems lazy. All of the activities and focus revolve around PvP, meaning this huge sandbox is treated as nothing but a glorified deathmatch map. Even though I expect there will be animals to hunt and small PvE activities, the game is overwhelmingly geared towards PvP, with all available content and every single roadmap information indicating they want players to fight each other -- which personally, I find a terrible design decision in such an ambitious and immersive setting.
In the end, Wild West Online is far too young to be judged. With no players around to test netcode and absolutely nothing to do in terms of gameplay, the current Technical Alpha is basically an environment showcase. My only conclusion so far is a simple one: keep an eye on the project, don’t pre-order, and unless you want a mainly PvP experience, you can safely pass on this one for now.