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Blood West Review

Blood West Review

Blood West is a stealth FPS taking huge inspiration from immersive sims of the past, such as the Thief and Deus Ex series, set within a cursed land. You awaken as a cursed undead, unable to pass into the afterlife until the curse has been purged. This takes place across three distinct locations.

The gameplay overall feels incredible, with a fun mix of stealth, puzzle-solving, and inventory management, yet much of the game feels somewhat lacking in the pure action department. The guns themselves feel solid to use, but enemies are so strong in the early game that I felt like I had little choice but to use stealth, which felt far more limiting than I would have hoped for from an immersive sim. Despite this, the stealth gameplay itself was incredibly simple but very well designed. The maps never feel like you’re railroaded into straight combat, and there are many options and pathways for stealth, from bows and arrows to pure melee to avoiding combat entirely. These all have their own pros and cons, which gives much more value to the decision-making; for example, avoiding combat is often quite easy as there are many optional encounters across the open maps, yet you’ll miss out on oftentimes fantastic loot. These range from additional resources, which can be incredibly useful, to special artefacts and weapons, which can be integral to certain builds and playstyles. Combat itself is risky in itself, though: melee requires getting up close and personal with each individual enemy, which makes the risk of being seen that much greater, while also spending stamina to attack, which limits your escape options, while using any weapons, such as bows, you’re expending valuable resources and they’re oftentimes not worth the tradeoff. On top of this, enemies can kill you quickly, and death itself is extremely punishing, so this is a high-risk option. Upon death, you reawaken at the last safe zone with an additional Soul Flaw, which provides stacking debuffs each time you die, from lowering your health and stamina to affecting your stats directly. And on top of this, they’re very pricey to remove early on, making the whole game feel overly punishing for any mistakes.

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The story itself is bleak yet enjoyable and provides a believable backstory to the world and characters. This ties into the NPCs themselves, who, while sparse, are well-written and all have very distinct personalities. NPCs act as either traders, quest-givers, or both, and each side quest provides more context to the world and characters while also taking you through areas you may have previously avoided. The first side quest you find consists of you taking some ashes to a burial site for the man who initially buried you before you returned from the dead. While he doesn’t give you rewards himself, you do find a few small items to help, from bandages to health potions and even a bow, which I found was invaluable in the early game areas. This makes side quests feel worth doing, even if they don’t seem it initially, which was something I found stuck well throughout Blood West and gave you a good breadth of options and choice throughout the game’s side content. The enemy design was also very standout and made combat feel far more interesting and forced you to really interact with many of the game's systems. Certain enemies are classified as Spirits, who are weaker to silver rounds, which are pretty sparse, while many others each have their own strengths and weaknesses to certain strategies. For example, the Birdmen oftentimes dash around and avoid your gunshots, making explosives and Molotovs incredible for dealing with them in groups.

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My biggest issue with Blood West was the relatively lacklustre skill system. Upon earning enough XP from killing enemies and completing quests, you’ll level up and gain three skill points. These can be spent on a variety of different skills, yet many of these just feel like core stat changes, from increasing health and stamina to lowering stamina usage in melee. There were no skills I felt would actively change the way I’d play the game and would simply make many of the things I was already doing a little easier and safer.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with Blood West as soon as I got past my own incorrect beliefs of what it would be; while the early game is stealth-focused, the latter half opens up and gives you more options in combat. The stealth itself provides a wealth of choice, making each encounter feel meaningful despite its actual relevance to gameplay and progression.

8.50/10 8½

Blood West (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

Blood West is a fantastic stealth FPS with some light immersive sim elements. The world feels incredibly bleak, yet super atmospheric, definitely worth the pickup!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Jacob Sanderson

Jacob Sanderson

Staff Writer

It's not an obsession if it counts as work...

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