Before I start I want to give special thanks to Rain Games for sending us a copy of this game to review.
A month ago Rain Games released their first title, Teslagrad, for the Switch and I even reviewed it if you are interested. Teslagrad originally came out around 4 years ago which means Rain Games had plenty of time to make a sequel and that’s exactly what they did here with World to the West. Originally launching in 2017 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, World to the West decides to ditch the puzzle-platforming of its predecessor and instead become a Zelda-like top-down action-adventure game. So is this a new and exciting world for fans of Rain Games or should they never have embarked on this journey? Let’s find out.
World to the West, despite the genre and graphical switch, is a direct sequel to the game Teslagrad, which the game’s opening informs you pretty much straight-away with call-backs to the hero and villain. However, the story here seems to be set at least two generations after that game with a set of brand new protagonists for players to control. Yes, protagonists, emphasis on the plural, as World to the West has four heroes which players will swap between throughout the adventure and each one of these four have their own motivations and personality quirks that help to make the story enjoyable.
The first of these is Lumina, a teslamancer just like the hero of the first game. While searching for her father a freakish teleporter accident sends her away from home and now she is looking for a way back. Next is Knaus, a young orphan boy who is tricked into thinking him and his friends are on the moon. When he discovers the truth he sets off to find a way of rescuing all of his friends. Then we have the mercenary Miss Teri, a woman who can control the minds of other creatures and simply wants to fulfill her contract and make some money. Finally, we have Lord Clonington, an aristocrat who wants to prove he is the best man in existence by coming in first in all manner of posh and manly sports, especially in fisticuffs.
It’s obvious that while Teslagrad’s story was much more optional and exists purely to immerse the player, in World to the West it is a much bigger focus. There are plenty of talking moments and world-building elements that make the story here much more important so Rain Games need to make sure the story is interesting. Thankfully, it is for the most part. There is plenty of mystery and the villain is not entirely obvious, at least until chapter 4. All of the characters are enjoyable and the dialogue is fairly entertaining, especially how each of the four characters interacts with each other. You can feel the camaraderie grow between them throughout which makes them feel believable.
Unfortunately, the story ends up having a fair amount of issue and this mainly comes down to two factors, pacing, and unresolved plot-lines. The game runs in a chapter based format and the pacing of these chapters feels very random. For example, chapter 1, 2 and 4 all feel like introduction chapters and are all fairly short, but for whatever reason, chapter 3 is far longer and feels misplaced. Some story points get a lot of focus and then other parts are just passed over and resolved too quickly if they get resolved at all. This is where the second issue comes in as a large number of plot-points aren’t resolved at all. I won’t go into specifics as I don’t want to spoil the story but a few plot-points in this game feel more like they were added as sequel-baits for potential games in the future. I have no problem with setting up for sequels but not when it comes to the detriment of the game they are in.
Ultimately the story here is more fleshed out, which it should be with its larger focus, but it has a few drawbacks that stop it from being perfect
As mentioned in the intro, World to the West is top-down. Zelda-like, action-adventure game. The twist this time is the addition of four playable characters, each who have their own unique abilities that they use to solve puzzles and fight enemies. Players must swap between the four of them and use their powers in tandem to progress through-out an open-world.
Lumina, as a Teslamancer, has many of the abilities from the original Teslagrad such as the warp-dash, using magnetic panels to rise and a staff for close and ranged combat.
Knaus is the smallest character and so can squeeze through small gaps. His shovel allows him to dig through the earth and his ice skates allow him to cross water. He also has dynamite for fighting and blowing up rubble.
Miss Teri herself doesn’t have many abilities, simply a scarf she can use to pull herself across particular gaps and the ability to sprint. However, by possessing the various creatures in the world she can utilize their abilities for combat and traversing.
Finally, Lord Clonington is the muscle of the group. He has the most physical combat options including a dash that bulldozes enemies in his path. He’s also the tallest and can pull himself up large walls.
Each character feels like they are built for specific purposes with the correct pros and cons however despite their intention I didn’t find it to be very balanced. Lord Clonington is the best example because despite being the combat focused character I found him to only be useful in 1-on-1 fights due to his lack of range. Instead, Lumina who has a mixture of close and ranged combat and much wider arcs in her hits, plus a proper dodge, is so much better for fighting enemies that I almost always used her when I could.
Thankfully though, the combat in this game isn’t an absolute chore. I complained about bosses and combat in Teslagrad because it didn’t feel like that game was built with combat in mind but here it is a very different story. Multiple hit points that can be upgraded for each character and different ways to fight, make this game’s combat enjoyable rather than tedious, and in-turn this makes the games boss battles also a lot of fun.
What is a little tedious however is the ability to swap between characters. Rather than doing it on the fly, you have to swap at specific totem poles that you have discovered and each character has their own space on the map so swapping won’t simply change the character on the spot but take you to their last location. Sometimes this is fine, one notable area in the south of the map has this maze of overground and underground tunnels and each character has their own specific way of getting through it. The puzzle is figuring out how each character works in the maze and it is the right way to use the swapping mechanic.
Other times though you are simply walking from point a to b and it is boring. A good example of this is in chapter 5. You only have two characters to work with here but it’s a constant effort of walking to the next totem pole, swapping back to the next character and then walking the exact same route again, doing the exact same thing. Then repeat this a few more times. It got very tedious. You can warp between totem poles but the character you want to warp must have reached that totem pole first. I understand why it was done but it still makes it boring. The ability to move all characters at once and swap on the fly could have sorted this problem out but unfortunately, that is not the case
For a game that is going for a kind of open-world feel and allows you to go anywhere as long as you have the right character, I was surprised at the lack of optional quests here. Just like the first game, there are various collectibles hidden around the world, some of which are required for the story, but that is it in terms of optional content. There are no side-quests and no new items to find by exploring, only health pickups.
What World to the West does offer however is a lot of fun. There is a good mix of combat and puzzles in the games world and each character does feel useful, even if some characters are clearly better than others.
One thing that Teslagrad did well was the presentation. With its 2d hand-drawn art style really shining through. This time Rain Games have taken that style and made them into 3D models and it works to make a vibrant and colorful world. One thing I appreciated is every character, even minor NPC, look unique and it helps to make the world feel real. The enemy design is a nice mix of cute and scary and do well to inform the player of how dangerous they are, as well as what they can do. Just like the first game, the game design is top notch.
Thankfully as well, this game has music and good music at that. No longer are we left with ambient sounds but instead music that is suited to adventuring, whether it be in the open plains or in the deep underground. World to the West is definitely overall a more vibrant game than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, glitches are still present here but they are more humorous than game destroying. All the ones I ran into had to do with model issues and clipping through walls but they almost always let me escape from them unharmed. Heck, some saved me from enemy hordes.
Overall the presentation in World to the West is up to the standards I expected from Rain Games. It’s stylised and pretty but this time with the addition of music to accompany it.
World to the West, while being a different genre altogether, is leagues better than its predecessor and is a good sign of things to come. Many issues I had with the first game, specifically the combat, have been fixed here and Rain Games have shown they continue to have a good grasp on both game design and world building. Add in an enjoyable story and some good music and we have the makings of a great video game. If you are missing some of that 2D Zelda-action then I highly recommend you pick this up.