Wild West Online entered Early Access back in November 2017, and leading up to that point, the hype train had hit full speed. I admit I was pretty excited about a non-fantasy themed MMO, and contemplated buying into the EA. Fortunately, I rarely buy into an EA game sight unseen, and it only took a few minutes of gameplay footage to realize I had dodged a bullet. Let’s just say there was an overwhelming outcry of “cash grab” due to the constant crashes, heavy lag, and lack of content.
Developer DJ2 Entertainment went back to work with promises to address the glaring flaws everyone was screaming about. To pretty much everyone's surprise, the team came back just a few months later with claims of a vastly improved experience awaiting players, and even more striking was the game would come to Steam, not as an Early Access title, but as a full launch title. Yes, we are talking full release just a handful of months after an abysmal early access beginning. Has there been enough time to turn this ghost town into a boom town? Not really. This is our Wild West Online review.
For those unfamiliar with Wild West Online, let’s take a few moments to hit the basics. WWO is a PVP-centric sandbox MMO with a smidge of PVE content. Set in the fictitious desert southwest county of Rosewell in the late 1800s, players can choose to take on the roles of lawman or outlaw, pick a more peaceful existence as a crafter or gatherer, or put on whichever hat is most profitable at any given moment. No matter what your choice, your safety is rarely guaranteed, and you will need to make friends or be left forever watching your back.
Your first step in character creation is choosing one of the two factions. You can side with the born and bred in the west McFarlane family, or settle in with the Steele family, old money from the east ready to expand their empire into the west. Each family comes with its own set of perks, so pick whichever best suits your playstyle. Once that decision is made, you will move on to character customization.
The character creator will be your first sign that maybe, just maybe, WWO isn’t really ready for prime time. If you are the type of person who can spend hours tweaking every aspect of your avatar, you are in for a huge disappointment. For those that don’t care what your character looks like (all 3 of you), you will delight in the simplicity. Here is a rundown of the limited choices currently available:
- Sex - Male. There is a female portrait, but it is currently locked.
- Ethnicity - White, Black, Asian, Native American, and Hispanic. One preset for each race, no sliders to adjust any facial features.
- Hair style - Bald or medium length. Black.
- Skin tone - Slider from light to dark.
- Facial features - there are two portraits, both locked. One looks to be for tattoos and scars, the other possibly to adjust facial shape, but without a tooltip I can’t be sure.
And there you have it. It’s as basic as you can get. The only redeeming qualities are it functions without a hitch, and the locked options hint at a more robust system to come.
At first glance, character progression feels a little more fleshed out than character creation, but you still aren’t going to find anything groundbreaking here. Three skill trees with a total of 29 available skills is a still a little narrow compared to most MMOs, but given the non-fantasy setting, it covers a wide variety of skills useful to the player:
- Settler - Improve gathering, crafting, and other money generating tasks
- Explorer - Increase your horse’s stamina or speed, increase your backpack space, and gain more XP through unlocking points of interest (very useful at low levels)
- Maverick - Reduce incoming damage, hone your skills with lockpicks, and increase the radius of explosives
The skill trees function like every other game out there - spend points in a tree to unlock deeper tiers, with some skills locked behind higher level requirements. There is enough flexibility to allow for a wide range of builds to suit your needs, but I am sure the min-maxers out there will define a meta as they do in every game.
Any veteran MMO player will feel right at home with the default keybindings and UI. Across the top of the screen is the compass, with health and stamina bars in the bottom left, and in the bottom right is your ammo status. Your backpack is accessed by hitting TAB, and pressing CTRL will bring up a radial menu to access weapons and other usable equipment. The ESC key will take you to the character screen, with tabs for character and horse info, skills, achievements, and your journal.
All of these components function like any other MMO out there. Everything is intuitive, and all key bindings can be set to your layout of choice. While on foot, you can freely switch between first and third person, with the typical WASD keys used for forward/back and strafing, while the mouse is used to turn and look up and down. When mounted, the A/D keys steer your horse, while the mouse changes your direction of view. This seemed a little unintuitive at first, but then I realized it was necessary to allow for the aiming and firing of your weapon while on horseback.
Upon entering the world for the first time you will find yourself in one of the safe towns, the only PVP-free areas on the map. The current world size is about 4 km by 4 km, with other towns and farms scattered across the map. On the highest graphics options at 1080p, the world looks average. Anyone who has travelled through the southwestern United States can attest to the abundance of browns and reds and little else, and the game does a good job of portraying this. There is a decent enough amount of foliage, and an overabundance of rocks and boulders lying about. The buildings and towns, both interior and exterior, are also decent.
Overall, the environment is visually acceptable, but I doubt anyone looked at it and went, “WOW!” As I raced around on my horse to gain XP from finding points of interest, I got a pretty good feeling for how people headed west in a covered wagon must have viewed the land for the first time, making them wonder if they had made a bad choice.