The biggest omission in the environment is people and animals. The only NPCs to be found are the quest givers, shop owners, and the like. There aren’t any NPCs walking the streets or filling the shops or saloon. It feels like you are walking through a ghost town (minus the tumbleweeds), with the only activity being other players you come across.
The wilderness is no different. There isn’t a single wild horse, squirrel, snake, or even a bug wandering about. The world is just empty, and it’s a shame. I have often wondered why developers spend so much time and effort adding “filler” that doesn’t affect gameplay, and the eerie void that is Wild West Online is a perfect example of why it’s necessary.
It doesn’t get much better when it comes to actual game content either. There are a few different world events to facilitate PVP action, along with a fetch and gather PVE quests, but there isn’t much else going on. For all of you who are always clamoring for a true sandbox environment where the players will mold the gameplay, this is your chance to prove it can be done. Good luck.
On the PVE side, you don’t even have all of the basics. Most MMOs, even those that are primarily PVP focused, have story quests to complete. In WWO, all you have are one off fetch and gather quests, some of which don’t even require you to leave the area you got the quest in. For example, gathering beaver pelts is as simple as placing an animal trap and then waiting for the timer to fill up. When you check the trap you will find either meat or a pelt, but no guarantee it is the animal you need. See, apparently there are a bunch of invisible animals of all shapes and sizes just waiting in line to jump into your traps. Once the correct number of the one you need have done so, just turn around and hand in the quest.
There is mining for minerals, gathering plants, looting farmhouses and campsites for supplies, and of course cooking and crafting to keep you busy for a while. Once you accumulate enough wealth you can also buy your own house and decorate it if you wish. Other than PVP, that is pretty much all you have to look forward to. Consistent with other parts of the game, all of these activities function pretty well, just don't expect a fully satisfying system with a lot of depth.
So what's left? Oh, yeah, PVP. I have saved the best, or at least most prominent, for last. When you step foot out of the PVP free towns, you will experience one of the most hostile badlands west of the Mississippi. There is no beginner zone, no care bear PVP flag to turn on and off, and only a temporary Outlaw status that hardcore PVPers will proudly wear as a testament to their badassness to deter them from filling your body with lead.
High level players roam the land, using their upgraded weapons to easily pick off the less equipped players they come across. Fortunately, there is little to lose from these deaths beyond a short respawn timer and being relocated to the nearest town. No corpse run, no lost inventory, no full loot PVP. It is enough of an annoyance that many PVE players will retire from the game to find more peaceful pastures, but anyone able to push through to the higher levels will find more organized PVP options beyond the senseless killing of weak players.
Most towns can be taken over by one of the factions, ala capture the flag style of gameplay. There are also relic hunts, balloon crashes, stagecoach holdups, and bank robberies to lure large groups of PVP players into one area in the hopes of gaining loot. I know it sounds repetitious, but all of these activities work just fine while offering nothing new to the MMO genre.
So if you haven’t guess yet, my final verdict on the game is...well, it’s just meh. If this was an Alpha build just entering Early Access, I am sure it would receive more praise than it has as a full launch. There have been a lot of improvements to the game’s stability and functionality since its first run back in November, but currently there still isn’t enough to keep the game afloat for an extended run.
I have a bold (or maybe obvious) prediction on where Wild West Online is headed - Battle Royale. Think about it - 4x4 km map, minimal questing, crafting, and story that could be easily discarded, lots of weapon customization and plenty of cosmetic opportunities to drive revenue in a wild west theme that is currently uncontested (though there is a strong contender in Red Dead 2 out on the horizon) - all leads to an easy conversion. H1Z1 had a similar launch into early access before making the leap to BR, and we all know what battle royale has done for Fortnite. Why WWBR hasn’t already been announced is beyond me.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR.