2018 was a big year for videogames, and perhaps the biggest game in that big year was Red Dead Redemption 2. It garnered tons of positive reviews, set a new standard for open-world videogames, and sold 17 million copies in its first week. The long-awaited sequel was, in short, a hit. However, it wasn’t the best western game to come out in 2018.
That distinction belongs to West of Loathing. This charming little black & white RPG has many of the same western tropes that RDR2 does, but trims all the fat with which Red Dead is generously marbled.
Technically, West of Loathing had its initial release in 2017, but in 2018 it was released on the Nintendo Switch, so we’re counting it. All games will eventually come out on the Switch (except Red Dead Redemption 2, yet another reason it pales in comparison).
Along with this new port, West of Loathing also received a physical cartridge release via Limited Run Games. The collector’s edition even came with a cloth map, which is objectively cooler than RDR2’s regular ol’ paper map.
Indeed, West of Loathing simply beats out RDR2 in most ways. Probably far too many for a single article. For the sake of comparison, Red Dead Redemption 2 came out 8 years after its predecessor, whereas West of Loathing took a whopping 14 years to follow up Kingdom of Loathing. Draw your own conclusions, but the choice seems obvious.
Though West of Loathing is more ‘reserved’ when it comes to its art style, this certainly works to the game’s benefit. The look of WoL is clean, simple, and memorable. Players won’t ever get lost in breathtaking landscapes or realistically lit night areas. Unlike in the supposed graphical showcase of RDR2.
Less is More, Probably
Red Dead does so much with hyper-realism that things can get lost in the visual noise. Is that a quest relevant object, or just a rock? Who knows? Being able to see what you’re doing is a helpful game mechanic. One which West of Loathing has mastered.
Likewise, the easy-to-learn, streamlined controls put West of Loathing even further above
RDR2 in playablity. WoL is a point and click RPG where most interactions with the world boil down to pressing one of two buttons.
Red Dead Redemption 2, respectfully, all but requires a fucking Steel Battalion controller to play properly.
I mean, shooting someone by accident happens a lot in Red Dead Redemption 2. In contrast, West of Loathing doesn’t allow you to accidentally start a fire, murder your horse, or choke someone out. God help you if you’re standing near an NPC and need to do anything that doesn’t involve them.
All That And A Stick Of Dynamite
Considering this, it’s emblematic of the real difference between these two westerns, and why WoL comes out of the comparison looking shiny as a brand new “SHERF” badge. West of Loathing has elegance in abundance; fast travel, combat, menus. You name it, it’s clearer and likely better in West of Loathing.
Also, there are goblins. Every western needs goblins.