What is weird west? Very Strange West – review

Not only a new game from the Prey game director, but also a whole subgenre of westerns.

Last The game awards the announcement of the isometric immersive sim Weird west from immigrants from Arkane studios. The name was chosen for a reason: in the broad sense, weird west is a whole subgenre in which the usual cowboys, sheriffs and Indians coexist with supernatural creatures. In anticipation of the project, we decided to understand the features of the setting and what other games, films and books in a similar style came out earlier.

So what is weird west?

Essentially, weird west is when cowboy aesthetics are combined with elements of fiction and / or alternative history. In the “strange West”, the average bounty hunter is armed with the runed Colt and the Bible, and the prairies are cleared not from bandits, but from ghouls, ghosts and other evil spirits. Each characteristic attribute of Westerns as a genre, be it churches, saloons, sheriffs and so on, is overgrown with mystical details. A local occult priest picks up the dead at night, a bartender from under the floor sells magic artifacts, and a legalist promises a reward for killing the Wendigo called up by the Indians. In addition to all mysticism, in “strange” westerns the steampunk touch is quite often noticeable. The blacksmith attaches a screw and wings to the stagecoach to turn the carriage into a helicopter, cowboys dress up in antediluvian exoskeletons, and the train on the move transforms into a robot powered by a steam engine. And then what fantasy would wish for: at least aliens, zombie pirates, wizards, at least Nazis with a time machine.

“Mole” Alejandro Jodorowski balances between traditional western and supernatural hallucinogenic devilry

This specific direction of Westerns originated in the 1930s, when classic films about cowboys (Stagecoach John Ford “Viva Villa!” Howard Hawks) were an integral part of American culture, along with films about gangsters and musicals. Weird west received wider recognition a little later, in the 1960s, thanks to the release of the series. “Wild Wild West” (yes, it was on its basis that the terrible movie with Will Smith was later shot). And in the 1970s, after a wave of revisionist Westerns destroying the traditional heroics of the genre (“Searchers” John Ford and Sam Pekinpa films), the so-called “acid” westerns appeared. In them, events unfold in the realities of the frontier, but what is happening is presented as if you are looking at everything through a crooked mirror, being in a bad trip.

Comic Book Two Guns Guy Marvel – The brightest representative of the genre. This cowboy in a mask Zorro even managed to visit the Avengers team: they managed to get him out of the Wild West and transfer it to the present

In words, perhaps it’s not immediately possible to understand what it is about — therefore, we will analyze some of the most iconic “strange” westerns.

“Dr. Lao’s Circus”

This novel by Charles G. Finney, released in 1935, is considered a classic of dark fantasy and is largely inspired by Howard Lovecraft’s style, but adds a good share of black humor to it. A mysterious Chinese comes to a small American town; he brings with him a whole panopticon of strange creatures, among which there are both mythical creatures and real people. In the circus of Dr. Lao, you can find the Loch Ness monster, the satire-libertine, and even Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of Jesus Christ. With Westerns, this work of Finney is related, for the most part, to the scene of action – the frontier is clearly guessed in the descriptions. The provincial farm town is quite calmly experiencing the arrival of an old wizard, who gradually takes possession of the minds of the townspeople.

In 1964, the film was released “7 faces of Dr. Lao”, based on the original story. I advise you to familiarize yourself: he is naive in his own way, but a couple of very terrible moments scare even more than half a century later

“Dark tower”

Perhaps the most famous cycle of works by Stephen King – the writer himself calls it his main work. The mysterious shooter moves long and hard towards the tower, which acts as the center of many parallel universes – it must somehow save the doomed world, similar to the post-apocalyptic version of the Wild West. The Dark Tower mixes Western (the main character is copied from Clint Eastwood), dark Lovecraftian fantasy (the plot contains, for example, a giant cthulh-like lobster and infernal female succubus) and a bunch of parables with biblical allusions. With such powerful material, it’s even surprising why we still haven’t seen a single normal film adaptation (not counting disgusting movie 2017).
What is weird west? Very strange west


The first edition of the Deadlands board role-playing game was released back in the 1990s, and then it was one of the few alternatives to fed-up fantasy systems. Now, of course, the choice is richer, but Shane Hensley’s brainchild has not lost her relevance: Deadlands is literally created for those who crave adventures in the strange West. In this world, it is quite possible to meet in a duel (exactly at noon, of course) with Wild Bill Hickock or Doc Holliday who rose from the grave. And the local magicians who are called “hackers” play poker with the Devil to find out if they will have to pay for power with a piece of their own soul. The Indians are whispering to the Manitou spirits, the railroad magnates are fighting for power, the frontier is torn to pieces by human greed and inexplicable mysticism. In short, Deadlands works great with the atmosphere of weird west – both in terms of plot and in terms of mechanics. Most if any D&D already standing across the throat.

What is weird west? Very strange west

“John Hex”

A lot of comics have been written about the Wild West: “Trunks of the Valley of Shadows“,”Wasteland“, And, including, on weird-west-theme -“American vampire“,”Sixth gun“And”East west“. But the title of the most popular character of this subgenre belongs, of course, to John Hex – the cult cowboy DC Comics. He is a charming anti-hero, a bounty hunter who never misses. In various editions of John, he fought not only with bandits, but also with voodoo shamans, giant underground worms, spirits, zombies – even he himself managed to be a living dead. Hex is so cool that in the only film adaptation at the moment he learned to talk with the dead (which he did not know about in comics) – the truth is, this still did not save the film from a failure at the box office.

What is weird west? Very strange west

“Resident of fear”

“Resident of fear” (original name – The wind) Is a rare representative of weird west horror. Rare – because worthy; I don’t even want to compare it with a thrash like “Cowboys versus Aliens” or Dead Birds. The story tells about a woman living with her husband on the prairies on the outskirts of civilization, and how much the life of the spouses changes when another couple is waiting next to them, expecting a baby. The film reminds me of the recent mood. The Witch Robert Eggers. You will not find “Colts” and duels here: “The Resident of Fear” is a quiet, disturbing thriller that smoothly flows into the horror that truly wild things were happening in the Wild West.

What is weird west? Very strange west


Games in the style of weird west also spoil us infrequently. The first thing I remember is a shooter about a vampire cowboy, released back in 2005 on Xbox and PS2. We pick up a couple of revolvers and a crossbow to defeat Lazarus – the younger brother of Satan himself, whose minions occupied the frontier and plunged him into chaos. In terms of gameplay – the most common meat shooter: during the day we bring down demons, spirits and other creatures with steampunk weapons, and at night we deal with the devil offspring with the help of vampire abilities. You can ride a horse, ride an antediluvian steam stagecoach and shoot enemies with a Gatling machine gun. Nothing unusual, but at one time Darkwatch was almost the only game that pitted cowboys and evil spirits with each other.

What is weird west? Very strange west

Hard west

What would it look like? XCOM: Enemy Unknownif you replace plasma rifles with Winchesters, and aliens with horned devils? She would have looked like Hard West. The atmosphere of the game is a bit like a television western “Purgatory“And all the same Deadlands: after the war of the South and the North, the American prairies are the battlefield of Hell and Paradise, and the player will take part in it to the extent possible. In general, Hard West does not have enough stars from the sky, but it could not do without interesting finds. For example, here is the “luck” parameter, which is absolutely logical for the Wild West – an analogue of mana, armor and accuracy at the same time. Well, and opponents, of course: in addition to the standard bandits-cowboys-soldiers, we are opposed by the reviving dead and demons, and closer to the end there will even be a walk to hell. With pentagrams!
What is weird west? Very strange west

And what other films, games, books and comics in the style of weird west do you know? Are you waiting for Weird West itself? Share your answers in the comments!