Wild West Online Early Access impressions

Before we get into my experience with the Early Access – Alpha, check out the video above to see the version of Wild West Online showcased by the developers. Is this the version available in the Alpha? No, many things were removed and it is a tad more barren than what was shown. However, the framework and certain features are still active, so what was showcased in the video is still something they can put back into the game as soon as they sort out bugs. It is an Alpha after all, which means that many bugs still exist in the game. However, for an Alpha, the game is stunning and feels like the frontier. How does this compare to the upcoming Red Dead Redemption game next year? It will be a different experience, as Wild West Online is aiming to be a massive multiplayer online game, versus a multiplayer hub like Grand Theft Auto Online.

Non-Steam Early Access was available on November 15, providing early adopters the chance to experience several dozen activities (quests). With the servers active 24/7, developers are able to observe the actions and behaviors of players in one of two servers (one specifically dedicated to Europe). This also includes PvP combat a cycle of two public events at this point: Artifact Hunt and Golden Road. There is evidence that players can also claim lands as their homestead later on.

Wild West Online

At this point, the character creation screen is pretty simple. There are no female models yet, but they have various ethnic facial models, with two hairstyles. The Facial Features, I’m assuming are in-game unlocks that can be made available later. You can’t control body type, but you can control Skin Tone. The User Interface is pretty clean and the design is very professional, it immediately shows dedication to detail and interaction flow. From the worn, oval, portrait pattern of the character face, down to the worn edges that divide content on screen.

I tried to name my character Chon Wang, but since there’s no emphasis on a surname, I figured “Chon” would suffice. At this point in the game, I’ve already looted some gold and beat down some people, so I have a pouch full of gold in front of my character. The use of iconography to point out character conditions (in the bottom right) and allude to menu options (top right) allows for details that mitigate the amount of text overload that can happen. (They’ve chosen to design the character page with as many details as is relevant.) Currently, the only US server is Dolores.

The loading screens of Wild West Online showcase some amazing concept art. Thanks to the efforts and details of the HBO series Westworld, it’s hard not to imagine recreating hard experiences in this game.

As soon as I saw the expanse of the landscape, my mind immediately thought Skyrim + Westworld as a concept pitch. If you see it, you can travel to it. Assuming that the mountains are not sheer and there’s a certain angle to the terrain that you cannot scale. This region is beautiful and is not limited to this desert region. As you will see in later screenshots, there are forest areas and you’ll also notice that ambient wildlife sounds change according to the landscape type.

Of the various things you can do in Wild West Online, one thing I need to note is that in the Alpha, you start with the Horse Deed. This allows you to instantly summon a horse. Paint Kits allow you to color your weapons, and Gun Oiling Kit to repair the wear-and-tear of your equipment. Lock Pick Kits allow you to pick locks from containers, whether it’s a chest or a wardrobe, and there is a mini-game for unlocking things which is interesting. Gold Nuggets, which I’ve found scattered by Gold Ore, can be collected and sold.

One thing I appreciate about the design is that it has a Coming Soon overlay for aspects of its game that are still in progress. This shows that there is an idea on what the developers want to execute, and for a game of this intended scale, it is an organized approach to setting players’ expectations and executing on them. Coming from a project management perspective, I have seen more projects half-ass their execution and fumble when it comes to managing player experience with products.

With the Horse Deed, you are currently able to customize the type of horse you can summon. The horse models and saddle details are all beautifully rendered, and I was pleasantly surprised when this was a feature of the game.

You can’t shoot the NPCs, and if you try to shoot them at a distance, they’re immune to damage. But I wanted to note that the action indicators for NPCs are clear and reminiscent of Skyrim. Prior to Skyrim, developers would try to design things closer in aesthetic to the culture and region of the game, but the developers of Wild West Online understand the value of designing independently of that perspective.

Quests are straightforward. There are the details, there’s the splash image, dollar reward and experience reward. All quests, after accepting them, are stored in your Story tab for later reference.

The quest writing details specific people and locations, so you don’t end up lost in terms of where to go. For the quest I accepted in the prior screenshot, it indicated that I need to go to Wild Rose Farm and talk to a Farmer.

Did I mention how beautiful this landscape is? Imagine staging ambushes for people taking shortcuts through the craggy regions and bushes. There tends to be a lot of gold ore in these parts.

The town below, Brokengorge, is a place where I ran into a few players. Attacking other players, especially ones intending to be griefers, get a Wanted indicator which I’ll point out in a later screenshot.

The overlays for certain milestones and achievements are pretty slick. Some indicators like Mission Complete or when you discover areas fade away. Others, like when you Level Up burn away like unwanted paper. Without these subtle design points, this experience could be dull, especially if you gravitate to Solo-play like myself. Yes, I tend to Solo-play in MMOs!

The game developers boast renderings of weapons that exist back in the day. Here, I visited a Gunsmith and this is their normal stock. There seems to be a limited stock of the more exotic and expensive weapons, while the CT pistols tend to be more abundant. Some weapons can be found stashed out in the world, but you have a better chance of buying them. And not all towns have the same type of vendors, just to be clear.

Railroads! They have a railroad track! There have been concept arts for Railroad Heists. Currently, the Railroads are not finished, as there are tracks still being worked on. I’m assuming that by the time of the full launch, some of these railways will be set and a train will finally be set up.

In this screenshot, we have two players who are high on the Wanted list. The bounty reward for them is higher when they have more red stars.

Around the time I stole from this chest, a player was gunning for me. We had a firefight on the staircase. Although I took him down, I was wounded and forgot how to bandage myself.

Unless you properly care for your wounds and afflictions, you will die! I tried to reach my horse to run off, but even my horse couldn’t save me! You can respawn randomly in the world, with your group, a nearby Cabin, or a House that you have declared as your Homestead. Unfortunately, I had neither Group, Cabin, or House, so I just randomly respawned.

Fortunately, I respawned close enough where I was able to get to my gravestone. The map does not dictate where your gravestone is, so you have to locate it by memory. Just like in MMOs of yesteryear, your gravestone has all of your stuff. Unfortunately, other players can loot your gravestone as well, so be careful who you cross or try to cross.

Other things that you are capable of doing, that I have not showcased, is the roulette table in the saloon. You can also become a Deputy of the town, which allows you to track Most Wanted targets in the region. There is also the main town that you start in, which is likely the biggest town in the game. The starting town also acts as a safe haven, especially for newcomers.

As an Alpha, I’m enjoying the experience thus far. I can easily see myself supporting this MMO, especially with the frosty mountain biomes and Mexico-style biomes coming in the future.

For more details on Wild West Online, check out their website: https://www.playwwo.com/ and follow them for live updates on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WildWestOnline/. You can also jump in on the Early Access Alpha, at http://buy.playwwo.com/.

See you at high noon!

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