It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that, following the massive success that is World of Warcraft, that there was more than a little “me, too!” action going on. And, perhaps also surprisingly, is the growth of a new business model in MMORPG that involves free-to-play RPGs located totally online. One of these that I found just recently is called The West.
You’ll start out in The West much as those who actually went that way in the United States’ westward expansion did–by hitting the dusty trail as a dirt-poor laborer. And from there, you’ll do odd jobs for cash and take on quests until you build up your resources and reputation. From there, you can do harder jobs, stage gun battles with other players, and do pretty much everything that you could’ve done in the ACTUAL Old West.
The only problem is, that it’ll take about the same amount of time. For instance, my first hour with The West allowed me to do the following–put on a t-shirt and shoes (apparently there are no pants out west), take a bottle of whiskey to the sheriff, pick a leaf of tobacco and pick a bit of sugar cane. That was IT. For an HOUR. I played Warcraft, and I tell you this, in an hour’s time if I was in the right place I could have a drift of corpses piled up sufficiently deep to make a decent-sized house from their bones. It maybe took me an hour to do all the research for the Drifter’s Guide to the Wasteland in Fallout 3. But this game thinks it’s doing me a favor by letting me blow an hour to PICK TOBACCO and not CHARGING me for the privilege.
On the up shot–surprisingly, there is an up shot–The West is an incredibly compartmentable game. One click on a button is sufficient to start the twenty-minute time clock that allows me to pick one round of sugar cane, so in the meantime, I can go play a couple small flash games, browse some forums, read a book, watch most of X-Play or The Chaser’s War On Everything, whatever. And all the while my poor little character is off a-slavin’ in the sugar cane field so that later on I can have actual fun on the money he made.
The game is fair enough, especially for a free game…the graphics aren’t terrible, the sound is nonexistent (it’s a text-only game) and the mechanics aren’t that hard to work with. The elephant in the room here, meanwhile, is the incredibly slow gameplay. For instance, I read about one fellow who’d had a particularly rough time with the game despite almost ludicrous endurance–he’d been playing for a month, got to level eighteen, and even at that point he was armed with a slingshot, and about the only things he could do involved picking beans and repairing fences. Why? Because the only gun available in the store was a “rusty shotgun” with a price tag of FIVE GRAND. In terms of the game this is several months’ wages. In terms of the REAL west, you could buy a TOWN for five thousand dollars.
The West tries desperately to be the Wild West, but the most it can manage is the Mild West.