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Video Game / West of Dead

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Purgatory, Wyoming. 1888.

"The good ones head East, towards the Light. The bad ones? Sometimes, they stick around when they ain't supposed to. That's where I come change their mind."

West of Dead is a Weird West Roguelite twin-stick, cover-based shooter with a heavy emphasis on tactics and atmosphere developed by Upstream Arcade and published by Raw Fury in 2020. Oh, and the cowboy with a flaming skull for a head? He's voiced by Ron Perlman, who provides much of the game's narration.

Gunslinger William Mason awakens in limbo as a dead man without his memories...or his face. The afterlife isn't looking so pretty either. Something truly disreputable has taken over the crossroads, cutting off the paths on either side, twisting the land beyond any hope of consistent navigation, and drafting the damned to protect its interests.

Led on by hazy recollections of who he once was and an innate disgust at how wrong the hereafter has become, Mason walks a crooked path into the center of this loathsome labyrinth against an army of revenants and other assorted grotesqueries.

Luckily for him, he just can't seem to stay in the ground no matter how hard he's killed. And guns are in plentiful supply down in Purgatory.

This "Run" contains examples of:

  • A Dog Named "Dog": Some of the less noteworthy bosses are just Giant Mooks who go by the epithet "Boss".
  • Abstract Apotheosis: Through their feuds in life and death, Bauer and Mason become embodiments of Injustice and Justice, respectively.
  • Action Bomb: Some annoyingly fast enemies who charge at Mason have explosive ore strapped to their backs.
  • Actor Allusion: This isn't the first time that Ron Perlman has played a grizzled gunslinger. Ditto for one with such a noticeable skin condition.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: While a level will always give you enough iron to buy at least one item from the Trader, the amount of Sin required to unlock some of the more exotic guns at the Witch's altar is frankly (and perhaps appropriately) obscene, numbering in the hundreds for certain items. A normal level will give Mason under 20 Sin. Defeating the final boss will win him about 24.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: "Mason" and "Bauer" are really the embodiments of Justice and Injustice, respectively.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Damage can be mitigated by shields, but not status effects like "Plague" and "Bleed".
  • As Long as There Is Evil: Injustice claims that he's none too bothered by being sent West since he'll live on in some way or another as the concept he embodies is eternal.
  • Attack Its Weakpoint: Rock monsters can only be damaged from either status effects or by having the pustule of Sin on their backs destroyed. Injustice must have his legs damaged enough for him to collapse on his knees, allowing Mason to aim for his head.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Armory upgrades provide more firepower options at the start of the Crypts, but no matter the upgrades, they're all going to be low-level, so a player is better off investing Sin unlocking other things.
    • When an expensive gun is purchased with Sin, Mason himself will admire the feel of the weapon, but will then express skepticism as to its effectiveness unless he's properly field-tested it.
  • Badass Preacher: A villainous example in the form of Bauer. Don't let his tampering with dark forces fool you, he's very handy with guns, bombs, and knives as well.
  • Bag of Spilling: Whenever Mason dies apart from his flask and whatever runes he's picked up. Most frustratingly, this kicks in even if he defeats the Final Boss, as he's stripped of all his gear and levels when he leaves the last arena.
  • Big Bad: The Preacher aka Father Matthias Bauer.
  • BFG: The rifles, obviously. However, many of the revolvers are comically oversized, and certain shotguns can reach up to Mason's shoulders if stood upright next to him.
  • Blinded by the Light: Turning on lanterns can stun most enemies. It doesn't do anything to Mason himself though. Probably due to the lack of eyes.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Everyone already being dead might have something to do with it. Although, some rather grisly crimes are described in the flashback murals.
  • Boring, but Practical: Investing Sin in the health flasks won't give Mason any fancy weapons or abilities, but they'll provide permanent upgrades that will stick with him no matter how many times he dies from then on.
  • Bottomless Magazines: With the wrinkle that while Mason never runs out of ammo, his guns still need to be reloaded.
  • Broken Ace: The Bountykeeper is a former Plainwalker, a kind of afterlife enforcer who keeps the peace in Purgatory, but the Preacher's armies and schemes have worn her down, causing her to retire to the Bar.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The Bayou, The Battlefield, The Canyon, and The Churchyard can be challenged in lieu of The Hunt, The Mine, and the Town respectively. They contain stronger enemies but defeating the bonus bosses therein can provide runes that will permanently upgrade Mason in some fashion.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Preacher might've been an insane zealot with a horrifically warped view of Christianity, but he was a competent leader who managed to mastermind a crime spree so massive that it required government intervention without a single casualty among his cult until he and his acolytes showed themselves the door on their own terms with a Suicide Pact.
  • Cannibal Larder: While meat hooks can be found in other levels, the corpulent butchers and wiry wendigos that populate "The Hunt" make them give off some blatant implications of what horrors go on in that place.
  • Corpse Land: It says something about the game's tone that a conclusion involving one of these that stretches far beyond the horizon, all consisting of the recently deceased who are waiting to be judged by a giant, ghastly psychopomp wielding a flaming sword who used to be the protagonist constitutes a "good" ending.
  • Cult: The Children of Eden. You encounter a number of their members in later levels.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Both Mason and the Preacher have one.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Going West" is going to Hell; "going East" is going to Heaven.
  • Degraded Boss: The Outlaws use a similar fighting style to the Preacher's first battle. One of them even replaces him as the boss between the second and third areas after you beat him there; this "generic" Outlaw doesn't give up any Memories or item unlocks, but he does drop 10 Sin.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Mason and his deputies came up with a flawless plan to corner the Preacher. Unfortunately, once they did, the villain summoned three nooses to drop down from the sky to hang most of them.
  • Double Unlock: Getting an item memory from an Outlaw doesn't make it immediately accessible. You must instead take it to the Witch and then purchase it with Sin. Die before you meet with the Witch again? Time to find another Outlaw.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Mason finds it difficult to describe the beings who took his soul and turned him into a Plainwalker.
  • Evil Counterpart: Like Mason, the Outlaws are expert gunslingers who have flaming skulls for heads. Unlike Mason, they're, well, outlaws. The Preacher gets in on the action when he turns into Injustice, who like Mason, also has a head wreathed in flames.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: "The Hunt" is a frozen wasteland filled with enemies driven ravenously savage from hunger.
  • Eyepatch of Power: What the charm enhancements come in the form of.
  • The Faceless: Mason. It's never revealed what he originally looked like. Even the portrait at the center of his mural of memories is just his skull.
  • Facial Horror: The first fight with the Preacher reveals that Mason was a U.S. Marshall who met his end after getting shot in the head by a double-barreled shotgun twice. The second shot was necessary due to how the gun malfunctioned at first, blasting off Mason's face and setting his head on fire but not with enough force to fully kill him.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The cosmology of the game is a fusion of Christian motifs and Native American mysticism. Norse and Egyptian mythology get weaved in at the last minute.
  • Flechette Storm: The Throwing Knives item.
  • Final-Exam Boss: Injustice uses many of the signature attacks of previous bosses. Encountering and defeating those optional menaces can better prepare the player for him as a result.
  • Flaming Skulls: Mason's skull is forever burning as a reflection of his death, when his head caught fire due to the Preacher's first barrel misfiring.
  • Four Is Death: There are four main story chapters and four Righteous Souls are the source of the Preacher's newfound powers.
  • Gainax Ending: The Preacher's claims that he and Mason aren't the real Bauer and William turn out to be true, as after the defeat of Injustice, Mason remembers his former iterations as Anubis and Odin (among others), and fully embraces his role as celestial judge of the dead.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Mason can regain health by drinking a mysterious green liquid. Injustice has three enormous fountains gushing with the stuff that continuously feed into his being, making him virtually immortal until Mason cuts the flow.
  • Glass Cannon: The Up the Ante skill boosts Mason's offensive power but drastically decreases his durability.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: The wings of Injustice are just used for his dramatic entrance and nothing else.
  • Greed: "The Mines" have poisonous gold to stress this theme.
  • Hell Is War: "The Battlefield". Or as it's titled in-game, "The War".
  • Hellhound: An enemy type introduced in the second level that crops up in others.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mason can take on the "burdens" of Lost Souls, which allows them to leave Purgatory at the cost of briefly turning him into a One-Hit-Point Wonder until he defeats enough enemies.
  • In the Back: The Backstabber ability allows Mason to teleport behind enemies so he can attack them from behind. Unfortunately for him, some of the cultists in later levels have this ability as well. The Traitor gun also lands critical hits when used to shoot from behind.
  • Intrepid Merchant: The Trader.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Some weapons do bonus damage on stunned opponents.
  • Knowledge Broker: The Bountykeeper's board details where Outlaws holding memories of either the Preacher or item unlocks are currently hiding.
  • Light 'em Up: The Lantern is a throwable item that will stun all enemies who are in or wander into its radius, even if they're already in a well-lit area. While it does no damage, it has a relatively quick charge time and compliments a number of weapons that do more damage to stunned enemies. Unfortunately, Outlaws and the final boss are completely immune to it.
  • Light Is Not Good: Injustice.
  • Limited Loadout: Mason can only carry two guns, two abilities, and one charm at a time.
  • Loophole Abuse: If a player is just interested in grabbing Mason's memories from Lost Souls, there's nothing stopping them from eliminating all the enemies on the map, accepting the burden from a Lost Soul, and then leaving the area to give it to the witch. Mason will still have the burden in the next level though.
  • Mauve Shirt: The assorted outlaws all get names. So do Mason's three deputies: Nathan Boor, Thomas Pine, and Jake Harlow who help him out in the end.
  • Mirror Boss: The Preacher during most of his boss fights.
  • Mook Commander: Certain cultists have the ability to heal their injured comrades, encouraging the player to take on a more aggressive play style to Shoot the Medic First lest the skirmish drag too long.
  • Mook Maker: The Churchyard's fountains.
  • More Dakka: The Wrack and Ruin revolver can spray out dozens of bullets per full clip, but it has rather abysmal accuracy.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The launch trailer features Mason dueling the Preacher in The Churchyard, but the two of them only have gunfights in The Mines and in The Town.
  • No Name Given: Mason doesn't bother to ask for them, although it's unknown if they'd be provided even if he did ask. Subverted for Mason himself; he doesn't remember his name at the start, but it returns to him after he beats the Preacher for the first time.
  • Old Soldier: During his time as a solider, Mason was beaten within an inch of his life by an elderly, enemy veteran and only survived to become a U.S. Marshall by sheer luck.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: While the Preacher starts out as cold and erudite as one would expect of a Sinister Minister, he starts talking in a more energetic and crude fashion when Mason beats him the first time, which might lend credence to his claims that he isn't the "real" Bauer as Matthias is consistently shown to be calculating and composed in all of his memories.
  • "Open!" Says Me: Mason's typical solution to a barrier blocking his way is to kick it down, punch it, or shoot it.
  • Outlaw Town: "The Town" has hostile denizens who will shoot at Mason from their windows.
  • Pieces of God: Outlaws carry memories of the Preacher. If Mason takes these fragments to the Witch, he can learn more about the backstory of his nemesis.
  • Pinball Projectile: Unlockable guns like the Trickshot and Splitter fire these.
  • Purple Is Powerful: The Children of Eden mark their territory with purple and gold flags. Injustice garbs himself in these colors when he achieves his final form.
  • Quick Draw: Certain guns award critical damage when they hit an enemy that is in the process of attacking Mason.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: They're very consistent weapons as unlike the rifles, they can be fired in rapid succession, and they have much longer ranges than shotguns. Good luck finding one with a six-bullet chamber though.
  • Rule of Symbolism: A dead lawman's final obstacle in his journey to set things right is literally named Injustice.
  • Scars are Forever: Mason has one slashed so deep into his face that it's embedded in his skull.
  • Shockwave Stomp: The Falling Rune not only makes Mason immune to falling damage, but will create a modest shockwave that can damage and briefly disorient enemies.
    • Every single one of Injustice's footsteps creates these.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Although some have longer ranges than most.
  • Shout-Out: Between the heavily Mike Mignola-inspired art style, the Fantasy Kitchen Sink elements and Ron Perlman as Mason, it's clear the creators have a soft spot for Hellboy.
  • Skull for a Head: And it's on fire.
  • Swamps Are Evil: "The Bayou"/"The Swamp".
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Both Mason and enemies can do this with a variety of explosives.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: The "Jester" items provide critical hits when a player "dives" into combat.
  • Wendigo: A large one is what kills Mason during the tutorial level. He can pay it back in kind during "The Hunt", gaining the ability to fast travel between sigils he's found on the current level he's on as a reward.
  • You Killed My Father: When the Children of Eden learned that Mason was on their trail, they murdered his estranged wife and mailed him her bloody wedding ring to taunt him.