by JoWooD Productions
With a title like Far West you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a John Wayne film. It isn't but it definitely involves cowboys and cattle ranches. Previously the only two cowboy games, that I can remember anyway, are Outlaws and Desperadoes. Outlaws was a blend of adventure and FPS whilst Desperadoes was a Commandos type strategy game. Far West is different from both of these and is more geared to a resource management RTS style of play.
The main aim of Far West is to become a successful ranch owner. Like any good game should, Far West gives you the opportunity either playing as the good guy or the bad guy. Taking the good path involves raising cattle and getting the best prices for them whilst taking the criminal path means bribing the poorly paid sheriff and using your cowboys as bandits and attacking reservations etc., for your fortune.
The game includes an 18 level campaign, a handful of stand alone single player missions and some multiplayer missions. What immediately strikes you is there is no random map generator or map creator and without either of these two features the replay value is going to be rather limited. The campaign levels are woven together with cutscenes about the narrator's great grandfather, Jack Walton (the character you're supposed to be). The story goes that Jack's parents were killed whilst they lived in the West. As the story progresses you see Jack become successful setting up his own ranch which of course leads to you obtaining more complex missions. The only problem I have with the campaign is that the story seems in isolation from the missions. The cutscenes carry the story and seeing as they are not subtitled the deaf gamer will miss out on it entirely.
Creating a successful ranch isn't going to be easy. The success of your ranch is dependent on the quality of your cowboys and initially you'll only have access to poorly trained cowboys which will result in a few longhorn cattle going missing from their pastures. Each of your cowboys will have attribute ratings that will affect their performance. The ratings are for shooting, attention (this is the one that affects their ability to watch cattle), branding, healing, pasture and trail (which affects the length of time a trail will take, the higher the rating the quicker the trail). Of course all the cowboys are better at some things than others. When hiring your cowboys it is wise to go for a complimentary mix. You can also hire Cattle Masters who are especially trained in looking after cattle. They are more expensive though. Other specialised characters include gunslingers, wolf hunters, bandits, bounty hunters and of course what would a Western be without rustlers.
Graphically Far West is OK. This is a 3D RTS and whilst it doesn't look as good as Age of Mythology, it's certainly OK. The maps in the game are very large and use of the mini-map is preferable to scrolling around the map. There are a few problems such as the cowboys occasionally getting stuck on objects and being unable to move, which can be a pain. The game is fully zoomable and you can also rotate the map. The quality of the cutscenes isn't brilliant to be honest but they can be turned off in the options menu which is probably a good idea seeing as they are not subtitled.
Despite the cutscenes being unsubtitled there are no other problems for deaf gamers. All other details are given completely in text and objectives and messages etc. can be recalled at any time by clicking on the messages button and selecting a previous message from the list. The tutorial is exclusively in text too, which is great news for deaf gamers. The tutorial as a whole is OK but I wish it would have included more detail on how to develop your town and the goals that must be met in order to do so. The tutorial only covers the basic ranch operations and you still feel a little lost when you actually come to the first 'proper' mission.
Far West is unlike any strategy game out there at the moment, which is always a bonus. I felt the gameplay as a whole was good but I would have liked to have seen either a random map generator or a map editor. What would have really made the game something special is if it had included some elements from Desperadoes. You could have taken your cowboys on missions etc. or indeed taken your castle rustlers on a mission to acquire more cattle. Features such as this would have been great, especially in the campaign mode. It's also a shame about some of the bugs that are there too. The cowboys getting stuck on buildings being the worst of the these. Still it's a good game and fans of Western's will no doubt be satisfied with it.
Game Rating: 7.0/10