Playing out in a classic Wild West setting, this value-minded release from JoWooD and Encore casts PC gamers in the role of an up-and-coming cattle rancher. The loss of loved ones in troubled past haunts the protagonist however, and revenge, as well as ambition, becomes a powerful motivation for success.
Feeding a bunch of longhorns to sell them later on, it sounds pretty boring, but this is the basic concept of Far West. Let's say Beef Tycoon, T-Bone Steak Tycoon, ... or has Greenwood Entertainment developed a game that has more to offer than just the trade of walking meat? Food inspector Charles took the game out for a walk into the wonderful land of review ...
Although I imagined a game full of bank robberies, Far West lets you take the role of the orphan Jack, whose grandfather was shot in cold blood. He inherits the small ranch and you have to make it the biggest one of the good old USA. This starts in a campaign that teaches you the basics while every mission offers a new aspect of the game. Far West has a multiplayer mode up to 4 players as well, but therefore you have to connect directly through an IP address. The game focuses mainly on single player though.
Earning money can be done in several ways, but selling longhorns remains the most important one. First you must hire some cowboys from the saloon, provide them with food and make sure your longhorns "multiply" themselves and that's already about 50% of your daily job. You can sell your longhorns at the local tradehouse or travel to a distant city to make a much more profitable trade. The earned dollars allow you then to expand your ranch, hire more cowboys, invest it through a bank account, buy a lucrative hotel, and so on.
But feeding your animals isn't a piece of cake. First you must seek a nice pasture and send some longhorns there, accompanied by one or several cowboys. Then a chuckwagon must be sent to bring supplies and another cart in order to brand the animals. Once you have enough of them, bring some back for sale.
As the game advances, the peace on your ranch cannot be remained. You wanna take some soil from the Indians, you experience competition with other farmers and when bandits raid the city, economy goes down. To kick these criminals' ass, you can go to the sheriff's office and put a price on their head in order to attract bounty hunters. You can of course also buy some ammo, take them out yourself and even claim a possible reward. There are different ways to deal with competitors, but the most effective one is to attack one of their pastures, kill the cowboys and steal all of the longhorns. When a fight commences, you can leave it to the computer or give "shoot" and "duck" orders yourself. But while playing, keep an eye on your soil too, you never know when the enemy might attack.
Although most of this sounds very enjoyable for an RTS/tycoon, reality's a little different. The controls are truly original, but initially not very handy. You can't select or move a unit directly, instead you give orders. First you click on your cowboy quarters and then tell a selected cowboy to go to a specific pasture, just for example. This method is definitely a nice try but it takes some time getting used to it, which slows down the game.
But how do I, as a reviewer, feel about this game? To tell you the truth, at first I didn't like it at all. The campaign offered only little variety and the missions took me a long time to complete. After a couple of evenings of playing Far West I put the game aside (one of the reasons why this review's a bit late) to focus on other things. But some weeks later it was time for me to come up with an article (if I didn't wanna get beaten up by Speed) and I put the disc in my computer once again. When I thought I'd seen enough, I already wrote a page about a boring and dull game ... but when I played a bit further later on, I started enjoying myself and I appreciated Far West. The game finally speeded up, I found ways to earn money more quickly and the real competition began. A few days later I crumpled up my sheet of paper and wrote this review with mixed feelings.
Whoever has the patience to beat through the dull part will probably find a charming game that becomes original, varied and exciting. Others will hit the uninstall icon, but I can of course not blame them ...
So now you know, a reviewer's life is all but easy. But let's have a word about how the game looks. At first sight all of the 3D environments are pretty nice for an RTS/tycoon. Unfortunately they are empty as well and the word "animations" probably isn't in the developer's dictionary. The models move only rarely and except for a cowboy waving his head, everything seems rather static. And then there are the minor graphical bugs, like a chariot without wheels or longhorns that are visible trough trees ...
The sound on the other hand is quite good with an enjoyable soundtrack which makes you feel like a real cowboy (you don't have to invade an oil-rich country to feel this way) and sound effects that also create a lot of ambience. The sounds of horses, screaming cowboys, nothing was forgotten, thumbs up for Greenwood!
In conclusion Far West is the kind of game that's hard to pick up, but once you mastered its controls you encounter a U-turn around mission 7. Then you notice the game has much more to offer than just taking care of fat longhorns. Good thing Greenwood decided to come up with an original approach, but unfortunately it doesn't add much to the game. Every patient gamer out there looking for an innovative RTS/tycoon will likely experience a lot of joyful moments with this game.
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