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Westward III: Gold Rush is the third game in the Westward series. You will have control of number of new settlers in the Wild West as they try to make a bustling town for themselves. The main gameplay will occur through the game's fairly long campaign. You will travel to two main towns with a lot of puzzle and combat levels mixed into the game.
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The gameplay for Westward III doesn't really deviate too much from the rest of the series. In fact, I was a little disappointed to see that very little had changed. The mechanics of the game are fairly standard for the genre. You need to build lumber camps, gold mines, farms, and houses to make a big town. There are also lots of other buildings to increase your resource gathering efficiency and overall town happiness.
I'll go ahead and start with the good. The best part of the game is still there. I mentioned in the beginning that there were two main towns. The game is centered on these two towns. You'll switch about halfway through the story to a new town, so the time is well divided. The fun part is that you are given a huge map with lots of resources and areas to explore. You get a real feeling of accomplishment as your settlement grows to cover every corner of the map with mines and hotels.
The other boost is the fairly varied gameplay. There are some neat missions that really mix up Westward III. I can just name a few to give you an idea of what to expect. One has you racing to collect enough lumber to bridge the flooding rivers in the area and rescue stranded settlers. Another has you facing off against the Headless Horseman, who comes through every few minutes to turn one of your civilians into a worthless zombie. Another brief mission has you solving a series of puzzles to lure bandits into a trap. These are bright spots for the game.
The problems with this game mainly fall to mediocrity. Resource gathering is painfully bad. I always enjoy resource gather that is active. Westward III just has you build the relevant buildings and wait. The actions of your citizens don't even matter. The only interaction is that you need to replant trees that are cut down over time. Combat also falls into this category. All you do is hire gunslingers and tell them to attack bandits or wolves. Then they stand there and shoot until somebody dies.
These wouldn't be problems by themselves. This is a fairly cheap game so I'm not expecting top strategy. The problem is that this becomes an integral part of gameplay. In order to earn enough experience to unlock new buildings, you have to undertake bounty missions and trading post missions. The bounty missions involve dragging your sheriff and deputies around 10 repeating maps with repeating ambushes and monotonous gunfights. The trading post missions have you tell a few citizens and your hero character to collect resources within a time limit. You then wait and pray. This is not fun gameplay! Some of the puzzle missions also feel like they are really starting to struggle with staying fresh. For every good one listed above, there were a number that felt like needless padding material.
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The graphics aren't too bad for a casual game. They are a decent 2D representation and everything is pretty easy to make out. There are different outfits for different jobs and some new animations have been added to the game. This is a nice little addition. I wouldn't expect to be wowed by the graphics, but they are functional.
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I felt that sound deserved it's own category. One of the more annoying aspects of the game is the sound. There is a steady and repeating public domain Wild West song playing in the background for most of it. The game tries to be tongue-in-cheek about being a stereotypical western, but playing the same song for hours isn't a good joke. They all committed the cardinal sin of sound by giving the characters three phrases to say when you move them or order them to do something. Yes, it was funny to hear a citizen say “I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay” the first time I assigned them to the lumber camp. This Monty Python reference wore out after hearing it another 10 times.
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The official requirements are that you have 512 MB of RAM and 1 GHz of processing power. I was playing this on an XPS, so I had about 3-4 times the power necessary. I wouldn't imagine that these requirements would be tough on any computer that can access the Internet.
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I'm a little torn on this game. I obviously spilled a lot of bile throughout the review. I think it might have a bit to do with the sporadically good and bad aspects of this game.. This really seems like it could cross over the border of a budget title with a bit more polish. There's a lot of fun and charm to the game and I really like the series.
I don't think that I would have paid much more for it than I did. It is a budget title, but a fairly fun one at that. It's also very long for a budget game. It took me about 6-8 hours to beat it and I've learned that I missed a few side quests along the way. It also offers a bunch of sandbox levels to add a little replay value.
I guess the final verdict is that it's a good game that I would recommend. I enjoyed my time and while a number of the mechanics are getting annoying, I still had fun along the way. I just hope that the next one learns some lessons from Westward III and makes a good jump forward.