While developers often draw inspiration from other games, it’s not very often you see somebody try to tackle The Legend of Zelda. Bits and pieces, sure; but trying to mix that heady miasma of puzzle-laden dungeons and exploratory wonderment into anything other than a clone has to be a daunting proposition. Nintendo has made such a perfect formula that anyone who tries to replicate it often misses the mark because they change the wrong ingredient or remove a fundamental tenet.
Rain Games attempts to recapture that adventuresome spirit with their latest game, World to the West. It unabashedly wears its love of A Link to the Past on its sleeve. But whereas other developers might stumble with trying to match its beats, World to the West takes the heart of Zelda and runs with it while adding its own spin to the mythical formula.
And it works.
The game is played in what feels like two acts – an introductory section where you take one (or two) of the four protagonists through a weaving story that weaves itself together nicely and a more open experience where you have access to everybody as you trail the big baddie and find hidden trinkets all the while. Each character feels distinct and powerful in their own way. You start with Lumina, the daughter of a Teslamancer who can teleport in short bursts and who accidentally triggers a device that sends her far from home. Knaus is an orphan who can dig holes and who finds himself inadvertently kidnapped and forced to work in some mines on what he thinks is the moon. Teri is the epitome of a treasure hunter who gets herself wrapped up with the unsavory antagonist of the story. Lastly, Lord Clonington is a brute of a man who is constantly out to prove he is better than everyone at everything in his own single-minded way.
Each and every character is utterly endearing. During the first act, World to the West has a knack for deliberately moving everyone where they need to be, giving them each their own plot device to work through while also pushing the broader story of what’s going on in this mysterious place. Furthermore, you are also subtly introduced to each character’s abilities through their individual sections. They do each gain extra abilities, but as you move through the game you’ll see plenty of opportunities to bring other characters to areas that only they can reach. I loved how this tapped into that Zelda frame of thought where you want to go back and poke around a bit more. More often than not you are rewarded for your troubles.
Eventually you’ll get the band all together, and at this point the World to the West opens up for better and for worse. There are checkpoint-like totems scattered about that serve as hubs for your party of rabble-rousers. So long as each individual hero has reached a certain totem they can teleport between them. This smartly forces the player to take each character through the different areas in the hopes they’ll spot those secret nooks and crannies only they can access. However, having to retread areas upwards of four times can be a bit dull at times, especially given the bit of loading that can happen in between. While noticeable, it doesn’t hinder the experience all that much. My desire to see what’s off the beaten path usually negated the ire of seeing a loading screen for a scant few seconds.
At a few points in the game you are required to collect a certain amount of baubles to open gated doors. Depending on how much exploring you did, it can come as a shock to find some areas blocked off. Thankfully there are a handful of merchants throughout the world that will sell you the whereabouts of the items you need, which mitigates some of the frustration of having to go back and scour the land. It does tend to bog down the pacing at this point, but if you have a treasure-seeking mentality, it doesn’t feel like too much of a burden. The only other nit I can pick is that as far as I can tell you are forced to listen to exposition before boss battles should you fall to them and restart. Just letting players quickly jump in after a loss or at the very least letting them skip dialog would have helped immensely.
World to the West manages to feel like an homage to A Link to the Past while adding so many new and interesting ideas that it still feels like its own thing, which is something that can’t be said of a lot of developers’ attempts. They built a world worth delving into, a story worth investing in and characters that you feel so connected to that you’ll want to experience it all.
World to the West is available now for PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: Review code for World to the West was provided by Rain Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.