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Don’t Die in the West – Early Access First Impressions

Don’t Die in the West is a co-op cowboy RPG life sim game inspired by the likes of Stardew Valley, Valheim and Core Keeper. Developed by Funday Games, the studio behind the recently announced Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor spin off, this game will launch on Steam early access on November 10, 2023. It has a very chill vibe as you go about restoring the ranch left to your from your deceased uncle, and while it’s not without some flaws, it’s was fun playing in co-op and exploring new lands. Just watch out for those TNT barrels!

Character creation of our legless cowboy has some simple customisation options for head, eyes, ears, nose and skin tone, as well as hats and shirts to wear. Straight away there’s a tongue-in-cheek attitude to the game with option presets being named after objects, like eyes being black diamonds, ears being croissants and nose being pinecone. It’s a little weird at first that we have no legs as it looks like we’ve moving around either deep in the sand or just skirting along on our butts, but we got used to it.

We loved the Skyrim-esque entry into the main game as we’re taken by horse and cart to the outskirts of our ranch. When Johnny joined my co-op game, his movement looked a bit jagged and not smooth. The game itself didn’t lag at all; it was just distracting. Thankfully after about 10-minutes of playing together it had smoothed out, so not quite sure what the issue was. Connecting to each other to play Don’t Die in the West in co-op appears peer-to-peer, so as the host I start a game and then give Johnny a code for him to join my game. In this respect it connects similarly to The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria.

We made it to our ranch location and it’s rundown and falling apart. There is a chest that contains plans to build a ledger desk, but Johnny picked it up and so only he could learn the recipe to build it, not me as the host. A loading screen tip said we can build a bookcase to share recipes, but it took us over an hour to work out how to get nails. Some of the quests had dependencies and if one of us picked up the recipe, the other didn’t so there was a bit of back and forth between us in who had to complete which task. Advice for players would be to initially have one person gather all the recipes to complete the quests until you can make a bookcase.

There were also quests that weren’t explained well enough. For example, the ‘Out with the old” quest requires you to sell all the broken walls, roof pieces, fences and floors. We had sold every piece of the two houses on our ranch, but we were only 10/14 pieces sold. It was a frustrating next 15 minutes until I finally ran around the outskirts of our immediate area and found some fencing along the outer perimeter that finished the quest. A little more direction or written tips would be great for some of the quest. Most of the others were self-explanatory.

Building in Don’t Die in the West is quite easy once you have the recipes and ingredients, and it was easy to renovate/sell if you make a mistake or want to remodel. There’s also some light survival mechanics of having to eat food and keep warm near campfires at night. After finding a donkey and a horse, and lassoing a poor rabbit for good measure, we set off in search of the main town of Tumbleville and looking for Old Frank. Turns out he’s not at the town but nearby, but along the way we found a passageway blocked by TNT.

A wire ran back up a hill, so we had to figure out how to get some TNT to the top of a hill to blow up a stone blocking the path. Mistakes were made and I ended up blowing myself up. I don’t know if I tipped the barrel over too hard or accidentally hit it with my pickaxe, but it was hilarious nonetheless. We fought rattlesnakes and bandits, though one bandit had bolted half into a wall and shooting with the pistol wasn’t hitting it. I had to hit him with melee to get him to chase me out of the wall, then finished him off. One great feature I experience was after the gunfight with the bandits, Rosie the donkey had been shot and as I was off looting the corpses, Rosie walked over to some straw and ate some which replenished some of her health. That’s something I have not seen a video game before, where the mount goes and heals itself. Well done Funday Games!

So far, Don’t Die in the West has potential to be a great indie game with a chill vibe. The background music is enough to occupy those times when you’re in thought and trying to work out the next steps. Graphically it looks like Stardew Valley and other similar games which is all this type of game needs. However, it is still a strange thing not to have legs. Even if there were little shoes poking out the bottom of the character could be a little easier to accept.

There are a few niggling issues we had with this early access build of the game, but there’s plenty of great concepts that we are looking forward to exploring more. There is a roadmap on the Steam page that shows new towns, new biomes and new mechanics to come during early access. Don’t Die in the West is definitely a game to play co-op if you can which supports up to 3 other players and it’s easy to connect to each other. This is a cozy and chill wild west cowboy life sim with lots to craft and several areas to explore, and I am looking forward to watching it develop further over the early access period.

This early access review utilised keys provided by Swipe Right and Don’t Die in the West will launch on Steam early access on November 10, 2023.


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