I would have a difficult time finding someone that hasn't at least heard of the HBO series Westworld, which takes place in a dystopian universe where a giant amusement park filled with truly humanistic androids are the play things of the truly inhuman humans. I don't know about you, but before the first episode ended, I wanted to go to there.
WBGames has made this possible, at least in a digital capacity, with the Westworld mobile game. To make the simulation as realistic as possible, the game is meant to be thought of as an employee manual for a new recruit — The Delos Park Training Simulator. You learn everything there is to know about the park in the laboratory underground, while making sure the action never stops above ground in Sweetwater, Pariah, and the like.
Westworld is scheduled for launch this April on iPhone and Android devices. At GDC 2018, I was able to get a first look at the upcoming simulation game.
Everything in this world is magic ... except the magician
The premise of the game is that you, as a new employee at Westworld, are given this training simulator so you can learn the ropes of your new job. Your in-game friends are considered your coworkers. Your in-game tasks are the corporate objectives. It's pretty detailed.
The game takes place in two sections, the above ground, where you're helping guests by matching them with hosts, and the underground, where the Delos lab is situated and you do such things as manufacture new hosts, repair and rebuild existing hosts, and build new buildings or unlock new locations.
Since I was a child, I've always loved a good story
Sweetwater (where you start) is where the stakes are the lowest and the tasks are the easiest and the hosts are capable of matching with guests at the lowest level.
As you move further from Sweetwater and unlock the broad spans of the Westworld landscape, you'll come across guests that ask for more difficult situations. Hosts have to be capable of higher-level actions.
Guests and hosts have pre-assigned affiliations of black, white, or neutral. Just like when William is offered a black or white hat when he first enters Westworld, each host and guest aligns with a dark or light side, with the third option of neutral — neither good, nor bad.
If you try to pair a guest requesting a high-level situation with a low-level host or a black hat player with a white hat android, the results could end in violence or death — temporary death, at least. If the interaction between guest and host doesn't go well, the guest may decide to end the conversation the fastest way possible, with a bullet.
No problem! That's what you're here for. If a host dies, it goes to "the body shop" where Felix and Sylvester does repairs. It is at this time that you can decide to go through a rebuild cycle. This can either give the host a complete personality reassignment or boost up a host to a higher level with more roles and stronger attributes. How do you make these rebuild alterations? By destroying other hosts, of course.
You'll be manufacturing and adding new hosts to the park on a regular basis. What you manufacture is a bit of a random chance. Some of the hosts are very common, like Emmett. It's highly likely that you'll make dozens of Emmetts throughout the game. You can level up your Emmetts or use them as bio material to help level up other hosts.
Players must also build buildings around Westworld in different towns, like Las Mudas. The streets are bare when you unlock a town. Using materials you earn from completing tasks for guests, you can build additional buildings, which will bring in more and varied guests. You can also upgrade buildings, which will make them more enticing to more complicated guests, which will in turn, earn you greater rewards.
There are a few additional behind-the-scenes game features, like Critical Analysis. This is where you can earn Host Codes, which are the tokens needed to manufacturer new hosts. Three times per day, you can perform a host's critical analysis where you select five randomly generated questions to answer from the host's perspective. The goal is to keep the host as well-balanced as possible by selecting answers that reward the best average of increase or decrease in the different calibrations. If it sounds a bit confusing, you're not alone.
You can't play God without being acquainted with the devil
Westworld will feature regular events in the game. I didn't get to participate in an event, but Jason Everett from WBGames San Francisco explained that they happen regularly and offer different rewards, depending on what's happening. You might have the opportunity to earn rare materials or be able to access buildings that are normally only open on the weekends.
For the right type of player, there will definitely be plenty of reasons to play the game regularly and events will pull you back in if things start to seem too repetitive.
It doesn't look like anything to me
The game is free to download and play with the ability to purchase in-game premium currency. One thing I've noticed in the past few years is that game developers have figured out a good balance to getting and keeping players instead of turning them off with paywalls. Everett explains Westworld as completely playable for all time without needing to spend a dime. You may want to use premium currency to speed up a task, but nothing is ever locked behind a paywall or otherwise frustratingly unplayable.
Since the game doesn't launch until sometime in April, I can't say for sure how well WBGames will be at making a totally fun experience for players who don't ever want to spend money, while making a few dollars off of those players who don't mind opening their wallets. The proof is in the pudding.
They say that great beasts once roamed this world
Presumably because Westworld is an incredibly gritty and violent world, the game's designers went with a slightly more cartoonish look. The action moves in 2D when you're up close and viewing an encounter. Characters have a stylized look.
Visually, it strikes a good balance between the lighthearted fun of a simulation game and the darker side of Westworld. Hosts can and will die for the simplest of reasons, like the guest just didn't like them. Manufacturing simulated human life is as trivial as pressing a button and destroying that life is as banal as making a simple decision.
At the same time, though, they all have pleasant looks on their faces and are illustrated as flat, two-dimensional characters. I feel like there's a deeper discussion to be had here.
This world doesn't belong to them, it belongs to us
There's a lot going on here, a lot more than simply making your visitors happy. You'll also have to keep your hosts from dying or glitching out and doing something that would warrant a role reassignment. You have to build and develop the world that guests want to visit while maintaining the complex technical side of androids that can think for themselves (sort of).
It's so complex that it's somewhat overwhelming at first glance. You're in charge of managing both what happens on the surface above ground and in the lab below ground. It's not a simple game that players can drop in on for a few minutes while waiting for the bus to arrive. As any good simulation game will do, you're going to want to keep track of what's happening in the game as often as possible.
The entire game is a bit of a balancing act. Should you level up all 10 of the Emmets that you have? Or do you sacrifice seven of them while leveling up only three of them to satisfy the white, black, or neutral hat guests? If you decide to sacrifice, do you level any of those up so they become more useful material for a rebuild? Is that worth your time?
My limited experience with the Westworld mobile game wasn't enough for me to complete my "training." If this were a real-life first day on the job, I'd barely learned the importance of washing my hands before handling food. I can't wait to really dig in and see how to game plays out over the course of days, weeks, and months.
Keep an eye out for more of our Westworld coverage as the official launch date approaches.
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