The United States of America is a land of diverse climes. To the east, you have grasslands and lush, temperate forests; to the west, desert, brush, and majestic canyons. Westbound by Fruit Salad Games follows a group of settlers that’s gone a little too far west and now have to hunker down for the winter. That doesn’t mean they have to scrabble in the dirt like common gophers, though. You’re there to help them build up a place to live – and maybe you’ll even lay down the foundations for a town.
Westbound is a moderately enjoyable town-building game that adds a touch of story and character development to keep you going. And enjoy yourself you will, at least until it becomes painfully apparent that progressing beyond your huge canyon walls will require hours and hours of grinding and/or an in-app purchase or two.
Settling a New Land
Westbound stars a small knot of settlers who’ve gotten themselves lost in the depths of a canyon. Ultimately, they decide that settling down for the long term may not be a bad idea.
How their new home looks when everything is said and done is up to you. Westbound is a town-building game, so you have lots of options for making your new settlement as pretty as a posy. You can follow the characters’ suggestions and build up a nice mix of houses and resource mines, or you can build your own little boomtown with lots of different buildings and services.
Everything you build produces rewards over time, including silver, tonic (which is used to speed up certain tasks), minerals, and tools.
Aside from building, your characters can also be put to work harvesting resources or clearing the land. As is typical of a building game, everything is interdependent: The wood you cut down can be used to make buildings, the iron you mine can be used to make nails, and so on. Even the tumbleweeds you clear away may contain snakes that can be caught for experience and silver – if you can stand to tap on the slippery critters.
Westbound is a good-looking game, and its characters provide a small additional reason to keep on tap-tap-tapping away at your screen. Inevitably, however, the game falls into that free-to-play trap wherein it becomes obvious that real progress is only going to come with hours of grinding for silver and/or experience. As you begin to climb towards level 10, the buildings you’re expected to assemble become stupidly expensive. It also becomes harder to level up and build a supply of pick-axes, tools that are vital for expanding your territory. Worse, you may get suckered into blowing your meager stash of axes on the mining mini-game, which lets you pick away at one rock per axe, usually for a crummy reward or none at all. Of course, you can buy more pick-axes and silver via the magic of in-app purchases.
Ride Into the Sunset
Westbound is a decent city-builder with a fun “wild west” theme. Don’t expect to make any serious progress without pouring in hours of work and/or some cash money, but if you’re going to latch onto a free-to-play game, you could do worse, pardner.