The immediate thought that came to life when HBO announced their intention to install a real-life version of the town of Sweetwater from their hit show “Westworld” was “how the hell are they going to pull this off?"
“Westworld,” after all, follows a theme park of the same name, modeled after the Wild West and populated by life-like androids known as “hosts.” Yet, as I boarded a shuttle away from the loading station for HBO’s “Live Without Limitsm,” I had the sneaking suspicion they just might pull this thing off. Hosts dressed in all white serve delicious cocktails and hors d’ouerves in a futuristic locale, which was an appetizer for the true main course.
When your shuttle arrives, you enter a bright-white room full of weapons from the show and some more hosts waiting to welcome you to Westworld. There’s a taste of what’s to come as corridors decked with Old West decor and hosts fully in character. Eventually, the corridors give way to the sprawling town of Sweetwater and everything about this town is impressive.
Even though the hosts themselves aren’t robots — so far as we know — they perform the same function, staying fully in character. After interjecting in a conversation, I managed to charm two bandits into giving me directions to their favorite saloon- the Mariposa. This is where one of the more impressive elements of the experience first came into play: individuality. You see, I saw someone else attempting to do the same thing, only to get into a heated argument. This level of detail is insane, but it’s only scratching the surface.
There are many different locales to see in Sweetwater. There are two saloons with endless free drinks, a dance hall, a post office, a bank, and even a graveyard, all populated with unique characters.
One second you may see a couple reuniting, the other a roaring gunfight; it’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The most exciting part of the experience for me, frankly, were all the secrets you could find in these locales.
In the shadows next to an inconspicuous building, a man — modeled after an employee of Delos, the company in the show the owns the park — pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to see something cool. He gave me instructions, and by going into the room and flipping over a rock to reveal a red button I found something incredible: another Delos employee building a Host Drone, a new character from the forthcoming second season.
Another excellent moment happens when you wait around a saloon on the outskirts of town. If you wait there long enough, a samurai appears. This is but one of the many mysteries of Sweetwaters.
Heck, the whole time is a tangled web of mysteries. I searched long for a mysterious named Shiloh, and even though I couldn’t find them — I was enthralled doing searching. More than anything, that encapsulated the value of the “Live Without Limits” experience.