Hard West 2 reviews
Almost anything can be made better by adding the supernatural. Pirates of the Caribbean capitalized on a winning formula with its ghostly pirates, Stranger Things put demons in D&D, and Hard West hit a home run with its spooky Wild West story. A tactical game similar to XCOM, except it’s not, Hard West 2 brings some of the latest ideas to the poker table.
need to know
what is it? Supernatural Cowboy Turn-Based Tactics
Expected payment: $27/£24
Developer: Ice Code Game
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Comment on: Threadripper 2950X, Geforce RTX 3080 10GB, 64GB RAM
multiplayer game? Do not
Association: hardwestgame.com(opens in a new tab)
It starts with a train, like many of the best things. You’re looting it, naturally, and after doing your research, you’re sure there aren’t many guards. In this case, “you” is Kin Carter, a horse-riding, hat-wearing, six-shot zealot, the titular leader of a group of outlaws. This train robbery will make him rich, you’ll see. With him are Laughing Deer, a Native American melee expert, Flynn, who looks vulnerable and hiding in the shadows, and stunt shooter Kestrel Colt.
There’s no chance for the train guards, except that there are more of them than you might expect. Happily, you have a certain edge, which puts you in a good position throughout the game. The first is that your character has three action points instead of the traditional two. This means they can move, heal and shoot. Or sprint to cover and bend over for a better chance of dodging incoming fire.
(Image credit: Good Shepherd Games)
luck of the draw
Trick shooting means bouncing your bullets off a hard surface to counteract cover, basically flanking enemies in an unfair way. To facilitate this, trolleys, piles of rubbish and non-explosive barrels are scattered across the floors. You can even pick a bullet out of a hanging light fixture. Then there’s luck, plus it makes your attacks more accurate.
However, the bluff is the biggest difference. Kill an enemy and your Action Points will refill. It’s so simple, yet affects combat in such a profound way. Suddenly, they’re chains to be pulled on, and see how far they can go. Living enemies are stepping stones toward your goal, risking overextending and being sliced to shreds on the next turn, or leaving other characters behind as you go on a killing spree.
At least in the early stages, that means the Laughing Deer is a killing machine. Get him a little closer, and with a little luck, he can stick to kill anyone, instantly replenish his AP, and move on to the next hapless victim. Luck will eventually run out and an enemy with higher health will come, but he will still hit hard. It’s easy to leave him unprotected, standing miles away from cover or allies at the end of the round because you’re having too much fun tearing down the bad guys.
train? train? You forgot the rails! (Image credit: Good Shepherd Games)
Red Hot Poker
Back on the train, you’ve made your way to the cab. The locomotive enters the tunnel and everything goes dark. When it came out the other side, it climbed on hundreds of centipede-like metal legs, unusual for a steam train. There, it’s a man who turns out to have some interesting powers of his own to fuel the boiler, and finally reveals himself to be Mamun, the devil himself. He wants to play poker.
Of course you play. Of course you lose. The bet is just your soul, but if you win, he’ll give you a cent train, a very tempting offer. And he seems like a very trustworthy person. Interestingly, losing your soul stops you from casting shadows. I’m not sure how it works.
Eventually, you’ll unlock a gang of six outlaws, each with their own skills and inventory.
You wake up in the world map and leave the XCOM-like base-building Earth, more like a Total War strategy layer mixed with a 2D RPG. You wander around here, discovering towns, mines, and roadside oddities, often getting yourself into trouble and switching to turn-based combat to get out of trouble again. You dig up (sometimes literally) new members of your team with new abilities, have brief conversations, make decisions like whether to take supplies or leave them to hungry villagers, and investigate the unthinkable. Marmon and his Centipede Express still exist somewhere, making a mockery of timetables and 19th-century engineering practices as they roar through the countryside. Killing him allows you to restore your soul. Anyway, it’s worth a try. It might be fun.
For now, though, it’s cold. It would be nice to go to a town where there might be shops to buy new weapons, but first we need to check out that old hut on the side of the road.
(Image credit: Good Shepherd Games)
Once you’ve built up some extra members for your team, you can start thinking about different ways to get things done. The game shares more with Desperados 3 than the setting and preference for saving scum, giving each character special abilities. Kinkat has a short-range ability that can shoot through cover, damaging every enemy within range. Flynn can swap places with any character, but each loses one health – great for pulling entrenched enemies out of cover, or taking out bad guys with just a little health left. Others have more terrifying gifts.
Ultimately, you’ll unlock a gang of six outlaws, each with their own skills and inventory, ready to tear apart riflemen, shotgunners, explosive drunkards (apparently infinite-ammo grenade launchers), zombies, and Witches, they haunt every crumbling wooden structure. Hard West 2 lives up to its name because the enemies are numerous and become very tough.
Replay value can be limited, as levels are more like puzzles to solve, where enemy locations won’t be confused if you shoot again, and there’s no multiplayer.
They start off with one-shot kills, but soon their health doubles, and unless you take some time to soften them first, your bluff-fueled rampage will end. A character can hold two weapons, plus projectiles, each with a different AP cost. For example, rifles can fire using all three action points, but their damage and range are unmatched. Shotguns and Explosives have an area of effect that can damage your allies. However, killing an ally can trigger a bluff, so maybe it’s worth it, especially since your team members never actually die, come back to life after a fight, and be prepared to see the surgeon if you have the cash.
The poker system adds stats and unlocks new abilities. (Image credit: Good Shepherd Games)
Then there are the cards, which you’ll occasionally pick up as you wander around the map. They are normal playing cards, only slightly enchanted, and they themselves add extra health, luck or speed. But this is the Old West, so giving a character a valid playing card will get you something extra. Holding two pair might unlock an ability, but a full house upgrades it, and a royal flush makes it even better. Unless you’re a real cowboy, a poker guide or Wikipedia when handing out cards will help.
Take the Laughing Deer: He needs to hold a pair to unlock his devastating Wild Run ability, which adds extra damage to every two squares he dashes into combat. Adds extra cards for flushes and adds an area-of-effect battle cry to daze nearby enemies, while flushes increase base damage and give allies a perk. Having him zigzag his way through the levels for maximum range kills among scattered enemies and watching the bluff flames ignite every time he knocks another rifleman to the ground is the most exhilarating thing the game has to offer. One of the satisfying sights to offer.
(Image credit: Good Shepherd Games)
Less satisfying is what you hoped to happen but didn’t happen. Throwing a stick of dynamite should have a destructive effect on structures that seem light and dry easily. It is not. AoE attacks are two-dimensional, limited to the level you’re at, and don’t affect those directly above or below, which is especially frustrating with a shotgun, you should be able to use it to smack someone off a roof fall. Bunkers can’t be blown away or climbed over, though your character does a good job of finding paths, climbing ladders, and breaking windows the rest of the time. The replay value may be limited, as the levels are more like puzzles to solve, the enemy’s location won’t be confused if you shoot again, and there’s no multiplayer.
Over time, enemies with the same supernatural abilities as your character will appear, which can feel like cheating as their health returns to normal after a burst of gunfire. Then there’s the ton of explosives carried by other enemies who like to rush in and start throwing grenades everywhere, causing your character to bleed his own health at an alarming rate. Of course, there are ways to mitigate this, like using Heads Down maneuvers to stop bleeding and food to build up your points, but they all require action points.
None of this matters, though, as the Hard West 2 is as sturdy as a town bank safe. Local outlaws have been working on a robbery plan. The fight is tense, the middle segments don’t make them more than welcome, and the whole supernatural cowboy scene still has enough light to be captivating. We have plenty of room in our town for a game like this.
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