Hard West 2 is a turn-based tactics game set in the wild west with a supernatural spin and some incredible visuals that certainly make their mark.
Renegade cowboys in a wild west setting provide a solid starting point for any video game. In Hard West 2, developer Ice Code Games ask the classic question ‘What if cowboys did badass witchcraft stuff on top of mowing enemies down with guns?’
In a gaming landscape that is about to endure an avalanche of releases in the fall, Hard West 2 stands out from the pack as a strategy title with some serious flare with a world that successfully blends the supernatural with a realistic western landscape.
Hard West 2 key details
- Developer: Ice Code Games
- Release Date: August 4, 2022
- Platforms: PC
Hard West 2 trailer
Cowboys, with a twist
In Hard West 2, players command a crew of outlaws on a journey to recover their lost souls across sprawling western locations. The posse utilizes both traditional cowboy weaponry like guns and explosives as well as witchcraft spells to creatively take down opponents via top-down XCOM-like gameplay.
The cast is made up of a fairly generic brand of characters led by protagonist Gin Carter, a con man whose newfound demonic power, Shadow Barrage, allows him to mow down both foes and friends in a straight line in front of him.
Combat in Hard West 2 is your typical turn-based strategy affair, and at times, can be quite a difficult one. Carefully utilize action points to move your crew into firing position on enemies and hide behind cover while within range of opponents.
The most important gameplay mechanic at hand here is Bravado, a new addition to the hard West series which allows any player who notices a takedown to refresh action points and go on a rampage taking down multiple opponents in one turn. Setting your plan of action each turn around triggering Bravado is key, and not only does it serve as the most important function during combat, it also sets off an incredibly satisfying sound each time it fires off.
The most fun character out of the main bunch to land a Bravado with is Laughing Deer, an Indigenous outlaw who mauls enemies to death with melee weaponry and can move far distances on the map each turn. I found myself taking out hoards of rivals with his Bravado, turning him into a killing machine and by far my favorite unit.
Some of the supernatural abilities from the crew are quite cool, like Flynn’s ability to swap places with an opponent, but outside of that, they weren’t all too creative or able to wow design-wise. For the most part, combat is extremely similar to many others in the turn-based tactics genre, with Bravado being the lone standout feature. I never found much joy in replaying levels, which happens often as the game can be quite difficult, in order to advance the game’s story as I never found myself truly hooked by the gameplay loop.
One feature I did appreciate was how the card system works. As you play Hard West 2 you’ll come into possession of playing cards, and when equipped to each of your characters, unlocks new abilities or buffs to depending on the quality of hand you give them. Hunting down high-value cards is a stylish way to opens up new avenues in combat.
Visuals outshine story
As Gin and his selected crew make their journey towards recovering their souls, there are tons of factions, locations, and scenarios to encounter and explore. There isn’t much gripping storytelling here, as many encounters with NPCs included slogs of dialog that didn’t hold my attention for long.
Much of what I found interesting was the game’s visuals, which make Hard West 2 stand out more than anything else. Outside of combat the game feels like a visual novel as carefully detailed character and environment portraits become a sight to behold. It’s fairly incredible what the developers have been able to pull off as the differences between the gameplay art style and the environmental storytelling are drastic and impressive.
I do wish I felt more invested in the characters and their motivations, as Hard West 2 delivers ways to appease the characters you grow most attached to. There are many decision-making moments that pop up at the end of interactions that allow you to grow your bond between characters, which is a nice touch, I just hoped I grew more invested in each of the posse members, which I never did.
Verdict – 6.5/10
Although Hard West 2 delivers on some awesome visuals and sound design, its gameplay didn’t hook me and its characters never grew on me. For those looking to scratch the itch of a turn-based tactics game until a wave of games releases in the fall of 2022, then this could be right up your alley.
Reviewed on PC.
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