It’s pretty refreshing to see a games set in the Old West. So much of the AAA sphere is filled with sleeky, glossy, cybernetic future cities to put all the cybernetic cyber soldiers in, it’s often forgotten what an interesting motif the spaghetti western was when explored by games like Red Dead Redemption. Hard West takes the grit of the Western genre and puts its own unique spin on it. It’s incredibly interesting, albeit a little bit lacklustre.
Hard West plays out over nine unlockable campaigns, each with different characters and stories. Right out of the gate, Hard West cranks the dial to 11, mixing in traditional elements of classic westerns and sprinkling in a bit of the occult for good measure. Expect deals with the devil and battling demons as well as outlaws.
Gameplay-wise, Hard West plays very similar to games like Fire Emblem or X-Com, combining shooter elements with a bit of turn-based strategy. Players will need to fight smart as most health is limited and most characters can be killed in one or two shots. This is where the game’s cover system comes in. By taking cover, players and enemies can reduce the chance to be hit. Also, being that the combat is pretty gun heavy, there is an interesting ammo management mechanic I quite like. While players have infinite ammo, they have to manage proper reloads lest they be left with an empty chamber during their turn. It’s a cool mechanic and adds to the overall strategy, especially with more characters in your team.
There’s another factor that plays into combat as well. Lady Luck may be smiling on you as all characters have a luck meter that can be used for special attacks, or influence damage taken. A shot may miss a player, at the cost of some of their luck.
Combat is a bit lacklustre for me, as quite a few scenarios place you as one character fighting whole gangs of outlaws, and because they’re just as good as you at taking cover and getting into position, you’ll often find yourself either outgunned and frustrated, or patiently waiting for one enemy to move out of position and bored.
Outside of combat, players follow the story in a sequence of dialogue options and overworld planning, choosing paths to follow that influence special unlocks and managing your team (or solo hero) special abilities before combat.
The game does look quite nice with a gritty, yet simplistic style that does manage to fit a lot of detail onto every battlefield. Couple that with a great soundtrack and an awesome Sam Elliott-style narrator.
Overall, Hard West is a pretty interesting game. While it’s combat failed to grab me in the same way Fire Emblem did, it’s got interesting mechanics, a great setting, and serious sense of style. If you’re hankering for a million ways to die in the west, I’d say this is worth a look.