We count down the 32 Dangerous Cheat Codes this holiday season!
- WATCH NOW -
Hard West Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . If the idea of XCOM in the Wild West sounds appealing, then chances are you're going to have a good time in the Hard West. With its western-theme and exciting turn-based combat, I had a blast taking out bandits and demons in Hard West. I had some issues with the story and the new additions to the formula, but still enjoyed a lot of what this package has to offer. Rating: 71%
Hard West
«
Hard West Hard West Hard West Hard West
  • Review Score:

  • B
As a long-time fan of XCOM, I was thrilled when 2K Games revived the long stagnant franchise in 2013. Not only was it great to see Sectoids, Floaters and Thin Men recreated on modern systems, but it gave me hope that we would see this style of turn-based strategy game duplicated in other settings and eras. Perhaps that's why I was drawn to Hard West, a game that mimics everything I love about the genre, while simultaneously taking me to a different time and place.

Let's not mince words here; Hard West is XCOM in the Wild West. It trades space aliens for bandits, natives and even demons. It's a clever retelling of western legends, giving players a chance to control the action one turn at a time. And just like the strategy games that inspired it, Hard West is both wildly addictive and dripping with character.


Set in the 19th century, this game is played out over a series of short vignettes. These brief adventures give us a chance to get to know the cast of characters and understand their plight. Each story takes on different western tropes, dealing with betrayal, land disputes, fights over lost treasure and so on. These chapters are self-contained, but the action will influence the rest of the story.

Although it starts out normal enough, Hard West takes a sharp turn into the supernatural. Our heroes will need to take cult members and demonic forces, all while another character is resurrected and given special powers in order to seek revenge on the men that shot him dead. While certainly unrealistic, these supernatural elements are a perfect fit that help to ratchet up the tension and give us different types of enemies to shoot up.

Fans of XCOM will feel right at home once the action starts. Players move a small squad around the wide open stages using simple turn-based mechanics. Each character gets two turns in a round, which will often be used to both move the player and then attack the bad guy on the other end of your six-shooter. Characters can also move greater distances by forgoing a second turn. Other possible moves include using secondary weapons, healing wounded fighters or simply laying cover fire so the rest of the team has a chance to escape to safety.

Hard West (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Instead of using high-tech gadgets, our heroes are forced to rely on outdated firearms and a dizzying amount of special powers. On top of keeping track of health of ammo, the game gives each character a luck meter that will deplete when you miss shots. You can use your luck meter to power-up your character and give him special perks. For example, the perk that gives any shot 100% accuracy can be a real lifesaver in tense firefights. What's more, you can make these moves even more effective by pairing them with the right kind of perks.

This is just one of the ways that Hard West deviates from the XCOM formula. Between the turn-based missions, players will navigate an overhead map that more than resembles a traditional table top experience. You move a pawn around the map and interact with the locals, take on side quests, mine for gold, hire useful helpers and pick up new weapons and items at the store. While these intermissions look the same at first glance, they each play out a little different. Some emphasize the mining, while others play out like an interactive novel. In one story, the player will have a warrant out for his arrest and need to traverse the local towns using a much different tactic.

While I applaud most of the additions made to the familiar formula, there are a few instances where Hard West comes up short. This is a game that looks the part, but still has trouble replicating the life and death tension found in XCOM. A lot of this has to do with the story constantly switching perspectives. Because of this structure, I didn't feel as invested in the characters and their deaths (both accidental and intended) didn't have the same emotional punch.

Hard West (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

I also had some issues with the different mission types and objectives. The game has a bad habit of forcing players into stealth missions. Instead of giving players the usual two turns, these sections limit movement and allow players to subdue unsuspecting baddies. It's a neat idea, but the execution left me cold. Because you're forced to move slowly, these stages tend to take longer to complete. Worst of all, there are no checkpoints, so you'll have to repeat large chunks of sneaking around.

It doesn't help that most of the enemies act the same way, leading to a lot of predictable and repetitive firefights. Even when demonic characters are introduced, there still isn't the level of variety you find in other similar games. Part of the fun of XCOM was juggling unique attacks from a bevy of wildly different alien types, but there isn't much of that in Hard West. As a result, many of the battles begin to feel familiar after a while.

Visually, the western locations look good. That said, the characters are small and the game isn't as cinematic as other recent turn-based strategy games. Everything plays out from the overhead perspective, so don't expect the camera to swoop down and show off an especially brutal kill. But even without those flourishes, the gameplay holds up and everything runs smoothly. The music is also good, as is the narration.

With its western-theme and exciting turn-based combat, I had a blast taking out bandits and demons in Hard West. I had some issues with the story and the new additions to the formula, but still enjoyed a lot of what this package has to offer. If the idea of XCOM in the Wild West sounds appealing, then chances are you're going to have a good time in the Hard West.
comments powered by Disqus