The Old American Southwest has proved to be a compelling setting for many games in recent years. It is a time period that lends itself to stories about exploring unknown places in quiet, dusty lands. Naturally, tales about the supernatural, developed by Ice Code Games, are becoming popular as well. Hard West 2, is the latest game to embrace the Weird West genre and is the sequel to one of the first games to feature cowboys and ghouls.
Hard West 2 extends Hard West 1's XCOM turn-based combat and adds more gunslinger gameplay that rewards high-risk plays with high rewards. Ice Code Games also increased the production value for this game, creating a unique and visually stimulating game.
Hard West 2 depicts a group of outlaws that is chasing a ghost train across the American Southwest. Gin Carter is the leader of a diverse group of gunslingers that includes witches, a pastor, and an undead cowboy. He has taken the soul of Kastral Colt, the posses finest gunlinger, and never takes too many turns from the main plot.
Hard West 2's narrative comes to life via presentation, which is evident throughout the campaign's beautifully drawn graphics. Sometimes, single-frame cutscenes during crucial moments in the narrative steal the show with their exceptional color work and detailed characters, ensuring that the game never lacks something nice to look at.
Hard West 2's dialogue is influenced by several prominent voices, including Kevin Conroy, well-known for playing Batman, and Darien Sills-Evans, who played Weaver in Days Gone. As the player develops this insight and headcanon, Hard West 2's old-school narrative style can certainly appeal to those who enjoy this type of game.
Over several side missions, players will be required to make important decisions for each posse member, thereby enhancing the narrative's role-playing elements. Most of these side quests are straightforward and consist of simply clicking the correct dialogue choice and selecting which posse member will receive the Loyalty Points. Decisions, however, are minor in nature.
Hard West 2 is a sequel to the popular XCOM strategy games. It's difficult to deduce their similarities even in the sequel. It's also fairly straightforward to follow the game's simple UI and visual language influences, while sticking to the more loose design of Gears Tactics.
The ability to best utilize these strategies in any combat situation is based on skill and experience. The player has to decipher what the next best move is and how to make it enjoyable. However, there are a few limitations that make Hard West 2 different from other strategy games.
Hard West 2 is a strategy game that focuses more on short-term, high-risk plays rather than long-term strategy and pre-planning. Moreover, the Bravado mechanic guarantees that players always get turns.
Bravado helps players think outside the box and develop a more freeform combat system in the process. Oftentimes, the best strategy in a combat scenario is to stand in the middle of the battlefield, cash out some stored Luck, and take down everyone on the field as soon as the attackers have been defeated. It's also a quite enjoyable game when everything works out for the player.
The combination of Luck and Bravado provides a unique twist to Hard West 2, but it often feels like it comes at the expense of the game's other systems. Many players may find themselves simply attempting to farm Luck throughout their shootouts, only to eventually cash it all out at the same time to complete a scenario. In addition, the gameplay loop may end up feeling a bit stale after a while when combined with a shallow set of overall strategy mechanics.
Hard West 2 is primarily used to move, shoot, or take cover, but few players have unique abilities that are usually very situational, and few players have abilities that are likely to change the course of a battle. All of which are standard for the genre and could have significantly enhanced the tactical skill set of this game.
Hard West 2 is a much more fleshed-out world than Hard West 1. Each setting is characterized by a different climate and a new set of landmarks that serve more as an interactive map than as a robust open-world experience.
Despite its shortcomings and missed opportunities, Hard West 2 is a solid strategy game. Ice Code Games crafted a unique and action-packed combat system while retaining much of what makes this type of strategy game so enjoyable.
Hard West 2 is now available on PC. Game Rant was given a PC code for this review.