Hard West Review
Welcome to our CHEATfactor Game Review of Hard West. We review the game and then factor in how the available cheats affect the overall game experience. For better or worse, our reviews will help you decide whether or not to use cheats when playing the game.
If it's true that there are no more original ideas then the next best thing would have to be a new take on an established idea. Take Hard West for example, the tactical shooter is essentially XCOM in the Wild West and with satisfying combat, a unique tone and cool power-ups, it wildly succeeds at it's unique formula. Be warned though, the developers seem to have been uninterested in what made a game like XCOM such a classic to begin with and the result is a game that goes through the motions and sometimes even improves on them but rarely feels finished.
When first launching the game I thought Hard West was going to tell me the same old wild west story of murder, revenge and robbery and it sort of did, except with a bit of a twist. All of these things are present and prevalent in Hard West but they're all bookended by a unique horror twist. The unique story which features death himself as the gravely narrator is less showdown at the OK Corral and more showdown at the gates of hell...but you know, with cowboys. The story itself is broken up into four separate but connected stories that follow the misfortune of one very unlucky family. It's a cool way to tell a story that feels like it would otherwise be entirely predictable without it.
Just don't expect anything as deep as 2K's classic alien shooter. Unlike in XCOM, I didn't care about hardly any of the characters in Hard West. When one of my characters, especially those who I had invested time into leveling up and making stronger it was devastating and set me back hours. With Hard West it was more of a shoulder shrug. I was at the wrong end of a gun more times than I can count and saw more game over screens that I ever did in a game like XCOM but the lack of true permadeath or any real connection to the world of Hard West made it feel like no big deal at all. I wanted to care and I wanted to be invested in the world that developer Creative Forge Games created but I just couldn't bring myself too.
It's a good thing then that Hard West is as successful of a tactical combat game then. It may not have recreated the heart of XCOM, but this is a game that plays and feels like the spiritual successor to the series more than anything else. Each character has two action points to spend in the isometric world of Hard West and the secret to the game as you'd expect is more to out maneuver your opponent than outgun them, at least in most cases. Much like it's source material, Hard West gives you some pretty unique environments to duel in that fit the game's tone like graveyards and old abandoned churches. Most of the battles play out the same way but the depth and challenge kept me coming back to Hard West even when I didn't really want to.
The biggest change Hard West makes to the established formula though is the addition of Luck and other super natural abilities that will change the way you encounter most enemies. Luck is used more as a defensive weapon than anything else, as you gain more of it as you take on more damage, always allowing you the possibility of coming back from even the worst beatings. As you progress further through the game you'll unlock more of these special abilities like a gun that can fire bullets through any surface, or one that fires ricocheting bullets that seek out their targets. These abilities are cool and all but they sort of take away from the need to be strategic in Hard West, especially later in the game when it seems that these powers can cut through everything...and everyone.
Much of Hard West takes place in an over-world type map that always has you moving from one place to the next. There are always towns to visit, merchants to buy from and yes, enemies to gun down but it all seems like filler. Does it serve it's purpose in getting you from one section of the game to the other? Sure, but I didn't feel any need to go anywhere the game wasn't explicitly telling me to go to move the game forward unless I was in desperate need of a specific weapon or item. There are twists to missions available like trying to fend off a curse that drains your HP and action points faster in combat but they did little to keep me interested. For a game that does combat so well, Hard West seemingly had an obsession with taking me away from it and showing me what it doesn't do so well.
I enjoyed my time with Hard West, but I likely won't be going back to it because to this day I'm still playing XCOM on an almost weekly basis. Hard West is often fun and complex tactical game, but it fails to capture what made it's source material such a classic to begin with. If you're looking for a new game to pass the time you could do a lot worse than Hard West, but you could definitely do a lot better at the same time.
Joe started off writing about video games for small fan sites when he realized he should probably do something with his communications degree and didn't want to get into the grind of daily reporting. Joining the team in late 2008, Joe is the featured game reviewer for Cheat Happens, producing up to 10 CHEATfactor Game Reviews per month.
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