Hard West was developed by CreativeForge Games and published by Gambitious Digital Entertainment. It was released on November 18th, 2015 for $19.99. A review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Initially a Kickstarter project, 4,398 backers pledged $94,183 CAD to fund development.

Hard West is a turn based strategy action title with some similarities to X:COM and other tactical shooter type games. The movement and combat mechanics are streamlined and the game plays very well. Artistically the game is very thematic, showing off a western style and some interesting illustrations. While stability was a slight issue, there are various graphic settings that can be adjusted to ensure smooth play. The replay value is moderate due to some variance in certain characters surviving events. There is also an option to turn the difficulty up or down for each scenario. 

Hard west min cover

What I enjoyed:

Screaming themeHard West is extremely thematic and stylized with a western theme. There are additional layers to the thematic aspect including gold mining and battling Mexican cartels. The theme is very well constructed and fits every aspect of story and game play. It is clear that during development making this western theme scream was a high priority.

Tactical is practical – There is something to be said for turn based games of this nature. Allowing players to spend time picking what they hope will be the perfect move for each character is engaging and thought provoking. A major benefit of these types of games for my personal situation is that my toddler often wants attention randomly. Turn based games afford the ability to walk away for a bit and come back to them at your convenience.

Simply elegant One of the outstanding aspects of Hard West is that the game mechanics are streamlined and simple. This is not to say the game isn’t difficult, just that manipulating your characters and their items or upgrades is very easy to comprehend. The system of playing cards which give your characters various abilities and bonuses is a fantastic example of the elegance of design. These cards along with weapons and gear are very easy to change or set up due to an intuitive interface for each character.

Hard West S2

What I disliked:

Environmental challenges – The area that I found to be a bit of a let down was that most of the battle environments seemed very similar. The layouts were different at times, but the option of sunny Mexican villa or burning western landscape was somewhat redundant. There is certainly room for expansion in this game and if development does explore that option, more unique environments would be a necessary addition.

Jammed revolver – At one point in my preview video there was a full crash, seemingly due to rendering both the first and second floor of a building at once. These little stutters were seen a handful of times. I was reverted back to the start of an entire mission in the case of the crash which is always a bit of a let down. The issues while distracting are not debilitating and shouldn’t keep anyone from finishing the game.

Covered sight – The mechanics are fairly solid minus an occasional miscalculation or bug in the combat system. There were a couple of instances where the percentage for hit was below 20% but there was clear line of sight and no cover for the enemy. This was not common enough to be a major issue. I will say it ruined my tactical advantage in the instances that it did occur.

Hard West S1

Tactical turn based games are generally fun and provide a substantial amount of thought to play. Hard West is worthy of being mentioned alongside a title like XCOM. It may not have the depth in terms of long term character advancement but it’s a solid experience with a fantastic theme. If you like western themes or tactical shooting games of this type then this game is certainly one to enjoy.

Score: Buy it now

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