Hard west: The Wild West is not in vain bore such a name. If conquering and surviving America had been easy, the western genre might never have come into being. Who wants to watch movies where settlers are doing well, and cowboys drink whiskey in the company of Indians mastering the production of french fries? That’s right, it’s better to go to films where the characters have at least a million ways to die in the New World, and even better if a pinch of mysticism is added to the already terrible human trials. That’s when the western begins to shimmer with darker, more attractive colors for viewers tired of the genre.
But the kind of cinema where westerns have been shown since the very beginning of cinematography. In games about guys in wide-brimmed hats, as a rule, they forget. Well, how to make a cool and selling game, where the hero does not have an arsenal of huge guns, and a stick of dynamite cannot be put on a timer, and where everything is limited to one era and one environment design? How many good Wild West games can you remember? Red Dead Redemption, Call of Juarez, Gun, Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive and… well… uh…
However, no matter how many such games there really are (of course, there are more of them, but still not many), another one has been added to the piggy bank. Of course, up to AAA status, she is like a frontier without a horse, but she brings about as much pleasure as big projects. Moreover, this is not a shooter, not an action game, not a real-time strategy, but a very high-quality turn-based tactics with the promised mysticism (demons, resurrection from the dead, nightmares), as well as with the classic plot elements of the genre: shooting in saloons, saving beauties, battles for small settlements, headhunting, bank robberies.
The story begins quite banally: the enemies kidnap the mother of the protagonist, his father rushes to her rescue, kills everyone, but is still late. All that is left of his wife is quietly placed in a small chest, and the leader of the bandits has long since disappeared. There is nothing to do – you have to return and start life anew. You need to build a house, earn money and dream of going somewhere far away. However, if the father gave up and was tired of revenge, then the son is not. He literally goes through hell to punish the killer of his mother, but even this story does not end there.
In total, there are eight campaigns with completely different plots and characters, whose paths converge, diverge and complement each other. In some campaigns, an almost classic western reigns, in others – stories with the active participation of heroes who have come to life for the sake of revenge and agents of the Devil working among people. In fact, there are so many evil spirits around that you involuntarily feel like a hero of Supernatural, only with a completely non-teenage age rating.
But magic and mysticism have little effect on the main gameplay. Here you have a small location, a few heroes and a crowd of enemies. Having a restriction on movement and actions, but not on ammunition, you either need to kill all the enemies, or perform some kind of manipulation with objects and escape, or even imagine that you are playing stealth and go through the episode without raising the alarm and leaving no victims, but such a possibility is a rare exception. The control is almost standard, it has not changed a bit, it seems, since XCOM: two action points, one is always spent on movement (option – reloading), and the second – either for shooting or for additional movement. From weapon to weapon, the available skills in handling it change. For example, you can arrange not very targeted shooting from two revolvers in Macedonian style, you can shoot at enemies with a ricochet, you can crush adversaries with shot. If the mission accepts a softer and quieter tactic, then all characters, without exception, have the ability to “Scare” so that enemies do not accidentally raise the alarm ahead of time.
But if it comes to shooting, it is better to be as prepared as possible for it. In addition to the standard cover system, luck plays a key role in skirmishes. If the character has enough of it for a couple of clover fields, then there is a chance that the bullets will literally go around him in an arc. However, after such a trick, the luck indicator will definitely fall, and most likely, the second bullet will fly to the character right between the eyes. Replenishing luck is very simple – you need to get this same bullet in the body, and if the wound is not fatal, then luck will return. Here is such a simple system.
However, there are more sorrows than joys in receiving a dose of lead. In addition to the possible unpleasant death of a key character, there are also injuries from wounds that affect the basic characteristics. Hands begin to shake, eyes become foggy, and now the character does not see the enemy a meter away from him, and if he does, he can hardly hit him. So don’t take bullets to heart, otherwise you will be very, very sad, especially if you have enabled a special mode in the settings that throws off all your saves after the death of a key hero and forces you to start the campaign from scratch. However, fans of hardcore will appreciate the mode.
To stay alive, you will have to take care of yourself: buy new trunks, amulets, amulets, clothes and medicines, as well as complete as many extra-plot tasks as possible that will unlock additional pleasant bonuses. Among these bonuses, there are playing cards, you can’t play poker with them, but you will distribute them to the characters. Each card is nothing more than a power-up that doesn’t help much at low difficulty levels, but is absolutely necessary if you suddenly want to test yourself. Among the cards there are both basic amplifiers of perception, health, defense and accuracy, as well as more practical ones like the Cannibal skill, which allows you to eat corpses and restore health. And card combinations add even more indicators to characters for basic characteristics and active skills.
The personal qualities of each character, combined with maps and artifacts, just become the very magical help that greatly transforms the local gameplay and transfers it from the category of ordinary tactical turn-based strategies about skirmishes to some kind of gloomy fantasy. Calling these skills battle magic, of course, does not turn the tongue, but it is not necessary, because the game is not about fireballs, but about a beautiful story where there is a place for everything: love and hate, the fight against bandits and battles with demonic offspring.
In addition to story encounters, as already mentioned, the game has additional tasks with micro-stories. They are scattered across the global map and sometimes not highlighted at all by a big exclamation mark. In order to find them, you need to travel and chat with the inhabitants.
Each campaign takes place on its own territory: some of the characters end up in the land of the Indians, someone ends up in the very center of mining gold mining. You need to drive a conditional “figurine” of the hero between the key points of the map, communicate with merchants, decide the fate of side characters, actively earn and immediately spend money, preparing for the next battle. The combat encounters themselves in each campaign are unlikely to be more than five or six, so you should not hide money in a chest, saving for a future that may not come.
Unfortunately, this element of the gameplay with traveling around the world map cannot be called a full-fledged strategy, because there is no time counter, no move transfer, no random events, and there are no enemies either. In fact, this is just a beautifully designed menu of episodes that fits seamlessly into the story campaign. By the way, even here you can lose someone from the team if you do not follow which button you press in dialogues with the NPC. And without additional fighters during combat clashes, oh, how hard.
So let’s get back to local tactics. Everything affects the outcome of the battle. Completing side quests often allows you to start the level from a different, more convenient point; planning and selection of ammunition help to catch enemies by surprise; and even the position of the sun is on your side when it lengthens the shadows and gives away enemies hiding in ambush.
Yes, the game is not expensive. Here, each barrel from a huge arsenal does not have its own animation: shooting is visually different only for guns and revolvers, and the rest are displayed either as the first or as the second. There is no beautiful play of light, which was shown in the staged screenshots during the announcement. There is a lot of things missing here, but oddly enough, this is good for the project. No inflated system requirements, no bloated volumes, due to which the same restart of XCOM took up 20 gigabytes of hard disk space, although it did not look that photorealistic. In Hard West, the developers have focused on the main thing – on the gameplay, and if the game is not graphically perfect, then the gameplay in it is verified to the smallest detail.
For fans of revolvers, saloons, hats and prairies, as well as connoisseurs of whiskey, coin clinking and good tactical games, Hard West has gone all out in trying to be the perfect project. But since the ideal does not exist, the game has become just a great, rich and multi-level fun that will drag fans of the genre for several weeks.