Hard West (PC)

The “Spaghetti Westerns” of directors like Sergio Leone forever transformed what was at the time one of the most genres, introducing audiences weaned on “Cowboys and Indians” to darker, grittier themes than they were used to. These films were rife with tragic irony, a level of violence unseen at that point, and sometimes, an element of the surreal. Well imagine if they went one step further and features actual nightmare landscapes where Clint Eastwood battled the demons of his own imagination, and you’ll get some idea of what Hard West is all about. Developed by Polish studio CreativeForge Games and released by Dutch publishers Gambitious Digital Entertainment, Hard West is a turn-based, tactical shooter that takes players back to a mythical land we’ve been to many times before: the Wild West.


Once Upon a Time in the West

The plot of Hard West is made up of a series of loosely connected scenarios following several different characters in a heavily fictionalized version of the American West. Each story involves tropes and themes typical of the Western genre – you hunt for gold, gamble, and visit Indian villages and Spanish missions; but there are also preternatural themes involving madness, demons, occult practices, and other elements normally associated with horror films and games. And to top it all off, the story is narrated by none other than Death himself.

The first scenario follows a young man and his father as they prospect for gold and fight to survive and avenge the murder of the young man’s mother. Other scenarios center around characters such as a young inventor slowly succumbing to insanity as he seeks to find a cure to a mysterious madness that has been sweeping the land; a cruel “Grand Inquisitor” trying to root out the forces of the devil in the West, all while clearly under his influence himself; a young woman named (predictably enough) Cassandra, who has been “gifted” with prophetic powers; and more – about a half-dozen scenarios in all.

I actually found the storyline quite uninteresting, unfortunately. By featuring several loosely connected vignettes, the game never gives you enough time to get to know any one character, nor do the characters really get the opportunity to develop in any meaningful sense. The story itself is either text-based, in a sort of choose-your-own adventure style, or narrated by the static portrait of Death on the right side of the screen. Sometimes you’ll be told via a few lines of text that your character killed a bunch of people, or performed some daring feat, but you never get to see it. I guess I can see how some people might be able to get into this, but to be honest I ended up just blowing past most of the text in order to get to the action.

Characters are rather one-dimensional and can range from delightfully stereotypical Western types, such as the nameless Pinkertons and various ruffians, to characters that almost seem shoehorned into the game, like the full-on Tomás de Torquemada-like "Grand Inquisitor", though I guess he does fulfill the mustache-twirling villain quota. But the real problem is that nothing ever carries over, and nothing you do really ever matters. When you start a new chapter, you can’t bring any of the items, abilities, or money with you from the previous one, since you’re playing as an entirely different character. This means that each brief chapter is essentially self-contained, and there’s really no buildup or climax to the story as a whole.


No Country for Old Men

Hard West features mostly turn-based tactical gameplay, with an overworld system that allows you to travel between locations, visit shops, and perform various actions associated with whatever storyline you’re playing. The combat system is obviously the centerpiece of the game, and you often read that it’s basically supposed to be XCOM: Enemy Unknown in the Old West. It also reminded me a bit of classics like Fallout Tactics.

Before you start a mission, you can manage your characters, equipping them with two different weapons, two consumable items, and a perk-granting special item, which can range from totems to a monocle to the “Doomsday Watch”. Weapons include your standard Western genre firearms such as revolvers and shotguns, as well as more outlandish and implausible pieces with multiple barrels and other gimmicks. Consumable items can be healing elixirs and herbs; alcohol, tobacco, and other substances that enhance your luck, movement, and other attributes; and various kinds of bombs and area-based items.

There’s also a card system, where you can mix and match cards to create poker hands, each one granting unique advantages, such as increased movement, sight, defense, etc. The cards themselves also grant perks and abilities, which can be as mundane as the ability to fire ricochet shots or as exotic as the ability to call upon demons to dispatch your enemies. One thing I really didn’t like, however, is that perks don’t stack. So, for example, if you have three of a kind, but can make a full house, you’ll get the full house perk but lose the one associated with three of a kind. And higher hands aren’t necessarily better, just different – you might lose a boon to aim, but have it replaced by increased defense or damage.

Combat is turn-based, usually beginning with a set-up phase where you can move your characters about freely, just as long as you don’t get too close to an enemy. When you fire the first shot, the enemies will also start moving and firing on their turns. Characters have a certain number of action points to use in each round, which usually translates to “move forward into cover, then fire”. Cover is important, and will affect not only how likely your shot is to hit, but also the damage it does. One major issue I had with the game – the one that seems to be the most common complaint – is that if you get too close to an enemy, they will automatically shoot you, often fatally. That in itself makes sense, as it forces you to use defensive tactics and keep your distance. The problem is that your own characters cannot do the same, which means your AI opponents can forfeit their own cover to walk right up and shoot you for massive damage.

The AI is stupid in other ways, too – if several of your own characters are within range, they seem to randomly select targets, instead of focusing on the characters with the least amount of health, or whose luck is already depleted. Ah yes, luck – luck is what you use to perform special abilities, and it also protects you to a degree. This is how it works: a character will usually start with say, 100 luck. If you have a 55% chance to hit an enemy for 4 damage, he will lose 55 luck but remain unharmed. The next time you shoot at him, you’ll deal the damage, but he will gain, +50 or so luck. Rinse and repeat. This system is kind of cool, but it also removes the random element you’d normally associate with a “chance to hit”, and makes it all rather mechanical. It also means that if you’re under cover and an enemy’s shot misses you, the next one is bound to hit.

Things are made even more frustrating by the fact that most character deaths will result in a failed mission, but there is no save game feature within combat missions. This means you can spend 45 minutes shooting through your enemies, only to be capped by the last one hiding on the upper floor of a building and have to start the whole thing over again.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The scenery in Old West is interesting and detailed enough, and each combat map has a wide variety of buildings, trees, rocks, furniture, and other things to hide behind. The designers do manage to capture the feel of the various environments, from ranches, to mission churches, to factories. The overworld map is decent, but nothing memorable really. I found that the character and inventory screens were a bit muddled-looking, and the cards and items were not very visually distinctive, but that may be a matter of personal taste. Character portraits were good enough, though not anything to write home about. The character models themselves seemed to be a bit limited – lots of palette swaps, though this makes sense in some cases (the three Pinkertons for example). And the animations appeared to be exactly the same for most of the models – it wasn’t uncommon to have two characters on either side of a door, breathing, peeking, and handling their weapons in unison.

The sound design is passable, with sort of a rock/country soundtrack and sound effects of the standard Western repertoire: gunshots, ricochets, reloads, and dying gasps. The voice acting is limited to pretty much just the narrator, who does a decent job. Full audio is available in English only at this time, though the game also features subtitles in German, French, Russian, and Polish.


Hard West is all right as far as indie games go, but I do not think it deserves the “Very Positive” rating it has on Steam. In fact, I’d say that its current price of $19.99 is entirely too high, if only for the fact that the game has no replay value to speak of. Since you can’t really influence the course of the story, which has very little holding it together as it is, it’s really just a series of loosely connected missions, all of which play out pretty much the same. Sure, you can try different difficulty levels, but then the only thing that’s really different is that the AI gets even more reckless in their confidence that they can run up and pop you without having to worry about getting automatically shot, while they can crowd around you and make it impossible to move anywhere without getting an instant bullet to the face. So at this time I’d recommend the game only to serious turn-based combat junkies, and tell everyone else to just wait till the game goes on sale.

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2017-07-23 14:06:06... - Victoria

Please i need key :(

2017-01-11 21:13:22... -


2017-01-03 04:41:52... - Ong

can i get a free key pls

2016-07-15 06:16:13... - georgi

please send the key to my email

2016-07-10 13:29:44... - poooooop

V6v5vy ibi

2016-07-09 01:34:57... - Lancenter

please key the game :c

2016-06-11 11:14:39... - Lupusor

please key

2016-05-07 22:07:12... - khali

please a key the game looks amazing

2016-04-12 15:11:03... - llama


2016-03-04 09:04:02... - anth


2016-02-26 08:08:22... - SUPER TARE JOCUL

imi place

2016-02-25 15:03:04... - Igor


2016-02-16 02:02:01... - matheus


2016-02-15 07:52:41... - Alex


2016-02-14 22:52:34... - asdsa


2016-02-14 12:12:17... - Jeff

not bad game but need some good story :) please

2016-02-12 20:46:33... - Tofiq

not bad game but need some good story :)

2016-02-11 22:12:04... - rolixgamer500


2016-02-11 20:39:53... - TheBeastya


2016-02-10 18:28:51... - Madi


2016-02-10 18:24:50... - asd


Hard West Review
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