Hard West

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Title: Hard West
Developer: CreativeForge Games
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Website: http://www.creativeforge.pl/hwgame
Genre: Adventure, RPG
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: 18
Release Date: 07/03/2019
Price: £17.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

What the Developers say

Welcome to the Wild West as you’ve never seen before. Follow Warren on his descent into the darkest recesses of the human soul, and try to survive in a world full of hard choices and even harder consequences. Because in this world, death is a constant presence and the black pacts which you make with forces beyond human comprehension will forever haunt all those around you.

Journey deeper into the world of Hard West and meet a colorful cast of playable characters whose fates are intimately intertwined with yours. Together you will need to make divisive choices to uncover the ultimate plans of the ancient powers at play, as you unravel a deep narrative storyline featuring multiple endings depending on the choices you make during the game.

Introduction

Hard West follows one man’s path of revenge and brutality. You make a deal at a crossroads with a smart gentleman, not realising that you’ve made a deal with the devil. Throw in a supernatural element as you descend into the dark and gritty Western Wilderness. The game is full of hard choices and consequences that will affect the outcome of your tale. You will meet a cast of unique individuals whose fate is intertwined with yours.

Looks and Sounds

Hard West has a gritty, dark look to it on the Nintendo Switch. The Old West is filled with empty buildings, rolling tumbleweeds and dark Saloons full of cutthroat cowboys that want you dead.

Environments in Hard West look quite dark and have a rusted look to them. Shadows are cascading over most of the obstacles, buildings and crates which surround each area. There are a lot of browns used in these levels as though the colour has been drained from the world or like you’re looking at an old photograph.

You really get a sense of an evil presence surrounding you during each level, and the atmosphere does a good job of pulling you deeper down the rabbit hole with its dark tones.

The sounds of Hard West is excellent, especially the voice acting! All of the voice clips for the main characters are really well done and really draw you into the experience. The shots fired for the 30 plus guns all sound punchy when ricocheting around the environment. A lot of care and attention has been implemented here, and I think it really shows.

Gameplay and Replayability

Gameplay in Hard West is good old fashion turn-based strategy. While a lot of people will compare it to X-COM, which is one of the few games I’ve never had the pleasure to play. However, Hard West reminds me little of one of my all-time favourite 3DS games – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars.

Similarly, your team or individual characters around an area trying to take out all the enemies on a map, as well as completing secondary objectives if they arise. And while both games are set in totally different periods and settings and have their own story and set up, I can see some similarities in its combat.

Once you’ve started the game for the first time, you’ll be treated to a brief tutorial that will teach you ropes with helpful tip boxes that will pop up during the training mission. This will give you the run-down on Hard West’s fundamental mechanics and how to navigate around the user interface.

Each character uses AP which is located on the shield above your characters. These golden circles show you how many times you can move or shoot during a turn. Once it’s used up though, you will move to another available character in your team, or it will end your turn and enemies will get there chance to attack. Also visible above the head of your characters is their current health points which are displayed in red.

A certain amount of AP is required to move long distances. However, it’s always a good idea to find cover as you’ll be a sitting duck if you’re out in the open too long. Thankfully, at the beginning of a new turn, your AP will be replenished.

Other information you need to be aware of is the character icons which are located in the bottom left-hand corner. Here you can cycle through characters with the L and R bumpers and select different weapons if you have any others equipped with the Y button. You also see your current health, luck under your character portrait.

Moving characters around is relatively straightforward, and this can be done with the left analogue stick. All you need to do is target a specific location and press the A button which will make your characters walk to that location. You can also scroll through your available powers with the ZR and LR triggers and activate them by pressing the A button. The right analogue stick controls the camera movement, and the directional-pad can help you spin the camera around so that you can look around corners. Sadly, I did find the right pad camera a little wonky at times.

The gameplay can be quite challenging, and you will need to implement a sound strategy to get through it safely. Your goal here is to complete your primary objective, which is spread throughout multiple scenarios and difficulty settings.

After the tutorial is complete, you are introduced to the world of Hard West. The World map will be your first port of call; Here you can navigate around different areas with the analogue stick and A button, moving to new locations and discovering new areas of interest. These sections of the game teach you the basics on how to acquire gold which is the primary form of currency in the game.

All dialogue in the world map is done through text and dialogue boxes. These help to advance the main story and find new locations where you find shops, side quests and new areas of interest.

Buying items and weapons are a must in these sections, so you are not going into battles unprepared. I always tried to seek out new mines to acquire more gold, and when I had a decent amount, I still visited other shops in the area as each one sells different types of items and weapons.

However, be careful because as you become more infamous people may start avoiding you and charge you more when buying stuff in shops which is a pretty cool mechanic. Your choices can negatively affect you if you make a lot of bad ones.

I found this section of little game bland, although I did enjoy the story and interactions with some of the other characters during these parts the world map became a little tedious. Having to continually click on a marker/location to visit it, selecting a dialogue option only to repeat that mechanic multiple times before getting back into any proper gun-slinging action.

Don’t get me wrong; some of the interactions and choices were entertaining. But I grew tired of this after a while and longed for a sequence where I could ride on horseback to each new area instead.

Thankfully once you enter a battle things start to get good. Missions are varied and have you either killing everyone on the map to opening locked gates or even saving an individual from crazy carnivorous cowboys.

It’s not all about shooting though, and good cover should never be overlooked; trying to flank enemies is the best course of action. However, luck is on your side here thanks to the Luck mechanic which provides a useful service in Hard West. It’s a resource that can help you avoid taking fire from enemies. Some specific abilities/cards can replenish this resource, sometimes hiding behind good cover or making a direct hit can restore it to.

But you can’t just hope that luck will get you out of a tight spot. You’ll need to be little proactive and use some of your luck to activate one of your selected supernatural cards which can provide special increases in overall abilities and even gain your demonic powers. It’s an excellent bet to spread out cards to all party members during battle set-up, so everyone has a chance to survive and use cards to help the team complete their goals.

You can also buy weapons, other items at shops which are scattered around the world map which I mentioned early. There are 40 histrionic weapons to get to which is cool and there also a lot of different items that can be equipped on your character slots – at the beginning of a battle. These items can increase aiming, give you other useful stat bonuses during battle.

Also, make sure you buy health items as I found them most helpful to have for secondary characters. Your main character has a passive ability though which is useful during play. Standing in the darkness can replenish your health a little and believe me, in later battles this will be a life saver.

I found combat to be engaging enough and seriously challenging at times. I even struggled with normal difficulty at times. But I can’t deny that what I’ve played has scratched that turn-based itch I’ve been having for quite some time.

My only issues are that during battle sections I found certain scenery pieces obstructed my field of view even though you can swing the camera around certain areas would not let me see certain set-pieces like stair-wells or having my view hindered by ladders. I had one, and my character was shot dead because of it which was highly annoying.

Also, enemies are invisible on the map until you approach them. But this proved to be a pain as sometimes my carefully laid plans would be ruined due to enemy characters appearing instantly in front of my character without a way of knowing they were there. And if any of my allies walked within a red enemy circle, they would be shot straight away.

I had a playthrough where I lost one my more powerful characters in an instant which then made it nearly impossible for me to complete my mission, after almost an hour of planning and executing it. Having it ruined by a random character appearing behind wall actual made me rage quit, something I hardly ever do! The only way you would have known about enemy placement before-hand would be if you had played the battle before.

Last but not least, if you complete a scenario, you’re not taken to the next one, you’re thrown back to the main menu. You’ll need to select the campaign again and pick the scenarios available. I would have preferred the game to move me to the next episode instead of kicking me out to the main menu every time.

None these issues are game breaking though, but it’s good is aware of them if you’re thinking about picking up Hard West. Hard West goes that extra mile with its core combat, adding in unique mechanics to change up the gameplay and create a Wild West World worth experiencing. Adding in a little supernatural twist makes the game a little different from the norm.

Conclusion

The game has many scenarios to play through, and three difficulty level to pick in each. Hard West comes with 40 historical weapons to purchase and use in combat. Multiple characters each with unique stats and personalities and choices that can affect your fate and the fate of others. Also, there is a compelling squad-based combat experience in Hard West that will appeal to strategy fans alike.

I like this title and feel a lot of people who enjoy a challenging experience will love it too. But, does it beat my favourite all time turn based strategy on 3DS? I’d have to say, it’s not quite Tom Clancys Ghost Recon: SW. But, this is still an excellent game for the Switch that I know a lot of people will enjoy playing. Hard West also comes with the Scars of Freedom expansion which adds some extra content to mix.

There are some issues here and there that might get in your way of being a badass, dead Cowboy, but it doesn’t ruin the experience too much.

Rapid Reviews UK Rating

You can purchase Hard West on the Nintendo eShop at the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Hard-West–1523198.html#Overview

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