Hard West Hands-On Preview | PAX Prime 2015

Hard West

Hard West is what you get when you mix XCOM and a good old fashioned wild west revenge story.

The game is made up of two different play types. The first is an overworld map – with obligatory cow skull cursor – where you can scroll around the world selecting areas to accomplish tasks such as help a snake oil salesman try out his latest concoction (which of course turns out to be poison) or disarm poacher traps and ambush them. In this mode, players will find themselves making text-based decisions that, as previously described, could help or hurt them.

Hard West

The heftier part of the game comes during combat, and this is when the XCOM inspiration really shines through. Before each combat instance, you equip your party, who are either hired or recruited in true RPG fashion, with weapons and special ability cards such as ricochet shots. These 24 ability cards are based on a deck of cards, and if you match two or more cards, you’re given an extra boost to your strength.

Like XCOM, your characters are placed on a grid with full and half cover spread throughout the map. Where Hard West differs is that you can sometimes make your own cover. Flip a table over for some half cover, or open that basement door to turn half cover into full cover. Another innovation found within is its luck feature; this dictates how successful your actions or actions taken against you will be. You use luck to make hard shots, reduce or even avoid any damage inflicted on you. The abilities you equip before combat affects the luck you have and unfortunately, once you use it all, your luck can literally run out.

The mission in the demo had me “rescue” someone who had information on the man I was hunting from a camp of some lovely cannibals. Instead of initiating combat immediately, I had the option of using the snake oil salesman’s tonic-gone-wrong to poison the camp’s water supply to weaken the cannibals. If I wanted, I could have gone further with the option of sticking up the enemies to intimidate them into not attacking, but with them already weak from the poisoned water I figured I wouldn’t have a better shot at taking them all out.

Hard West
Here’s all the XCOM in the west you can handle!

A combat variable I didn’t get a chance to see much of was shadows. If you’re placed correctly, you can see an enemy coming by his shadow, or even – after the correct sequence of events happen – track them down by smelling the blood they spill. Conversely, if you’re trying to sneak up on an enemy, don’t be behind them with the sun behind you; they’ll spot you immediately and take you out.

Hard West has a lot of potential to scratch the strategy game itch brought on by the delay of XCOM 2, and in a way that no one would have anticipated. PC, Mac, and Linux users will have a chance to test their decision making and luck when Hard West releases this Fall.

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