Hard West 2 Review - Bouncing Back
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Hard West 2 Review - Bouncing Back

Hard West 2 is aptly named. Its default difficulty setting is called Hard, too, and with good reason. Enemies are punishing and your squad's capacity to battle against overwhelming odds is tested relentlessly over the course of several dozen hours of turn-based tactical combat. It's a game about choosing the exact right moments to use their unique skills and working them in tandem to tee up devastating chain reaction combos. It's tough, sure, but this demonic rendition of the American Frontier, where grotesque locomotives warp to alternate dimensions and blood rituals summon the walking dead, supplies you with the necessary creative tools to stand your ground, and rising to the challenge proves immensely satisfying.

There's more to Hard West 2 than turn-based tactical combat, but not much more. The primary focus is a series of missions, usually with some choices about which mission to tackle next. In these, you command a posse of four gunslingers, taking turns to shoot, use supernatural skills, and advance from cover to cover. Along the way, as you traverse the overworld map on horseback, you'll meet characters and accept quests from them to hunt down wanted criminals, investigate murders, recover livestock, fight waves of outlaws and demons, rob a bank, and most importantly, track down the man who stole your souls in a rigged game of poker aboard his steam train from Hell.

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Outside of combat, Hard West 2 is essentially a bare-bones RPG. Conversations are minimal and straight to the point. Towns have shops where you can buy new weapons and replenish consumable healing items, buffs, and explosives. Quests rarely involve much more than sending you off to investigate a location and returning once the job is done. Narrative choices are limited to supporting which of your companions has the right idea for dealing with the current problem, and you can make camp to rest and chat with your companions to learn more of their backstories. These chats are linked one-to-one to the narrative choices you've made in a way that rather unflatteringly exposes the bald mechanics: support a companion often enough and you'll level up your relationship to unlock the next tier of their backstory. It's all quite basic and dry. But at least the RPG portion of the game is out of the way pretty quickly and doesn't waste too much of your time getting to the good part: the combat.

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