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Are You Ready For Hard West?

A few years ago I took a trip through Colorado, spending some exploring the mountains and towns of that fine state. It inspired me to write up the beginnings of a pen-and-paper RPG using the World of Darkness set in the era of the Western, albeit with a heavy dose of supernatural mystery and weirdness wrapped up in the whole thing. It's a project that I have yet to finish, but it's always been the game I've wanted to play.

And now look, CreativeForge Games has gone and made just that: a turn-based tactical shooter set in the American Southwest that is brimming with supernatural elements. These guys are really killing my motivation to actually write up the rest of my universe for the tabletop, but the other side of the coin is that it looks like I'll be playing the game I've always wanted to have made.

Before I continue, take a look at the first 15 minutes of gameplay of Hard West:

If you're not familiar with Hard West, the game first found legs via a successful Kickstarter campaign that wrapped up a bit more than a year ago. The game will see full release November 18th.

As much as I love XCOM, I love the setting of the American Southwest better. Hard West looks to bring the crunchy turn-based combat of XCOM to the wild west, and I'm totally ok with that move. I'm a big fan of tabletop skirmish games, which is why XCOM was so important to me, and while tactical turn-based skirmish games on the PC don't scratch every itch I have for the genre, they often come close. Of course, the thing I'm looking forward to most about this western skirmish game is the persistent elements--the traits and characteristics developed by characters as the game progresses. It's the RPG gravity well that I just can't seem to escape.

And Hard West seems like it is going to be much more than a western XCOM. There are some distinctly supernatural elements that have really piqued my curiosity. The West is best when it's weird and just a bit "out there," in my opinion. Sure, straight up westerns are fine, but the setting is already heavily mythologized. Adding a bit of the weird and supernatural is a natural way to elevate the genre.

If you watched the video, you'll see the combat bits are pretty violent. While the characters you play seem to have a bit more health than the average dude with a gun, people don't survive long under fire. I think every enemy was killed with a single shot save one, which quickly fell to a second bullet. So maybe it's not going to be XCOM-levels of punishing, but still, I don't know that's what I'm looking for in a tactical shooter anyway.

So what are my concerns? Well, they are speculative, but I have two, and they are entirely based on the 15 minutes of the game I've seen, and so should be take with a grain of salt. First, the AI skirmishing units don't seem particularly intelligent. In the second fight, with the exception of two enemies, the entire force attacking your ranch attacks via one route, and they all ended up dying in roughly the same spot--standing in the open. I hope that was a quirk of the particular scenario shown, because anyone who has played a tactical skirmish game knows that cover is vital. The second is story, and while we haven't really seen much, the narrative of games is always something I'm wary of, especially since there are so few games being made that manage to tell interesting stories.

But hey, we'll see if I'm right or wrong in about a week. Hard West can be preordered for $15.99 up to release. Until then I'll just have to look fondly on my copy of Red Dead Redemption and sigh wistfully.

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