The old American Southwest has proven to be a compelling setting for many games in recent years. It is a time period that lends itself to stories about venturing into the unknown in eerily quiet, dusty lands. Naturally, tales about the supernatural filled with things that go bump in the night become good fits for such a setting, and many games are starting to take notice. Hard West 2, developed by Ice Code Games, is the latest game to embrace the budding “Weird West” genre and is the follow-up to one of the first games to embrace worlds filled with cowboys and ghouls.
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Hard West 2 takes the XCOM-style turn-based combat of Hard West 1 and doubles down on the action, taking a more “gunslinger” approach to gameplay that rewards high-risk plays with high rewards. Ice Code Games also ramped up the production value for this title, prettying up Hard West’s Oregon Trail-like presentation, creating a unique and visually stimulating package. It isn’t the most mechanically complex strategy game out there, nor does it have the most compelling storyline, but it does just enough to be a worthwhile experience.
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Hard West 2 tells the story of a gang of outlaws chasing a ghost train across the American Southwest. At center stage is the straight-faced and stern Gin Carter, leader of a diverse posse of gunslingers with a roster including witches, a pastor, and an undead cowboy. The gang is specifically hunting a demon-possessed man named Mammon, who has taken the soul of Kastral Colt, the posse’s best gunslinger. Every genre trope and cliché is present in Hard West 2, with enough bank robberies and train heists to satisfy any player looking for a pulpy weird western story lifted from a comic book page. Although, the story generally leans more heavily into the western aspects than the supernatural and doesn’t take too many turns from the main plot at the start.