Hard West really impressed me back in 2015. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to have the Hard West 2 preview land in my lap. The question is whether the game would recapture some of the dark magic of the original.
Hard West 2 opens strong, with a train robbery that combines horses and train in real time motion with turn-based combat. It’s a relatively small thing, but it looks and feels very stylish.
There are two great immediate departures from the first game. First, you have three AP now (instead of original’s two), even if most guns use two to shoot. Second, every member of your crew can now ricochet bullets off special metal terrain pieces – this used to be a special ability granted by cards – and the game relies on it a lot more.
Another thing that changes the flow massively is Bravado: killing an enemy refills your AP pool. This can be chained endlessly and a couple of Hard West 2 preview missions had optional objectives of clearing out all enemies in the the first round.
However, endless Bravado chains are made harder to achieve by the fact that the enemies are beefier. Hard West 1 had a lot of 3 HP goobers that any gun in the game could one-shot in the open. In Hard West 2, you get enemies with double digit HP, and 5 HP mooks are obviously here only for Bravado farming.
Luck – the in-game stat, not the concept of fortune itself – feels like it plays a lesser role now, certainly when it comes to getting shot at. On the other hand, you can now use it to pump hit chances, so maybe it just wasn’t explained well in the preview.
Another new thing is party loyalty. Your group of vagabonds will gain loyalty points based on your decisions as a leader. Some text adventure/dialogue options will be gated behind friendship levels. That’s fine, I guess, but I didn’t notice whether combat injuries – gained by getting hurt in battle, and then healing in hilarious ways after a few encounters – made a return.
Generally speaking, Hard West 2 preview also displayed much better 2D art values, with great illustrations for both cut scenes and text adventures. What really got on my nerves, however, were the endless and pointless companion complaints on the world map. We’ll see if that survives into the final version.