Hard West 2 takes the first-person shooter genre back to its roots in a post apocalyptic Western setting with advanced technology. The game has been praised for being different and unique while sticking true to what makes FPS games fun and difficult.

The “hard west 2 release date” is the upcoming sequel to the critically acclaimed, Hard West. The game will be released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2019.

“It’s probably not a genuine ghost train,” Gin Carter tells his crew as they prepare to loot a federal locomotive known as The Ghost Train in Hard West 2. It’s the type of foreshadowing that warns you the train will, in fact, be haunted, and most likely by something much worse than a ghost. The prophecy comes true, as the group faces a devilish foe and unleashes mayhem over the globe, with Carter losing his own soul in the process.

I played the Hard West 2 preview version for a few hours, and although developer Ice Code isn’t reinventing the steam engine with the sequel’s ingenious turn-based tactics, Hard West 2 is proving that creativity isn’t always required.

Carter’s adventure begins with a tutorial, in which you join the Ghost Train and learn the fundamentals. Hard West 2 is, like its predecessor, a “what if XCOM meets wild west occult.” Each party member has an action point pool that may be used by moving or utilizing skills, and the Bravado system will refill your points if you successfully beat an adversary with a skill. 

It’s easy to underestimate Bravado’s power, but with the correct preparation and a little luck – more on that later – you may take calculated risks while still retreating to cover, perhaps shifting the battle tide. Alternatively, you might doom your group if you make the incorrect moves, which I never did (except in every mission). On the plus side, your party’s demise is just temporary. You may have to redo a task, but a vital member of the gang will not be permanently lost.

It’s a credit to the level design brilliance of Hard West 2 that employing Bravado never seems like cheating the game. Other squad-based strategy games encourage you to break them by using overpowering builds or taking use of the surroundings for cover, but Hard West 2 included Bravado into the game’s obstacles.

Even when you’re employing every tool available, you’re always one step away from loss due to enemy location, reinforcements, and your posse’s fragile mortality. I can imagine this being a source of annoyance in the future if subsequent levels need exact answers rather than free planning, but for now, I love the level of complexity.

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The luck mechanic in Hard West 2 adds another intelligent element to your tactical decisions. For some acts, you’ll gain Luck, which you may use to boost your fighting skills on your next turn. In the early stages, the most popular usage is to increase the probability of particular abilities doing additional damage or scoring critical strikes, but I’m interested to see how Ice Code employs it as your party grows.

After the tutorial, in which Gin loses his soul to the devil, you may explore a semi-open environment and recruit additional party members from a motley assortment of human and undead criminals. It’s still too early to determine if these random recruits can hold their own against the four main protagonists, but assembling a zombie army is entertaining in and of itself.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Yep, this all sounds like Hard West,” you’re right, which is a minor flaw. Hard West 2 isn’t doing anything differently from the original game so far. The environment is a significant tool, giving both cover and a method to bounce bullets back into your opponents. Your core squad covers the traditional melee, ranged, and power classes, and the environment is a crucial tool, providing both cover and a way to bounce bullets back into your adversaries. Gin’s quest to reclaim his soul suggests that the sequel has more narrative promise than the first, but it’s still too early to tell. 

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However, the possibility of significant tales for the rest of the party is less assured. Kestral Colt seems to be your traditional gambling, womanizing cowboy, while Flynn, a young woman spurned by the church, has a supernatural affinity that may make for a fascinating undercurrent. 

Then there’s Laughing Deer, which comes as an unexpected surprise in the shape of a stereotypical two-dimensional representation of Native Americans in the media. He’s a fighter, probably a sadist, who thrives on fighting and boasts about his status as a great warrior. And it doesn’t have to be like this. 

Hopefully, the remainder of Hard West 2 vindicates Laughing Deer’s existence and improves on the game’s strongest features. It may be familiar, but novelty isn’t everything. A well-executed quality game has just as much value and enjoyment.

[Note: The copy of Hard West 2 used for this preview was donated by Ice Code.]
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