Cowboys, outlaws, ghosts, demons, werewolves. These are all good issues. Mix them collectively and also you get the Bizarre Western style, which should absolutely be a fair higher factor, proper? Exhausting West 2 makes case for it, standing as a tactical bizarre western that is aware of this style has to look, really feel, and sound good initially — even when meaning generally it would not really play as easily as you need.
Exhausting West 2 is extra of a thematic sequel to 2015’s Exhausting West versus a literal one. It tells a brand new, unrelated story throughout its 20-30 hour marketing campaign, with three difficulties of escalating brutality to select from, and even completionists should not actually fear about taking part in the unique earlier than this one. The world design is basically what attracts you in past the superficial floor. You lead a posse of badass cowboys on the verge of the supernatural within the Exhausting West. After a nasty take care of a nasty satan goes badly mistaken, you’re down just a few souls and would very very like them again. In truth, the plan is to get them again on the barrel of a gun. (The satan’s identify is Mammon, by the best way, and he has an especially cool ghost prepare with big steel centipede legs.)
Exhausting West 2 Screens
The marketing campaign is break up between doing dialogue-driven quests in overworld areas and diving into turn-based fight missions for a lot of the playtime. The writing each out and in of missions is hit and miss. It has various strains with bizarre grammar or eye-rolling cliches, however does the job properly sufficient that I wasn’t skipping cutscenes or text-only descriptions.
Shoot Em Up
The centerpiece of Exhausting West 2 are its tactical battles. They’re fairly good, however for all the pieces I like about them I dislike one thing else. The fight is dependable and has minimal irritating randomization, however on the tougher missions that makes it really feel extra like a puzzle than tactical train. That distinction issues too: On the middle-of-the-road Exhausting problem I needed to restart a number of missions, some as many as 5 instances, to determine the answer to that puzzle and get a win. That is balanced towards the versatile character skills and neat weapons obtainable. Mixed, they kind a spread of powers that synergize with well-designed environments to allow tips, combos, and chained kills.
You get three actions per flip, with taking pictures normally taking two or three of these, that means that the principles general favor defensive combating. Your assaults do mounted injury primarily based on the weapon used, and all that adjustments is the prospect to hit primarily based on vary, elevation, and the enemy’s cowl. Mixed with that defensive focus you may have an actual drawback to beat when closing in on new teams of enemies: They’re going to in all probability get efficient photographs at you earlier than you get some at them.
Fortunately, you may have 4 instruments to play with. The primary is trick taking pictures, which lets sure weapons bounce bullets off of steel objects to bypass enemy cowl. The second is luck, that means that missed photographs (amongst different issues) fill a pool to spend on bonuses to assaults in later turns. The third are your character skills, distinctive powers everybody has: Like Outdated Man Invoice, who’s stuffed with bullets and likes to ship them again on the enemy in an explosive burst, or Flynn, who can magically swap locations with anybody she will see, ally or enemy, at the price of somewhat well being.
The fourth software is Bravado, the important thing system that allows you to overcome enemy benefit. When your characters get a kill they instantly refill all their motion factors. They will do this as many instances per flip as you may get kills, and organising somebody to get 4, 5, or six kills in a single flip is the perfect a part of Exhausting West 2. It is also a pressure on that puzzle-like problem: There’s all the time the sensation that you would higher optimize the mounted injury numbers of your weapons towards the enemy’s well being. You do this arithmetic each flip, always, for an increasing number of kills, and the upper difficulties demand you stability optimum kill counts towards defensive motion to succeed.
However past that standout mechanic, the fight would not do a lot that is new or distinctive, and even lacks just a few issues I might anticipate — you may’t vault most small objects, for instance, and a number of cowl is indestructible even to dynamite. That, and people space of impact assaults are two dimensional, which ends up in odd conditions like not with the ability to shoot somebody together with your shotgun as a result of they’re on a balcony beneath you. That stated, the nice qualities of these fight programs outweigh the frustrations, and a mixture of attention-grabbing enemies and diverse missions do hold it contemporary all through.
The Wild Bunch
Each mission is filled with bizarre western muddle and character that not solely appears good however serves as cowl so that you can work together with and mess around. Rickety picket frontier streets filled with hanging indicators and large marble banks on the finish, ramshackle homesteads cluttered with disused farm tools, sprawling occult-plus-steampunk mining operations — I feel you get it. The objects and visuals in missions are actual fairly, even disproportionately so in comparison with the design and writing, and the sound design and voice appearing have only a few flaws. There’s additionally an important soundtrack, courtesy of Lifeless House and Tomb Raider composer Jason Graves.
It isn’t simply the environment that is obtained so much occurring, both. The enemies you struggle are bizarre and funky, starting from run-of-the-mill bandits and lawmen to demonic cultist covens, wendigos, and senseless revenant gunmen. There’s even a little bit of historic inspiration, with one native antagonist group being a mustache-twirling, evil twin mirror model of the real-life Ghost Dance Motion. (Exhausting West 2 doesn’t, fortunately, fall into the atrocious entice of portray the various native peoples of the west with one brush, even when lots of its depictions are extra fantasy than actuality.)
Gin Carter, the roguish gambler and chief who now lacks a soul, is a fairly generic RPG chief so that you can inhabit, however your different celebration members are workouts in memorable character design. You have obtained Kevin Conroy as Outdated Man Invoice, who died a very long time in the past and is basically grumpy about coming again; Lazarus, a fire-and-brimstone-and-bullets preacher; Cla’lish, voiced by Mela Lee, a no-nonsense pacific northwestern native tracker and sharpshooter who also can commune with and summon the lifeless.
However there are two actual standouts: First, Brandi Hollsten as Flynn, the orphaned-at-birth lady blessed/cursed with highly effective witch skills. She’s a relative newcomer, however the actress is certainly one to observe. After which the character I at first disliked, however later cherished: Laughing Deer, a completely clinically insane sociopath of a warrior. He likes to harm folks and take issues, and he would not faux in any other case. Whereas that is generally a recipe for a one-note boring character, voice actor Adam Gifford brings an unhinged, scenery-chewing depth to LD that I am unable to assist however love. Voice administrators: Please forged Adam Gifford to do extra over-the-top characters.
It would not harm that Laughing Deer can also be very, very enjoyable to make use of in tactical fight. He is the reigning king of Bravado-fueled killstreaks: In spite of everything, you are by no means on the mistaken angle for a killshot once you’re in melee vary.
Constructed Exhausting, Kill’t Exhausting
These characters are all set personalities – Exhausting West 2 has some character constructing elements, and tools to fiddle with, however make no mistake: That is very a lot a techniques sport. The RPG parts are successfully restricted to dialogue decisions, there are not any character ranges, and practically each character buff is transferable between missions from one celebration member to a different. These buffs largely come within the type of playing cards, that are mission rewards, of which any character can maintain 5. By forming poker palms with these playing cards you unlock an increasing number of of a personality’s passive skills and improve their energetic one. It is a pleasant, thematic solution to gear up and I completely cherished it.
What I did not love was how inflexible that felt. Every character is primed to be greatest at one or two particular issues, and there is little-to-no cause to not gear them up for that and that alone. There are additionally some subpar designs mechanically, like Lazarus. Despite the fact that I cherished his character, he has powers that revolve round when a celebration member goes down… in a sport the place the entire mainline story missions immediately fail for those who lose a single character… although there is not any permadeath and most different missions allow you to lose as many as you need.
Why would I take advantage of my valuable few everlasting upgrades on Lazarus once I cannot reap the advantages within the hardest missions? The everlasting upgrades come from making associates together with your posse members, which occurs in selections out on the path. Higher associates get boosted skills — and generally extra dialogue choices enabling completely different rewards and alternate paths through the text-driven world map quests. It is a good supply of character moments, but it surely feels unhealthy to choose the dialogue you want when you realize it’s going to hamstring you in fight.