Nuts and Bolts: Bravado in Hard West 2

How do you solve a problem like overwatch mechanics?

Turn-based tactics games necessarily abstract the chaos of battle. Sometimes, though, the you go-I go rhythm is a little too basic, and so developers introduce mechanics to disrupt the proceedings. One of the most common of such mechanics is “overwatch,” which allows units to sacrifice their turn in order to watch out for any enemies entering their line of fire on their own turn and fire at them then. Overwatch mechanics can allow for more complex maneuvers and set-ups, but they can also encourage defensive turtling. So what’s the opposite of overwatch? Something like the Bravado mechanic in Hard West 2.

Like in many tactics games, the player’s units in Hard West 2 each have a set amount of action points. Moving can take one or more, depending on the distance traveled, firing a weapon typically uses two or three (of the starting maximum of three), and so forth. You can’t hold over action points between turns — anything not spent is gone. You can go heads down, ending your turn and reducing the chances of enemies hitting you, but you can’t actually go into overwatch.

Instead, there’s a mechanic in Hard West 2 called Bravado. Upon defeating an enemy unit, the player’s unit that scored the killing blow immediately receives all of their action points back. Initially, this is a nice bonus for whoever happened to land that hit, letting them immediately move and/or fire again. Later on, though, it becomes the axis around which the entire game of Hard West 2 rotates. Characters get bonuses for having Bravado, and the game stacks up increasingly difficult odds against you which require you to chain Bravado kills together to overcome.

Hard West 2

The result is a game that’s more like a combat puzzle than a traditional tactics experience. It’s all about using your pieces to set up chain reactions, maneuvering things into place and whittling away at enemy health bars so that characters can string together big combos. That makes Hard West 2 stand in contrast with tactics games which are more about reacting than acting, and the focus on driving forward isn’t to everyone’s tastes. The game is currently sitting at a “Mostly Positive” rating on Steam, with negative reviews mainly citing the focus on Bravado and the restrictions on player choice the mechanic imposes.

Certainly, Hard West 2 isn’t a typical tactics game, but that’s kind of the point. By denying the player an overwatch ability and instead pushing them to keep moving and chaining together kills, Hard West 2 crafts a very different feel for itself, one that matches its gritty, supernatural theming. It isn’t a perfect game, but it takes a risk instead of playing things safe — and that’s a kind of bravado in itself.