Recent release of Desperados 3 showed that action and shooting gallery aren’t the only genres that work in the Wild West setting. Though Desperados series is a stealth tactic game, it’s still in real-time. The Feud: The Wild West Tactics, however, not only went full turn-based, but it also added a strategy layer.
Heroes of Guns and Horses
And its strategy gameplay feels a lot like the HoMM series. Except you don’t upgrade your main base. And posses you send from there consist entirely of ‘heroes’, that are hired guns with their statistics and abilities.
You also have a research tree that holds various ‘technologies’. Some increase production of the game’s four resources – money, ore, wood, and goods. Others raise some statistics during combat. Or grant bonuses for the ‘strategy level’, increasing amount of posses that you can own simultaneously, for example.
The map, though made of hexes, resembles one from Heroes too. There are mills and towns that produce resources for you after you capture them. There are hexes with ‘special events’ that can be good, granting you some resources, or bad, harming you in some way, or those that turn out into a full gunfight.
The gunfight also ensues if you stumble upon posses of the rival faction.
Colt Made Them Equal
Tactical fights, on the other hand, resemble XCOM in a sense – each of your units has two (in rare cases three) action points. You can use AP to move, shoot, or for special action. There is an obligatory ‘lookout’ option. Reloading in time is important, especially for rifles that have quite a small clip. Hitting your target depends on the distance, cover, and ‘exposed’ targets are hit better… In other words, business as usual.
Sadly, there is not much variety in the missions. Kill all enemies, destroy or capture certain objects. Like in Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, most of the time you need to kill all opposition anyway as it’s simply faster than capturing things under fire. There are no superior vantage points that you can gain – all the terrain is on the ground level. At least maps aren’t as linear as in A!CT.
Fighters mainly differ in range and clip size of their guns. Some have special abilities, like disarming shot or placing a trap. Most distinct are melee fighters with knives and ‘doctor’ that can heal. Though honestly, most of the time tactics is just limited to concentrating fire and taking down enemies one by one.
The only exception is the use of dynamite sticks. You can find them on some maps and use them as grenades that deal a lot of AoE damage, plus knockdown everyone affected.
There is also a ‘Showdown’ when one of your men (or women) goes against the enemy in the duel. You need to click on the gun icon when the green circle around it shrinks and touches its edge. Be fast and you inflict a critical injury. Miss and your guy gets damage instead. This is called a risk-reward mechanic. But honestly, such reflex test feels out of place in an otherwise a turn-based game.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Gosh, are some of those folks indeed look ugly. I know, indie game budget and stuff. There was a similar problem in Conglomerate 451. But at least such appearance is fitting the setting of the Wild West.
And yes, I know that the game is based on a real feud between Hatfield and McCoy families. But cheap cut-scenes and over the top dialogs clearly belong to B-movies. And there are even three alternative stories. In other words, the game has no more in common with the real history of Hatfield and McCoy feud, then Hollywood WW2 movies with real WW2.
Is historical inaccuracy it a problem, though? No one is really going to study history through the story in some indie games. But the game can draw players’ attention to those events and motivate them to look for more credible sources.
To me, the main problem of The Feud is its repetitiveness. In ‘Western Saga’ mode you at least have a strategic layer where you explore the map and capture settlements. But ‘Story’ features only a sequence of tactical missions. And without a strong variety for maps, goals, and tactics, the walkthrough becomes a slog even to the middle of the first of three campaigns.
The story itself is decent but doesn’t show anything spectacular. The first mission, where you have to shoot the noose before guy hanging in it will be strangled, remains the most memorable moment throughout the game in both narrative and gameplay.
For a Fistful of Dollars
For what it’s worth, The Feud: Wild West Tactics offers a rare tactical experience in the ‘Wild West’ setting. It has its moments. And strategic mode with capturing settlements has a lot of potential.
However, that potential is never fully realized. Research and characters leveling-up doesn’t offer much new abilities beside ‘+10 to some stat’ or ‘a shot that stuns or puts other debuff’. And because of lacking variety, the game can become boring rather fast.
Maybe you could squeeze some more tactical ideas from multiplayer. But the game doesn’t have multiplayer.
So, overall The Feud deserves a score above the average, as it stands out among indie games due to its setting. But not by much.