Hard West won many fans with its paranormal take on the Wild West and its XCOM-like turn-based strategy gameplay. Scars of Freedom, its upcoming expansion from Warsaw, Poland-based developer CreativeForge Games, is still spooky — but the creepy atmosphere is less about demons than it is about Dr. Moreau-esque body modification. You can hear me and Griffin McElroy discuss Scars of Freedom in the video preview above, or read on for more details.
The doctor here is a man named Dr. Gorman, a mad scientist who conducts experiments on humans. He finds a person whom he believes to be a perfect subject in Libertee, the other character at the heart of Scars of Freedom's story. Libertee is a former slave who is seriously injured when she escapes from imprisonment at a quarry, and Gorman performs lifesaving surgery on Libertee.
Thing is, that surgery included some augmentations, and when she wakes up to find her body has been modified without her consent — enhanced though it may be — she goes after Gorman on a quest for answers. Libertee understandably suspects Gorman had some sinister motives in experimenting on her, although she discovers when she catches up with him that the story isn't as clear-cut as that.
Gorman was once a member of a group called the Masked Doctors, a shadowy organization that's trying to use the chaos of the Civil War to cover up its nefarious activities — like harvesting organs from humans. But he's no longer part of the cabal, and Scars of Freedom pits Gorman and Libertee against the Masked Doctors in a story that's told as a conversation between the two main characters.
Augmentations aren't just part of the story; they come into play in combat as well. In Hard West, skills were represented not on an upgrade tree but on poker cards. In Scars of Freedom, you can enhance your skills by buying body modifications with an in-game currency called ether. You can have the "iron stomach" of a federal marshal transplanted into Libertee's body for extra courage in battle, or, if you prefer close-quarters combat, graft a sharp stinger onto the heel of her hand for brutal melee kills.
This all takes place in Scars of Freedom's hub world, which offers locations like merchants and waypoints before the next proper mission. Some of them simply flesh out the game's backstory with a bit of lore; others offer choices that will have repercussions for you down the line. For example, you can choose to get involved when a lynch mob shows up; you'll be able to defuse tensions, but a friend of yours will get hurt. These all play out in dialogue boxes, not cutscenes or anything, but they seem like a good way to break up the turn-based missions.
Hard West was broken up into eight segments, and CreativeForge brand manager Blazej Krakowiak described the Scars of Freedom expansion as lasting for about one and a half of those chapters. The add-on will be available March 3 for $2.99.