It’s been exciting getting to play the beta build for the upcoming Wasteland 3, especially as a fan of its predecessor and being appreciative for all of what the very first Wasteland did for Western post-apocalyptic games in general. While it took literal decades for Wasteland 2 to see the light of day after the original game’s release, we’re very fortunate to be seeing its sequel come in so soon, picking up years after the events that took place in the arid lands of Arizona.
Wasteland 3 opens with a convoy making its way through the frozen roads of Colorado, as the self-appointed owner of the post-apocalyptic U.S state, The Patriarch, offered the Arizona Rangers aid in exchange for helping him fight off his rebelled children. The beta begins after the Ranger convoy gets ambushed while crossing a frozen lake by a local gang who’s been wreaking havoc in the area. Most of your friends are gunned down, leaving you and a fellow gunner to fend off the remaining enemies, who include a pretty badass mechanical scorpion.
That’s when character creation comes in, or is the case of my beta experience, the excruciating moment of having to pick from a handful of pre-created characters. The thing this time is that you get to pick from two protagonists, which included many variations on the lovers motif as well as a father and daughter duo. I ended up going with the latter, and it turned out for the best, as they made for a pretty good mix of ranged and close quarters offense. There’s also the ability to roll your own set of protagonists, but I thought it’d be best to do that in the actual full game, so apologies for the lack of details in this regard.
The fight ended up playing out way differently than expected, as our NPC friend mentioned fixing the turret in the nearby crashed vehicle, thus having us buy them enough time to get that done, which I ended up doing and using it to destroy the robot and even the odds a bit. But before that, a little bit on how Wasteland 3 plays if you’re not instantly familiar with how it goes: it’s basically what you get to see in games like the recent XCOM, grid-based movement and attacking that hinge on action points (AP) management.
It worked pretty well in this initial fight as I was just getting to know how my team played as I stabbed my way into the fray with dad and kept him covered with the daughter. Unlike other games that play this way, however, there’s a big emphasis on inventory management here, and to my surprise, a lot of customization when it comes to equipping the party, not only with armor and weapons, but with side items that can be used both in and out of combat. The beta is somewhat limited in this regard, giving slight room to experiment with different kinds of ammo and grenades.
Character development-wise, it’s great to see how inXile is investing on production values for Wasteland 3, giving most if not all of the major events in the beta voiced lines and even some dramatic camera work, not to mention a bigger suite of options when it comes to responding to speech checks by the people you run across, even if some don’t exactly end in a way you’d expect. Such was my run in with one of the leaders of the gang I stumbled upon after my victory over the attackers when the demo started. It proposed some stat-based speech tests, but ended up being cut short by another NPC who we came to rescue. Before that happened though, Wasteland 3 showed off the brilliantly devious writing that the series’ known for as the bandit teased what he should do to my group when he was done beating us. Sadly for him, it didn’t go his way, and we eventually reached The Patriarch’s pad after getting to the vehicle.
A spot that the beta didn’t make very clear upon getting to that objective was how stealth could ultimately work in the final version of the game, as we got to a spot where yet another insect droid was patrolling. I was able to sneak by while its back was turned, as the flavor text humorously mentioned that that thing would totally cream us in battle, but it didn’t make clear how detection works within the game, which I’m hoping will be developed in the final version.
Anyway, The Patriarch made quite the impression as he quickly explained what he needed from us in exchange for sending supplies to our starving comrades back in the desert. We were to help him attack and capture his estranged kids who took up residence in a few different spots in Colorado. His dialog was on par with his attitude, for someone who would call a whole state as his own, and expectedly grand for someone who names their kids Liberty, Valor, and Victory.
How or where these captures would lead my group will have to wait for the final version to be out since I only got to visit my new headquarters, an abandoned silo that was taken over by bots, who I luckily was able to talk down to thanks to my random ability in mechanics I didn’t notice I had, which ended up starting a quest chain to supply it and staff it with people around Colorado Springs, the neighboring town.
Colorado Springs ended up being quite a lively place for as soon as I stepped into it, I got into some local politics following the attack that it suffered from the same bandit group that went after the Ranger convoy. One of the local boys apparently helped then vandalize some buildings and was caught alongside the bad guys, waiting to be executed for his crimes. As the good guy I am, I interseeded on his behalf and was able to make him the very first base helper on my way to the local sheriff’s office.
That lady was serious business, let me tell you. The mission she gave me eventually took us to a distant spot nearby who the bandits might have taken some hostages from town, among whom was the family of a local girl who joined my posse on our way to rescue them. Speaking of posse, it’s formed by the two protagonists, three recruitable and customizable members, and two pre-created companions, who have their own stories and motivations. The latter two are also prone to going rogue during fights, making them act on their own.
That happened to me twice in the following battles, and it was hilarious. It resulted in the girl I mentioned making two highly critical attacks that one-shotted two of the most powerful enemies, which proves that going rogue in this game might just be the best thing it could happen to a group member, perhaps? Then again, after a successful bout against some bad guys along the way, I hit a snag after the last group, who were bunched up right before I would find their hostages. The initial fight ended with 90% of my group killed and me reloading the game, only to find an alternative path that led me up a ridge and next to a satellite-looking dish that helped soften up those enemies before fighting them. It also provided me with higher ground and a limited walk space for the opposition to run to me, which led them to be mushed by my seven person team quite easily.
What I found later proved to be a little disturbing, especially for the friend I picked up in the sheriff’s office. Her family was nowhere to be found in the rubble of corpses we ran into, but the chat with the surviving group ended up revealing some disturbing facts. One of her childhood friends ended up helping the bad guys in capturing some folks in town, her folk included, resulting in their deaths. She was understandably upset and ready to kill them on spot, but my Ranger’s sense of duty stepped in and was able to calm things down, or enough so that we ended up arresting them all.
That’s when the demo ended. I feel like it gave me a pretty good idea of what to expect in my actual run when playing the final build of Wasteland 3. So far, the beta’s proved to be a satisfying slice of what could potentially be somewhat of a deep experience chock full of meaningful encounters that could go very badly. Just how I like ‘em.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long to find out just how things turn out in the nuclear post-apocalypse as Wasteland 3 is set to be released on May 16th for PC and consoles. I’ll be there to provide a full review, so please keep an eye out for that!