After a successful crowdfunding campaign back in 2016, Wasteland 3 is finally just two months away from release. InXile Entertainment were nice enough to send us a copy.
This beta serves mostly as a sneak peak, and contains the first three hours of the game. I have now played through the beta twice, and here are my impressions so far.
Following the events of the previous game, the Desert Rangers find themselves in a very difficult position. The people of Arizona that they are tasked with protecting are starving, and the Rangers are still recovering from their losses.
It’s in these dark times that a wealthy man calling himself The Patriarch reaches out to the Rangers with an offer they can’t afford to refuse.
The Patriarch is the ruler of Colorado Springs, a land that has been plunged into a perpetual nuclear winter. The Patriarch is also having family troubles.
Two of his children were exiled after a failed coup against him, while the third is an unhinged psychopath that leads a gang of deranged raiders. All three are causing chaos in Colorado as they plot to eventually overthrow him.
If the Desert Rangers can detain his children and bring them back, then The Patriarch has pledged to send vital aid to Arizona, and help the Rangers rebuild their ranks.
You are part of the task force that has been sent to Colorado, and it doesn’t take long before things all fall apart. The game’s tutorial is set during a deadly ambush, where the Ranger convoy has been attacked by a gang of psychotic backwoods marauders called The Dorseys.
Before all of this, however, you’ll get a chance to make your characters. You start the game with a pair of main characters, and can choose from either several pre-generated pairs, or create your own.
The character creator is pretty decent, giving you a nice selection of faces, hairstyles, body types, voices, and starting gear.
RPG fans will be delighted by the sheer amount of choice in character progression, and how your skills and abilities can affect the playstyle of your Rangers. Your stats are divided between Attributes, Skills, and Perks.
The short explanation is that Attributes are your stats, like Strength, Constitution, Awareness, etc. Skills are how good you are at specific things, like Automatic Weapons, Stealth (called “Sneaky Shit” in the game), Explosives, and conversation types like Hard Ass or Kiss Ass.
Finally, your Perks are various bonuses and special abilities you can buy based on the Skills you’ve been putting your points into. There are several generic Perks, but the lion’s share of them are all dependent on how many points you’ve put into different Skills.
Even though the demo is only around three hours, there have been plenty of examples of just how much your Attributes and Skills can affect conversations and exploration.
The tutorial alone has several chests and areas that can only be accessed if you took specific Skills, like Lockpicking or Explosives.
The conversations have also been full of alternate choices based on your skills. There was even a specific example of an engagement you could avoid entirely if you wait for a conversation to play out, then jump in with someone that has a high Weird Science stat.
You can further tailor your characters with Quirks. These are only available in the character creation part of the game, and allow you to take a powerful bonus that is offset with a penalty that can change the way you play.
Combat is the ultimate culmination of all your character building and progression, and there are quite a few changes made to the combat system this time around.
The old initiative system is gone, and has been replaced with a more simplified system where you get to activate your whole party before ending your turn, thus handing the turn over to your enemies.
Before combat begins you’ll still often have a chance to individually move your characters into advantageous positions by staying out of the detection range of any enemies.
One point I immediately have to bring up is that I hope they make enemy detection ranges more obvious, because as of right now its a little too hard to judge how close you can get before being caught. Some of the sneaking mechanics from Wasteland 2 seem to have been removed, as there doesn’t seem to be a way to crouch.
Once you are ready, you can initiate combat by firing on an unsuspecting enemy, thus getting the first turn. If you are spotted, however, the enemy gets the first turn.
Each character has a set amount of Action Points based on the Attributes you’ve been investing in. There is a helpful, color-coded aura around your characters that shows you how far you can move them with their AP.
The blue range indicated how far they can move while still having enough AP to use their currently equipped weapon, while the yellow range indicates how far they can move if you opt to dump all of your AP into repositioning.
Your chances to hit and damage an enemy are all based on the elevation of you versus your target, range, cover, the penetration value of your weapon vs the target’s armor, and so on.
Besides your weapons, characters can also equip items in quick slots that include things like first aid kits or grenades. You also have access to special abilities based on your Perks, and an “ultimate” attack based on your weapon that gradually charges as you fight.
You also have three other actions that you can take if you have some leftover AP and nothing to do. You can set up an ambush, allowing your character to fire overwatch at approaching enemies.
Alternatively, you can bank up to two AP for the next turn, or spend your remaining AP to increase your chances to evade attacks.
There are a few minor glitches with combat that can currently just be explained away as beta issues to be addressed later on. Sometimes there is a strange input delay between you selecting your target and your character actually attacking.
Animations also glitch out a lot right now, with characters twisting their bodies at odd angles or sliding along the ground instead of walking.
Wasteland 3 also features base building mechanics, though they aren’t explored in the demo. As part of your deal, The Patriarch gives Peterson Air Force Base to the Rangers to use as an HQ while in Colorado.
Aside from the occasional refugees or squatters, the facility has been abandoned since the nuclear war that devastated the Earth’s surface, and its in desperate need of repairs and upgrades.
Throughout your adventures you’ll gain the opportunity to recruit staff and specialists to repair and man the base’s rooms. You can also recruit new Rangers here.
Your party can consist of six characters at any given time. Four of the characters can be Rangers, while the last two have to be non-Ranger companions that you’ll gather throughout the game.
Again, the beta is too short for me to say how any of this will work in the final game. The game’s open world is also inaccessible in the beta, and the faction system doesn’t really come into play yet.
There will be a Fame meter, as well as seven factions to ally with, or turn into bitter enemies, but the demo isn’t long enough to see how any of this will impact your adventures across the Colorado wilderness.
While the beta is rather short, Wasteland 3 is shaping up to be a deep and engaging post-apocalyptic RPG, though admittedly a bit stripped down from the previous game.
Character progression seems to have everything you’d really want from a solid RPG, and even in just the first three hours of the game you can see how much of an impact your skills can have on the way you approach exploration and conversations.
The combat system is a bit more streamlined and simplified from what I remember of my time with Wasteland 2, but its still enjoyable and has a decent amount of tactical depth.
Wasteland 3 was previewed on Windows PC using a preview code provided by InXile Entertainment. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.