by Kenneth Kok
previewed on PC
Where to start. I literally don’t know where to begin. It doesn’t help that I am still a little starstruck. If it wasn’t exciting enough to go hands-on with Wasteland 3, I had Brian Fargo looking over my shoulder and commenting the entire time. Yes, that’s -the- Brian Fargo, co-designer of the original Wasteland (among many other things) and the driving force behind the franchises’ resurrection in 2014. Who better to show off the game. In 30 minutes, flat, Wasteland 3 made it from “very high” to the very top of my RPG wish list. I had so much fun, I forgot the time playing, and nearly ran off with the demo PC.
We sat down right in front of the inXile team to play a mission which we were told would appear somewhere mid-game when Wasteland 3 ships. Entering the game world, I found myself controlling a car, or rather a truck or huge buggy, or… something big on wheels! Wait... I don’t remember this from Wasteland 2. There were no vehicles right? The team behind me confirmed this and told me that somewhere in the beginning of the story you salvage a junkyard car. It’s not much to begin with, but you work on it throughout the game, making it tougher and add weapons and so on.
We drove around on a snowy map for a while until we found our target. This is where Wasteland 3 switches to its tactical turn-based side. I had 4 guys and my ‘something big on wheels’ vehicle at my disposal to save the son of someone important. Hmmm, I got a feeling…
You are free to move your crew around until the actual combat starts. A detection-range circle around enemy soldiers indicates where and when you would enter combat so that you have time to bring everyone into position. As I initiated this session I had dibs on the first combat round. Combat works similar to what you would expect from a turn-based tactical game, and not unlike X-Com’s. Your crew each have 2 tactical points which can be used to either move and carry out one action (like shooting) or simply move twice. I had positioned my crew so that I could quickly move them behind half or full cover objects, and ready to start shooting. 1 kill, 2 kills… it went pretty smooth playing into individual team member strengths such as assault specialist, sniper and heavy weapon wielder.
Suddenly I hear a whisper in my ear: “Use the car…”. Erm, wait, hold on. Why’s my car in combat? Ooh nice! The next turn two enemies got splattered beneath the wheels and the last bad guy died as I unleashed the fury of the big ass turret mounted on top of the car. Done and dusted. That was fun!
With combat over and my crew back to moving around in real time, another whisper hinted that I could open a fence door by lockpicking it. It worked, but it also led to another combat session. Another whisper – it’s like having an angel named Brian on your shoulder - “Hey click on that guy, he has something cool... oh wait, did you use the deployable turret?” I pointed at the carcass of a giant mechanical spider. “It did not like my turret very much”.
Choices in how to play out a mission, or how to conduct conversations, are a staple for any good RPG, but in Wasteland 3 they feel different, more… organic. The inXile team is putting a lot of effort into allowing you to play the game the way you see fit. If you want to play like a “no quarter badass”, you can. If you like a more stealthy or diplomatic approach you can have fun that way too. A mix? No problem. I failed in my mission to save the son, though. The head honcho of the outfit I had been fighting turned out to be a deranged lunatic when he dropped a live grenade between the son’s feet. Nothing I could do anymore to save him, but boy did I have a lot of fun trying! Maybe next time I’ll try that diplomatic approach after all.