by Henry Stockdale
previewed on PC
Three’s The Magic Number
It took decades for Wasteland 2 to emerge, finally releasing in 2014 after a Kickstarter Campaign, but Wasteland 3 is set to arrive in more timely fashion on May 19th. First released by Interplay in 1988, it’s a squad-based RPG that featured turn-based combat and was set in the aftermath of a global nuclear war between the Soviet Union and USA. It proved highly successful and inspired their later franchise, Fallout, after Interplay were unable to regain the rights from EA. Now, in the hands of Deep Silver and InXile Entertainment, Wasteland 3 brings back this formula and it proves as fun as ever.
For this preview, InXile’s build contains the first four hours of gameplay. There are four difficulty settings to choose from and you can play as one of five different character pairings, each with different backgrounds and skills. You can choose up to 6 characters for your squad but, at the start, it’s limited to two. Some are proficient in small arms, whereas others are better for first aid and there are different character classes like snipers, combat medics and more. You can also create custom characters that feature a full range of options from physical appearance to selected skills.
There are two main types of gameplay. Once you’ve beaten the initial stage, the Patriarch provides a headquarters and gameplay becomes split between combat and exploration. Outside of combat, you’ll interact with characters through multiple choice dialogue but actions have consequences here, so proceed with caution. For example, HQ contains a group of refugees who ask to stay with you. If you let them, they become allies but strain resources, whilst banishing them could potentially cause trouble later. You can’t please everyone and these actions affect your reputation within Colorado’s different communities.
Combat isn’t initiative-based and if you spot enemies whilst exploring, you can sneak up to them and launch the first strike. If Dorseys spot you, they’ll have the first turn but once battle begins, each character has a set number of AP (Action Points) per turn and movement is mapped across a grid by blue and orange spaces. Big movements mean more AP, so Blue spaces mean you can move there and still attack but Orange means you sacrifice that for greater distance.
Spend Them Wisely
You can use your AP to attack multiple times if your equipped weapon allows it or perform other actions, such as defending to reduce damage. You can also prepare an ambush, holding your attack until enemies move in range or prepare, gaining 2 extra AP on your next turn. You have to be tactical though, so those hoping to charge in and figure it out later will quickly find themselves wiped out.
If a squad member gets knocked out, they are revivable if you reach them before 3 turns pass and come back afflicted with a status ailment. But if that counter runs out, a doctor must see them before they can fight again. You’ll have to keep reviewing your team so they have the best armour, weapons and disposable items and these can also be modified to make improvements. Inventory is shared across the party but characters must be equipped beforehand to use items during combat. Downed enemies can drop gear such as bullets, health packs and more and surrounding areas often have equipment, so exploration is advised.
Kills give you experience points and when characters level up, you can upgrade three things. Attributes improve combat potential by focusing on things like co-ordination, luck or strength. Skills add to your abilities, whilst Perks provide extras like additional quick slots or improved armour. Certain actions are unavailable unless you’ve levelled up skills and this includes dialogue options, so it’s worth taking this into consideration. But different squad members can look to cover these between them, rather than making one person a “jack-of-all-trades”.
Another Solid Entry
Winning fights after preparing your squad is not only a lot of fun, it’s also rewarding with its tactical nature and InXile have done a fantastic job here at bringing post-apocalyptic Colorado alive. The biggest gripe I had was some performance issues that occurred midway through the preview. The initial area worked smoothly but upon leaving there and your new HQ, there was a significant framerate drop and movements lagged. As this is a Beta build, there’s every chance this will get fixed before launch and it’s an otherwise solid experience.
Despite the performance issues of the current build, it’s clear InXile are onto another winner here and it’s shaping up to be a solid entry in the Wasteland franchise. Filled with dark humour, political intrigue and a thoroughly engaging story, it left me wanting more. It’s one to look out for in May and as it stands, and I cannot wait to see the finished release.