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The backer-exclusive alpha for inXile Entertainment's post-apocalyptic RPG Wasteland 3 went live a few days back. Together with the game's fairly strong Gamescom 2019 presence, this resulted in a number of previews that we can now check out below.
It wasn't until the battle was underway that I realized I had a fifth character to control: my team's giant heavily fortified and armed vehicle, named Kodiak. The huge armored behemoth was still parked not far from where I had begun my exploration, and took up a massive 5x5 set of tiles on the battle grid, and had its own set of action points to use. As my team moved to the left to take cover behind a watchtower, many of the post apocalyptic crazies I was facing had hunkered down by some barrels and barricades opposite from my car. Like any tactical genius, I put ol' Kodiak into drive and used up every action point I could to move the mobile fortress to slam through the pathetic obstacles and straight into my enemies. They were instantly turned into red paste, much to my satisfaction. Kodiak also came equipped with its own mounted turret, which I used the next turn to plug an enemy who thought himself lucky to avoid getting bulldozed. It was a very fun experience, and highlighted some interesting ways to use the transport to my advantage either as defensive cover or an offensive ramming tool.
In the overmap, actions have also been simplified. If I need a player to, say, pick a lock, I click on the problem and the team member most able to deal with the task shows up. This helpful piece of user interaction was much demanded by players after the launch of Wasteland 2, and was added in the later Director’s Cut release.
Much of the extra budget has been spent on voice-acting and conversational scenes, in which various characters offer optional story paths. In my demo, I tracked down The Patriarch’s mad son, Victory, to the ruins of Aspen. Once cornered, we had a bit of a chat. I had an opportunity to either kill him, capture him, or allow him to join my team. Each of those options creates a different outcome when I next encounter The Patriarch. The story looks engrossing, as is often the case with InXile games.
At the end of the day it’s a short demo, and not one that focuses on the parts of Wasteland 3 I care most about. It’s rough too, I’ll say that as well. There are interface elements that need to be cleared up, and certain systems are still in flux. For instance, there’s currently no way to carry over action points from one round to another, meaning you might as well use them all up every single turn. I’m told that’ll probably change before release next spring.
The demo does get the point across though, at least I think. Wasteland 2 was deliberately retro, Wasteland 3 slightly less so. The foundation is still there, but it’s been updated a bit, for better and for worse. It’s a smoother experience, which usually means a more even-keeled experience but also a less flexible one—though it’ll take more than a half-hour demo to know for sure.
Aside from the visuals, the combat experience felt much improved from its predecessor. Compared to Wasteland 3, Wasteland 2’s combat felt somewhat lacking. Wasteland 3 feels more in line with other tactical games such as XCOM. Being able to utilize the environment, target specific body parts, and controlling my squad’s vehicle all felt great in action. Despite being relatively inexperienced with the Wasteland franchise, I was able to hop right into the action with some working knowledge of the systems. Perhaps the most satisfying moments of combat that I had were running over enemies with the squad’s massive vehicle (which also transports the squad outside of combat) and shooting an enemy’s gas tank strapped to his back.
The demo focused on a section of the game in Aspen, Colorado, which has been overtaken by the son of the Colorado patriarch, who’s been strong-armed into helping your gang of Rangers. The previous game’s simple world map of 2D icons and place markers has been replaced with a moody, fully-3D and atmospheric overhead view of the region, and in the center of your screen is Wasteland 3’s biggest and most impactful new addition: A Big Truck.
I didn’t get the Truck’s name, it’s not really important. What is important is that in Wasteland 3, your crew gets around in a huge, kitted-out truck with tank treads and a big-ass gun on top. It’s customizable, Kopman told me, in both cosmetic and mechanical ways. While none of this was available in the demo, Kopman explained that there would be multiple chassis options, weapons, paint colors, and various other upgrades and options to customize your rig.
Gamereactor on the other hand offers an an interview with inXile's Tim Campbell. An excerpt:
"We build our world and we build our quests and our NPCs in a way that you can do anything you want in any order, you can kill critical story NPCs and the world will react to that and keep going," Campbell said before continuing, "You're able to befriend the bad guys, you're able to attack the good guys, you're able to mix and how you want to play it will be different from how other people are going to play it, so you'll see the world react and unfold in a different way".
"The world map is one one of the ways that we show this because it's this frigid landscape that you can drive around on and a lot of games really holds your hand or kind of guides you and that's not really what we're about at inXile. With these games, we really like to leave it up to the players to define their own story so we have this landscape, you have a vehicle that you can upgrade and we let you loose into the world, and you can explore it however you want to explore it".