Times are tough for the Rangers. So tough, in fact, that they’re leaving the sunny climes of Arizona for the wintry Colorado under the promise of food. But then things go wrong. Things always seem to go wrong.
Wasteland 3 begins with your army of Rangers being ambushed. Just like that, 50 become, well… I’m not quite sure, but it’s certainly less than you can count on two hands. And many of those that do survive just don’t have any fight left in them any more. The Dorseys are to blame, a ragtag bunch of good-for-nothings who have been causing trouble for your soon-to-be employer. Luckily for you, you’ll soon be able to get a modicum of revenge at least.
For the first hour of Wasteland 3 you take control of just two Rangers. You can create two custom characters if you wish, or make do with one of the many presets already available. There’s the young raiders, riled up and ready for combat, the father and daughter, tied together with a special bond, and more. Each have their own repertoire of abilities and equipment, and form the base of your eventually six-strong team. For now, though, there’s the matter of survival.
“What’s quickly clear when playing Wasteland 3 is the step up in production quality.”
Wasteland 3‘s introduction is a great way to get you up to speed on the game’s combat system. It’s up to you to put an end to the Dorsey attack, and on the way to the gang’s leader, you’ll have to take down many grunts. Combat is turn based, as usual, but it’s not overly complicated. Each of your characters has a limited amount of AP, and with that they can perform actions before their turn is over. Once all your characters have moved, the enemy has its turn, and then it’s back to you again.
Strategy is key. You don’t want to leave characters out in the open as they’ll get ripped to shreds by gunfire. You need to put characters in cover, be aware of the range of their weapons, and carefully decide what you want to do with their remaining AP. If they have a lot you might want them to stay alert, shooting enemies that come in range during their turn. More often than not, putting your squad is defence mode is beneficial, reducing their chances of taking damage. Though if you want to mount an all-out attack on your next turn, you might want to carry forward a couple of units of AP to allow for an extra action.
“This is an epic turn-based strategy RPG alright; only now it feels like a triple-A turn-based strategy RPG.”
What’s quickly clear when playing Wasteland 3 is the step up in production quality. Wasteland 3 looks gorgeous, and its voice acting is top notch. Even better, it has something that I love: dramatic vocalised music tracks that play out as you take part in mission pivotal battles. It makes everything seem more grand. Another thing that surprised and impressed me is the occasional change in viewpoint during conversation. Sometimes the camera moves in to present the game almost like a first-person shooter, truly showing off the game’s character models and getting you more involved. It’s a nice touch.
During my few hours playing Wasteland 3 for preview, I was glad to experience the game open up. After surviving the ambush and meeting the Patriarch – the man who’s hired the Rangers to bring back his three trouble-causing children alive – you establish your base. That is, after you’ve dealt with some pesky rogue robots. I managed to talk them down, but you might choose to simply destroy them instead. In any case, with your base established, it’s time to assemble a team and get to work. You still want the food to help the folk back in Arizona, after all.
Two more Rangers can be recruited to your team – again, you can create them yourself or choose a pre-made character for your convenience. And in addition to your four-strong squad of heroes-for-hire, two companions can also tag along for the ride. The thing with companions, however, is that they have their own motivations. They’re also a bit quirky. Make some decisions they don’t agree with while you’re out and about and they might just leave you in the lurch. Basically: choose carefully.
I experienced a little bit of disarray in my own party, for example. My first proper mission in Wasteland 3 involved travelling to a nearby town and dealing with yet more Dorsey scum. They’d run riot and had taken hostages, but were now holed up waiting for me to go in and take them out. Tagging along was a girl whose family were among the kidnapped. Without having much of a bond with my team, and probably under emotional stress, she often went rogue in combat, performing actions without my input. Luckily she emerged unscathed despite acting rashly.
“After playing just three hours of it… it’s now one of my most anticipated games of the year.”
On my way to eradicating the Dorseys located in Colorado Springs, I found the usual diversions: corpses and containers to investigate and loot; traps to disarm; locks to pick; animals to win over to fight for our cause; alternate routes should my characters not be prepared for all-out combat. Wasteland 3 doesn’t fall far from the tree; it just takes the tree and makes it more structurally sound, as well as a hell of a lot prettier and appealing. This is an epic turn-based strategy RPG alright; only now it feels like a triple-A turn-based strategy RPG. And you don’t get too many of them.
It was the closing minutes of the Wasteland 3 preview that left me most excited for what’s to come, however. Upon dealing with the Dorseys and locating the hostages, one of them blurted out that it was their fault that Colorado Springs was attacked – they had helped the Dorseys. Perhaps it was stupid of me, but upon hearing the news that her family were dead, I did nothing to stop my young female companion from killing the apparent ringleader of the Dorsey sympathisers. Chaos ensued, which resulted in me putting down every single one of the hostages myself. It was sombre.
I finished the Wasteland 3 preview under perhaps not the best of terms. The sheriff of Colorado Springs certainly wouldn’t be happy with me killing the children of all the rich folk in the city, and I was supposed to impress her to help with my dealings with the Patriarch. Still, I was excited about what lie ahead. As ever, Wasteland 3 is a game about decisions, and they have real impact. Combine those with AAA production values and compelling tactical combat, and you have a game that you really should be keeping your eyes on.
I’ll admit, with the likes of DOOM Eternal, Resident Evil 3 and Final Fantasy VII Remake on the horizon, Wasteland 3 wasn’t really on my radar. After playing just three hours of it, however, it’s now one of my most anticipated games of the year.
Wasteland 3 launches May 19th on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Pre-order your copy now.