Wasteland 3 (Beta) – First Impressions

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I recall when Wasteland 2 came out in 2014, it was surrounded by the hype of being the Fallout sequel that we deserved, but never got. I had never had the pleasure of playing the original Wasteland back in the ‘80’s, but I did mess around with Fallout and Fallout 2 enough to see how adjacent the two franchises had begun. Then Fallout 3 went in the direction of a first person perspective RPG adventure with a stronger emphasis on the shooter genre.

The Wasteland games have maintained the top down strategic gameplay design of the original, while expanding on the concepts of cause and effect and the ripple effects of hard choices. Wasteland 3 is planning on doing that in spades. In the introductory portion of the beta demo that I was given access to, there are so many choices and variables that get introduced, even from the beginning, that it is obvious how much of a branching storyline the game will have. Choices really matter in these games, which is not something you see very often anymore. Even in Fallout 3 and 4 it seemed that choice was merely an illusion, that no matter which path you took, you’d end up in largely the same place.

In Wasteland 3, even seemingly small choices can have major repercussions later in the game and they are often presented in such a way that there is no obvious “right” or “wrong” answer. Many times, you just have to go with your gut and find out later whether or not it was a good decision. Sometimes, you may never know for sure.

Adding to the complexity of these spider-webbing effects that these choices have, Wasteland 3 is being designed to be able to be played with a friend using online co-op. This fact alone is exciting enough, but the plan is not to make this just a game that you play through with a friend, experiencing the same events side-by-side. No. Instead, the design idea is to create an asynchronous experience, allowing both players to experience the game together, but in their own way. Each player leads their own squad of rangers and can choose to accompany each other on the same missions, or divide their resources and take on two separate missions at once. The choices made by one player would then become a part of that world, which would then impact the experience of the other player, as well. I am very excited to see this first hand, as it sounds truly revolutionary to the genre as a whole.

The game itself plays similarly to its predecessor as far as the basic mechanics go. There is an Action Point economy that you use during combat dividing between movement and various attacks. There are many different characters, weapons, skills, perks, etc. that all add up to a very diverse combination of gameplay approaches to various situations, whether they are socially oriented, combat heavy, stealthy, or what have you.

The graphics have seen a decent improvement from Wasteland 2, and the focus of the new setting, Colorado, is on the icy cold wasteland instead of the arid desert of Arizona. The ice and snow effects are quite well done, and definitely convey a sense of bitter hopelessness at times. There are a few details that feel a little light, graphically, such as a noticeable lack of detailed shadows from the characters, but that is perhaps something that will get fine-tuned as the game gets closer to release.

Ultimately, a Ranger never gives up and fights against all odds. After getting to play through the introductory teaser portion of the game, I very much look forward to the full release in May and will probably be going back and playing through Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut again in the meantime.

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