Wasteland 3 Preview – Stay Frosty

Much like the past couple of installments, Wasteland 3 also pays tribute to the original Fallout by sticking to the same isometric role-playing principles in a post-apocalyptic setting. The sequel sees inXile Entertainment balance some of the old with new while still maintaining the same traditional experiences, which is important because where the Fallout franchise went through dramatic changes over the years, Wasteland continues to expand its niche into something bigger.

After being acquired by Microsoft back in 2018, additional development resources granted to inXile Entertainment were expected to make something special of Wasteland 3. Based on a few hours of gameplay courtesy of an early beta preview, the developer has indeed managed to struck all of the right chords and more. This is clearly a worthy successor to not just its predecessors but also to the original Fallout and in turn for the old-school role-playing fans.

Do note that Wasteland 3 requires no prior knowledge of the franchise, meaning that newcomers can choose to skip the past installments. However, for those who are familiar, the biggest change for them will be the location itself.

Wasteland 3 takes place in the frozen wastes of Colorado, which is in stark contrast to the harsh deserts of Arizona from the past. The harsh tundra also has functional societies scattered across, or at least ones that are trying to move forward with a bit of help and luck. The entire thematic switch opens up great potential for new storytelling experiences, something that inXile Entertainment must have thought long and hard about since leaving the signature heat-infested landscapes was always going to require planning and courage.

Something else of interest is that Wasteland 3 starts off with a duo of protagonists, which also comes into play when going co-op with a friend. You either choose from pairs of pre-built characters or create custom ones from the character-creation screen.

Spending time tailoring characters is just something that every role-playing game needs to have. Here, Wasteland 3 offers limited physical changes but a whole ton of choices for attributes and skills. You can also specialize in different weaponries or carry various quirks based on gameplay requirements.

The choices are pretty stretched out for multiple builds, which is a big, big positive for secondary playthroughs.

As for the premise, the Rangers — a branching faction of the United States military but now scavenging to survive — are heading out to Colorado from Arizona to obtain a valuable supply source when they are ambushed on a frozen lake by a band of raiders called the Dorseys.

You and the other Rangers are quickly thrown into battle as a massacre and a ton of explosions start things off in Wasteland 3. Unfortunately, almost everyone dies, leaving just a few Rangers including you and your duo partner to manage the grid and spend vital action points to kill the Dorseys and find refuge.

Each character can decide between moving, attacking, reloading, hunkering down, and etc. Wasteland 3 is all about killing from cover at range. Hence, the best thing to do first and foremost is to find an advantageous position with a clear shot, or plan a flank for the next round. Some characters excel in melee combat, meaning that they have to go up and close to do damage. Explosive barrels in the environment can also be shot to fire-bomb an entire area.

This is where Wasteland 3 shines. Despite the whole introductory section serving as a tutorial with linear and scripted gameplay, it becomes pretty obvious early on that every battle has a plethora of options to explore. It all comes down to what you think is best and sometimes, depending on the situation, help might also come from out of nowhere.

The environment plays a crucial role here. For example, you can kill all of the Dorseys at the start or delay the killings enough to gain access to a mighty cannon. Such gameplay options can be expected to pop up throughout the narrative. Your character, if they have the right set of skills, can spot points of interest in the environment as well which can lead to loot or shortcuts. They can also get access to exclusive dialogues, once again depending on character-traits, that may lead to different outcomes during heated conversations.

Later on, the game allows you to enlist two more active party members and once again, they can either be chosen from a list of pre-set characters or be created from scratch. The custom tailoring is good here because every squad requires a balance in terms of abilities and skills. Reaching the Patriarch, a key character who is apparently in charge of Colorado, also provides additional supplies and a base of operations to work from. This is also where the main storyline kicks off.

Something else new in Wasteland 3 is the camera which breaks away from the isometric perspective for conversations, especially when speaking with someone important. Fallout has been doing this for years but it’s a first for Wasteland. Secondly, the camera also pans away to zoom in on specific areas like in XCOM.

Wasteland 3 has for long been touted as the biggest installment in the franchise to date with a larger budget and a larger world in comparison. Based on the early beta, inXile Entertainment has clearly outdone itself. The sequel seems promising and builds upon the same cornerstone that made Wasteland 2 so impressive, albeit some of that goofy and zany humor will take some getting used to.

Wasteland 3 releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on May 19, 2020, and yes, this kind of comedic effect is definitely happening.