Trading in the dusty barrens of Arizona and the like for the snow-swept passages of Colorado, Wasteland 3’s apocalyptic vision may not be the prettiest looking role-playing tactical game out there, but it is looking a whole lot sleeker and more detailed than its predecessor. Instead of moving a dot on a line across a barren map, I was able to snowplow an armored transport vehicle through winding sleet-heavy roads before finding the target of my objective: an old resort turned into a base filled with drugged up psychopaths. My job was to find their leader – Victory Buchanan – and take him out.
In my first combat experience going hands-on with Wasteland 3’s demo that went out to backers this week (the full experience should arrive sometime in Spring 2020), I was given four different characters to control: My main character, Banshee the sniper, Doc Nails the medic, and Scotchmo the shotgun-toting alcoholic. Each had a specialized role to fill that made them instantly unique from the others, like Scotchmo’s shotgun displaying a large cone of fire instead of targeting single opponents. The overhead view of the arena seamlessly transitioned from exploration into a grid-based map featuring a much more slick and streamlined interface than we’ve seen in Wasteland 2. I was a bit sloppy entering the fight, and had to rush to find cover after taking fire that felt very reminiscent of X-COM’s tactical battles (even featuring their own version of ambushing overwatch strikes that could activate during an enemy’s movement). I appreciated all the clever visual cues – like being able to see my movement range with different colored borders marking how far I could run and still have action points leftover to shoot. I was also happy to find that you could swap between characters on the fly during your turn, rather than having to fully complete a character’s action one after other, which meant new strategic opportunities for setting up attacks.