Wasteland 3 Beta First Impressions
There was some worry when Microsoft announced its purchase of inXile Entertainment. Specializing in hardcore CRPGs, some wondered if they would still cater to that niche (albeit rapidly growing) market, or if instead, they would be moving towards more AAA-friendly experiences. This was especially worrying for projects that had already been announced, but not yet released, Wasteland 3 being the chief example. However, after some time spent in the recently released beta, I feel these fears can be laid safely to rest.
The best comparison I can make is with fellow Xbox Game Studios subsidiary Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds. Like inXile, Obsidian’s purchase faced skepticism and its first title’s release was equal parts apprehension and excitement. However, they ultimately delivered one of their best titles at a level of polish previous Obsidian titles lacked. Obsidian’s expertise and Microsoft’s money resulted in a match made in RPG heaven. Based off the beta, I feel like Wasteland 3 could repeat this success.
Wasteland 2 combined classic CRPG exploration and questing, with tactical XCOM styled combat. Wasteland 3 builds off this template, but does everything so much better. Wasteland 2’s combat was certainly fun, but it felt a bit clunky and occasionally got repetitive. Wasteland 3’s, on the other hand, feels almost as smooth as XCOM 2, the highest praise I can give any combat system of this style. Smarter and deadlier enemies alongside better weapon and skill balancing do their part to make fights seem more interesting. With this just being the beta with final number balancing yet to be done, I’d say this part of the game is in a much better state than Wasteland 2 is right now.
It’s not just the technical side where Wasteland 3 is shaping up to be superior to its predecessor. The desert wasteland of Nevada is swapped out for the frozen wastes of Colorado, and it’s the best move inXile made here. Everything feels fresh and new, not just compared to Wasteland 2, but within the entire genre. The quality of the writing also seems better, although to be fair 2 suffered from feeling like just a rehash of Wasteland 1 which isn’t a direct reflection of the actual writing. Still, Wasteland 3 looks and feels new and intriguing which is exactly what this genre needs.
Wasteland 3 was already one of my most anticipated titles of 2020, and playing the beta has only made me more excited to finally get my hands on it. It plays how I had hoped Wasteland 2 would, with a brand new setting filled with its own unique factions and threats to properly change things up. The level of polish reflects the higher budget inXile has to work with now and makes it easier and more fun to play. I don’t know if it will be my RPG of the year, with giants like Cyberpunk 2077 and Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 on the horizon, but if Wasteland 3 ends up half as good as this beta, it will be stiff competition.