Shackpets | Available on iOS and Google Play Store

Wasteland 3 hands-on preview: Tundra, trouble, and turns

The latest installment of Wasteland trades the desert environment for a frozen world, while maintaining the rich narrative and addictive turn-based strategy of the originals.


The original Wasteland came out over 30 years ago, which was followed by a ground-breaking sequel in 2014. Now, some six years later, Wasteland 3 is on the horizon. The team at inXile Entertainment have been hard at work crafting an experience that evokes the same emotions and challenges of Wasteland 2, while also ensuring systems and mechanics advance and evolve. With the release of Wasteland 3 scheduled for May 19, 2020, Shacknews had the opportunity to go hands-on with a preview build of the game on PC. We’re pleased to report that it looks to perfectly capture the gritty, yet hilarious, nature of surviving a hostile, post-apocalyptic world while maintaining the tried-and-true combat and story building of the originals.

The preview build of Wasteland 3 starts with a bang. Our convoy gets ambushed on a frozen lake at the base of a dam. After fighting off the ice, the two survivors manage to enter the dam and take out the unhinged Dorsey gang that were holding it.

As the dust settles, the next goal crystallises: continue on the mission to meet the Patriarch, see what he wants, and what he has to offer. It turns out this Patriarch is missing his kids, Liberty, Valor, and Victory, and he wants them to be brought back – alive.

Wasteland 3 preview dam ambush

From here on out, the path forward twists and turns as you explore the world. Though it was just a snippet of what was on offer, we encountered a plethora of unique characters requiring assistance or offering some insight into this frozen and desolate land.

Let’s back up a bit, though. Much like Wasteland 2, Wasteland 3 puts you in control of a squad of Desert Rangers. As the game is booted up, the preview allowed the creation of a pair of playable characters. The deep character creation process offered the chance to design a duo that complemented one another or pick from some pre-made couples like the competitive lovers, a father and daughter, and a mentor and student.

Wasteland 3 preview character creation

The benefit of having two main characters from the start is that it’s possible to balance out one negative attribute with the other. Some of the quirks, like Death Wish, increase the Action Points at the cost of not being able to wear any armor. This could be offset by having the partner select Bop Bag, which increases armor but reduces combat speed.

This is just one aspect of the incredibly rich character creation process. There is the iconic Attributes system governing areas one would expect: Strength, Intelligence, Charisma, and others; as well as varied skills ranging from Hard Ass, the ability to intimidate others, to Sneaky Shit, making it easier to disarm alarms, evade detection, and damage unaware enemies.

Wasteland 3 preview the patriarch

Cutting back to the action, after speaking with the Patriarch, we continued on our quest, where we encountered several new characters – which is where Wasteland 3 really shines. Unlike Wasteland 2 with its minimal voice acting, Wasteland 3 features voice acting for every character and every line of dialogue. This adds a new layer to the already well-written narrative. Actors bring these characters to life, introducing a flare and zest to the world through delivery, making each character a unique and memorable experience.

One particularly well-delivered moment happens quite early on in the piece. Upon reaching the dam, the squad gets to talk with a clearly insane member of the Dorsey gang. The madness of this character was enriched by the drawl and unhinged voice acting, lifting the entire experience to new heights.

Furthering the impressive audio in Wasteland 3 is Mary Ramos, who does the music direction for Quentin Tarantino’s films. Ramos has crafted a brilliant soundtrack that highlights the intensity of combat and the hostile, yet somehow beautiful, world of Wasteland 3.

Wasteland 3 preview visuals environment

Though Wasteland 2 was well-received, where it did falter was with its visuals, which were a bit dated for the time. It’s pleasing to say that Wasteland 3 is a gorgeous experience. Environments are chilly with its covering of snow and each character is expressive, with their clothing billowing in the icy breeze.

Much like its predecessors, Wasteland 3 features a turn-based combat system that rewards preparation and positioning. Before entering an enemy’s awareness radius, moving the individual squad members into ideal locations can be a massive advantage.

As the combat takes place, mousing over an enemy will show a given squad member’s chance of hitting them. Improving the position often results in better chances, as does upgrading weapons with mods. Characters can also learn abilities based on the skill system, which is upgraded by earning XP and skill points. One of the premade characters called Yuri had Puncturing Shot, which penetrates through multiple enemies and deals 100% damage against stunned targets.

Wasteland 3 preview action points

In order to balance out the attack and positioning, each action requires an Action Point. Combat is a delicate balance of repositioning for a better angle, making an attack or using an ability, and deciding what to do with left over Action Points. Any Action Points remaining before the turn ends can be saved for the next round, used to initiate a defensive positioning boosting evasion chances, or spent on creating an ambush. This makes ending a turn as important as the decisions you make mid-fight.

As we rounded on the last encounter in the Wasteland 3 preview, our squad was at either ends of the spectrum. Some members were bleeding profusely, requiring suture kits to staunch the flow of blood, while others were leveling up and gaining new abilities.

With more Dorsey gang members down, the squad came face-to-face with Isaac Reed, a man who had sold his community out. The new addition to the squad, Lucia Wesson, lost her parents because of this, and at our nudging, shot the man in the stomach.

Wasteland 3 preview Isaac Reed survivors combat

What followed was a harrowing fight where our squad – armed to the teeth – wiped out the survivors that aggressed after we killed their leader, all set to an equally harrowing cover of Down to the Valley to Pray by Greg Jong.

As the preview wrapped up, a brief overview of what happened showed that our actions will definitely have long-lasting effects. Not only has the squad further angered the Dorseys, but killing Isaac is bound to result in some trouble from the Hundred Families gang.

Fans of Wasteland 2, and the original, will no doubt feel right at home in Wasteland 3. The new entry in the series manages to capture the spirit of the originals, while tightening up mechanics, adding some new polish, and shifting to a new, yet still extremely hostile environment. Wasteland 3 will be releasing on May 19, 2020, on Xbox One, Windows, and PlayStation 4.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can Tweet him: @SamuelChandler 

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 17, 2020 9:00 AM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, Wasteland 3 hands-on preview: Tundra, trouble, and turns

    • reply
      March 28, 2020 3:29 AM

      Start making money this time... Spend more time with your family&relative by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $65oo to $7ooo a month. I've started this job and earnhandsome income and now i am exchange it with you, so you can do it too.


    • reply
      March 28, 2020 3:29 AM

      Start making money this time... Spend more time with your family&relative by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $65oo to $7ooo a month. I've started this job and earnhandsome income and now i am exchange it with you, so you can do it too.


Hello, Meet Lola