Wild Bastards is a challenging roguelike Space Western

The demo for this stylish tactical shooter tore me to shreds, but this spiritual successor to Void Bastards left me wanting more.

Blue Manchu

I died a lot in the Wild Bastards demo, and I wasn’t the only one. At the game’s Day of the Devs booth at GDC 2024, I watched the two players before me and another player after me have their parties wiped out in less than ten minutes. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, since developer Blue Manchu bills Wild Bastards, the spiritual successor to Void Bastards, as a “roguelike strategy shooter” with a “tactical campaign.” Still, I didn’t expect I would need to restart the demo two times within a half hour just to get through the first few planets by the skin of my teeth.

Dying for revenge

Wild Bastards Preview Combat Fight Shootout
Who needs guns when these finger guns will do?

SOURCE: Blue Manchu 

The reasons for my deaths are numerous, but most of them boil down to Wild Bastards requiring a lot of knowledge and understanding of multiple gameplay systems. None of these were explained in the demo, but I’m no stranger to being thrown into the deep end. First off, there are thirteen outlaws on the roster, and they all have their own strengths, special powers, and skill trees. All of them were part of an infamous gang, called the titular Wild Bastards, before they were taken down by the villainous tycoon Jebediah Chaste. And it’s the player’s job to get the gang back together again to exact revenge.

However, that doesn’t mean the outlaws like each other even though they have a common grudge. If some crew members are feuding with one another, players can’t select them to be part of the small group that beams down to a planet. Outlaws can also become tired or injured, so it’s crucial to rotate teams as the crew hops from one planet to the next. Moreover, planets have different traits, enemies, and limitations, with deadlier worlds typically having more opportunities for loot. So it’s up to the player to balance risk with reward.

Pressed for time and space

Wild Bastards Preview World Map
Every world map is procedurally generated, so you'll have to stay on your toes.

SOURCE: Blue Manchu

In addition to choosing the right outlaws to fight against specific enemies, they need to be paired up in separate groups on the world map. This is an important choice, because in combat the player can swap between the two outlaws at will, taking advantage of their unique movesets and safely tagging a character out if one of them has suffered too much damage. Meanwhile, the crew only has a limited number of turns to move around the map before one of Chaste’s flunkies arrives. Before that happens, the player needs to get through roadblocks by defeating enemies in a combat encounter and reach a teleporter to beam off the planet, all while hopefully collecting enough cash and upgrades so that they aren’t under-equipped for the rest of the runthrough.

As for combat, don’t be fooled by the game’s bright neon color palette and the wacky character art style. Enemies don’t fight fair and one hit can easily remove a third of an outlaw’s lifebar. There were many times where I couldn’t figure out where I was being shot from, because a gunhand was hiding inside a building, covered by a patch of tall grass, or taking cover behind a door. I also had to face a group of snakes that enjoyed pelting me with poison shots before burrowing into the ground and popping up somewhere behind me. Finding cover is a good idea, but enemies tend to be very accurate so there’s not a lot of time to sit around and dawdle.

Get into gear

Wild Bastards Preview Level Up
Beyond leveling up, finding Aces and mods will boost an outlaw's performance.

SOURCE: Blue Manchu

Fortunately, there are several ways to even the odds. One of the mods I equipped on an outlaw was a jetpack that allowed for quick bursts in the air, where I was able to spot enemies more clearly and find unusual spots for cover on the top of buildings. Many other mods will augment a crew member’s gun by increasing its magazine size, fire rate, or flat damage. Some abilities summon allies that attack enemies and distract them long enough to get a shot on them while they’re occupied. Obtaining Aces will improve an outlaw with permanent upgrades, while temporary boosts like invulnerability can get players out of a tight spot or go on a murder spree.

Wild Bastards will release on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam in 2024.

This preview is based on a demo of the game at the Day of the Devs booth at GDC 2024.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

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