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Wasteland 3: everything we know

Given how long fans had to wait for a sequel to 1988 RPG Wasteland—and how good that sequel was when it finally arrived—Wasteland 3 has a lot to live up to. Its 2016 crowdfunding campaign raised more than $3 million, and in 2018 developer inXile was bought by Microsoft, giving the team even more firepower to make a deep, systems-driven RPG. From the footage and screenshots we’ve seen, including a new trailer at E3 2019, it looks more ambitious and polished than Wasteland 2. To save you scavenging around the web for information, we’ve collected anything that’s important in one place.   

Here’s everything you need to know about Wasteland 3.

What is Wasteland 3?

Wasteland 3

(Image credit: inExile)

An isometric, squad-based RPG set in a post-apocalyptic, ice-cold Colorado. Expect lots of dialogue, tactical turn-based combat and a story that sees warring factions battle for control of the region. Its story is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wasteland 2.

What's the Wasteland 3 release date?

Wasteland 3 will be out in May 19, 2020. The original release window of 2019 was a bit too ambitious for inXile, which says that it's only able to hit a spring launch because it's been able to hire more staff thanks to support from new parent company Microsoft.

Wasteland 3 is planning its beta for crowdfund backers in March

Backers who supported Wasteland's 3's Fig campaign will be able to participate in Wasteland 3's Backer Beta which inXile is planning for March. The early look will be just two months prior to the game's proper launch, giving backers an "expanded preview." Details about the exactly when the backer beta will take place are yet to come.

Wasteland 3's '1987' trailer is more guns, dramatic voice-over, and snow

inXile announced the Wasteland 3 release date at XO19 with this trailer. The trailer itself doesn't show much new, unless you love slow-motion shots of wastelanders firing guns.

Wasteland 3's Gamescom 2019 trailer shows a lot of story and combat

The new trailer shows more of the frozen wasteland of Colorado, a lot more combat, and a mysterious new character who offers to help the Rangers...for a price.

How much will it cost?

Pre-orders are $33, but the retail price will be higher. We don’t know how much it will cost, but inXile has previously said the "estimated retail price" is $50.

Now that Microsoft has bought inXile, will Wasteland 3 still release on Steam?

Yes, according to the latest information inXile has given. The game’s Fig page says it will release on Steam, GOG, "and possibly other" distribution platforms. The Fig FAQ also says it will be available in Steam Early Access. 

Now, you might argue that’s old information, likely written before the Microsoft deal. However, in a December blog post inXile said it would be "keeping all of our Wasteland 3 commitments." Pulling the Steam plans would be a major u-turn.

What's the story premise?

Mild spoilers for Wasteland 2 in this section.

Following the events of Wasteland 2, the Desert Rangers were left without a proper base of operations. They received a call from the Patriarch of Colorado Springs—essentially, the ruler of the region—asking them to help him stop his nation from falling apart. In return, he promised the Rangers all the resources they’d need to rebuild. 

The Rangers dispatched a squad called Team November to make contact with the Patriarch, but things didn’t go to plan. It’s not clear what exactly happened, but you start the game as Team November’s sole survivor, waking up in a frozen land full of murderous cults, vicious gangs and lost technology.   

As the story unfolds, you’ll be building your reputation, siding with various factions, and exploring this strange land while saving or destroying locations through the decisions you make. Oh, and inXile has teased that one of the Rangers from Wasteland 2 is returning, but isn’t telling us who just yet.

What can we expect from the setting?

Expect a large world with two major hubs. The first, the city of Colorado Springs, will be the largest location in Wasteland 3. The second is your Ranger Base, which will act as a "quest hub." At the start of the game, the base will be empty, and you’ll have to recruit new Rangers from the local population. InXile says you won’t be "micromanaging" your base, but it will change over the time based on your actions and decisions. It will also be the backdrop for lots of quests, events, and ethical dilemmas.   

Some locations in Wasteland 3 will be inspired by real-life places. For example, the team are basing one location on the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, which was also the inspiration for the setting of Stephen King’s novel The Shining. 

Wasteland 3

How do multiplayer campaigns work?

For the first time in the series, Wasteland 3 will introduce multiplayer, and you’ll be able to play through the main campaign with a friend in two-player co-op. The campaign will continue even if only one player is online, so you can drop in and out any time you want, but there will be a small number of set points in the story that will only trigger if both players are in-game. If one player abandons the playthrough then it’s not a big deal: You can convert the save to a singleplayer campaign if you like. 

Each player controls their own squad of Rangers, and you can swap personnel if you want—although you’ll need at least one player-created character in your party at any time. Both players can explore and take on missions together or go off in different directions with their own squad. If you split up, your actions and consequences can affect the other player, even if they’re not online.

As an example, inXile describes a scenario in which one player makes a deal with a gang of smugglers, keeping their trade routes clear in return for a cut of the profits. “It would be possible for one player's party to make the deal, not tell the other player, and thus that player would receive compensation in return. Meanwhile, the second player might independently choose to attack the smugglers for the good of the people of Colorado, not knowing of the prior deal, and that would lead to a similar consequence where the smugglers end up at Ranger HQ asking hard questions." Intriguing stuff.

How has dialogue been revamped?

The reworked dialogue system is based on the one used in Torment: Tides of Numenera. Essentially, dialogue sequences are branching, with potential lines of enquiry opening up or shutting down based on your responses. Some options will only appear if your characters have certain skills.   

Expect more dialogue to be voiced than in Wasteland 2. For important conversations, the camera will zoom in to a close-up, over-the-shoulder view of your character, giving you a good look at the person you’re speaking to, warts and all. In these cases, NPCs will have voice acting and lip sync, as you can see in the trailer below (which also shows off a little bit of gameplay). 

In a recent development update, inXile confirms that Wasteland 3 is in fact entirely voice acted, thanks to support from its new owners at Microsoft.

How will vehicles work?

Wasteland 3 introduces vehicles for the first time in the series, and you’ll be able to drive them about the world and use them to store supplies. Their mounted weapons, as you can see in the video above, will come in useful during combat. You’ll be able to take cover behind vehicles, too. 

You can modify vehicles with parts you find out in the wild—the first vehicle you get will be beaten up, but you’ll find others as you go through the story.

How will combat differ from Wasteland 2?

It looks like it will be largely the same as in Wasteland 2: Turn-based combat in which you spend action points during your turn, directing your squad to take cover or attack the enemy. The big addition for Wasteland 3 are team-focused abilities, which give your Rangers tactical skills that affect your whole squad, or weaken all your opponents. 

Wasteland 3 will also let some characters escape from near-death situations through a “Down-But-Not-Out” system, which hasn’t fully been explained yet. 

inXile is also remastering the original Wasteland

Wasteland Remastered

(Image credit: inXile)

Along with developing the third game in the series, inXile is also "remastering" the original Wasteland, though it looks like it might be overhauling enough to call it an entire remake. It's coming out in early 2020.