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—it’s no wonder that Wasteland 3 is one of the most eagerly-anticipated games of this year.   

Its 2016 crowdfunding campaign raised more than $3 million, and late last year developer inXile was bought by Microsoft, giving the team even more firepower. From the sparse footage and screenshots we’ve seen, it looks more ambitious and polished than Wasteland 2. But what do we actually know about it for sure? 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?

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?

It’ll be out in “late 2019”—inXile hasn’t yet given a more precise date. It’s not clear whether that release window is for the final game or for the Early Access build. We’d wager it’s the Early Access version, given that that game is still in its pre-alpha production stages.

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 (no word yet on whether it will hit the Microsoft Store). 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. 

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). 

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 is 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. 

How much will it cost?

Preorders are $33, but the retail price will be higher. We don’t know how much exactly it will cost, but inXile has previously said the “estimated retail price” is $50.