Wastenauts promises an ambitious design, incorporating a raft of features to combine ‘dungeon crawling with a card game.’ Many of these woven together to generate a level of dynamicity that encourages replayability and delivers longevity. While maintaining a streamlined approach to play.
An intriguing game world provides plenty of motivation to explore. Sharp comic book visuals create an attractive ambience. While a deftly written story binds the whole experience together. Customizable decks, unlockable content, configurable raiding parties, and the ability to craft temporary cards make a bold statement of its potential. Gameplay already hints at the tactical complexity and challenge players can expect to get their teeth into. There are three modes: Story, Adventure (randomized), and Custom Games with online Coop.
Being in such an early state a few thoughts came to mind. Will the combat be balanced hit a sweet spot? Will players be at the mercy of the RNG gods? Will the grind to unlock cards be capped to an acceptable level? Will the game need a permanent online connection to synchronize with unlocked cards?
Wastenauts is being developed by Razbury Games. We would very much like to thank them for providing the key used in this preview. Written as it was based on an alpha version – The Bing Bang Bong build. The game has a Kickstarter that at the time of writing continues to require additional backing to meets its target. There is a store page on Steam and play-test keys can be requested from its Kickstarter or website. Subscribe to TBL for further updates as development progresses. There is currently no set release date.
Build Previewed: The Bing Bang Bong build
Kick Starter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/razburygames/wastenauts
Steam Store Page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1357590/Wastenauts/
On the horizon of a decimated Earth, a wasteland of opportunity beckons for a select group of insane personalities known as Wastenauts. Welcome to the game of the same name. Languishing in a post-robot apocalypse, humanity sends these foolhardy characters to salvage the diminishing resources of a forsaken world. Together they leap from airships, the last hubs of civilization, undertaking forays onto a hostile surface rife with danger. They hunt for the last scattered remnants of precious scrap. Before their time runs out. Before they must return home.
Describing itself as a card-crawler; a ‘dungeon crawler dressed as a card game’, Wastenauts presents a marriage of select mechanics from a number of established genres. Along with dungeon crawlers, aspects of deck-building and roleplaying games have been fused together, aiming to deliver a somewhat distinctive experience of its own. One with a familiar-looking ambience and vibe reminiscent of a Borderlands game or Max Mad movie. Qualities that would seemingly appeal to fans of those franchises. At least for those searching for a more strategic or tactically focused game.
Players take control of one such group of salvage hunters, each with their own specific abilities. The squad begins on an airship that doubles as a hub to unlock and purchase cards, and blueprints. Here groups of characters [from an available roster] can be selected to form raiding parties. Decks for every individual can be configured for each session. Over a hundred cards are earmarked to make the final incarnation of the game, spanning categories such as abilities, gear, salvage, blueprints, rewards, and events. Characters can also be leveled and their stats increased, by allocating any experience points gained through combat and the completion of personal goals. Skins can be applied to dice and other game elements to personalize their in-game appearance. When ready players choose a location from those available, to conduct a sortie. Every game is played at one of these abstracted locations, represented by its own deck of cards.
Once on the surface characters stage raids into their chosen location from a temporary camp. Here characters are assigned to parties to work in unison or as individuals. Parties essentially provide strength in numbers but reduce the number of actions spent searching for resources. Ability cards can also be played to prepare for the next impending sortie. One example would be to scout the first few cards in the next deck. ‘Bots and other varmints can be dismantled into scrap and used to forge temporary items, from blueprints specific to each character. If enough scrap is available. Injured characters can sit out the next day to heal themselves where required. When ready the next foray into dangerous territory can be embarked upon.
Turns cycle across two alternating phases; day and night. The number of these is determined by when the airship is expected to return and collect the scrap hunters. During the day each party [not each character,] draws cards from a deck up to the number of actions derived from their stats. Once every group has drawn their limit, night arrives and the group heads back to camp. Daily incursions into the current area continue until the final day when the airship arrives. When it does, an enemy boss is attracted to the location looking to reclaim what the group collected, in a winner-takes-all final fight. If the group fails all the collected scrap will be left behind.
With an array of familiar mechanics from; story-telling, exploration, party-customization, card-collecting and unlocking, deck-management, aspects of role-playing and crafting with blueprints, Wastenauts has clearly adopted an ambitious design. One that is looking to deliver streamlined gameplay and a challenging experience. Central to this philosophy are the mechanisms incorporated in the hope of providing enough dynamicity and replayability, to ensure considerable longevity. Randomly compiled location decks, unlockable cards and other content, customizable character decks, configurable raiding parties and the ability to craft temporary cards through blueprints, makes a bold statement of this potential. Whether it will reach fruition remains to be seen. All of this without even mentioning the ability to play coop online with other gamers.
In its alpha state, it was quite difficult to ascertain just what level of quality and amount of content will eventually see the light of day, when fully released. There was certainly an intriguing game world to visit. The hint of a story that binds the entire experience together was also apparent. One that was driven by some sparky, banter-led dialogue and looks worthy of unraveling. Implemented gameplay mechanics already hint at the multitude of challenges players can expect to get their teeth into. The sheer scope of strategy and tactical options when a good amount of cards and blueprints have been unlocked on their own should make for a game of some complexity. Add to these the range of enemies to defeat, items to use, and whatever else has yet to be included and the game promises to be worth at least a looksee in the future.
For a game that appeared out of nowhere, Wastenauts has certainly made a positive initial impression. Ultimately though it is still a work in progress. As always with such an early build there remain some questions and concerns from playing this incarnation. One possible negative maybe the game’s central deck-building element may require some sort of online connection to synchronize cards unlocked by players during play. Much of the art currently used placeholders but if the artists continue to deliver the level of comic-book style visuals included so far, then its sure to be a very good-looking game.
With such a short playthrough across story and adventure modes, it was unclear how well gameplay will be balanced. Given the layers of tactical complexity hinted at during play, it will be a challenge to attain an acceptable level. There is also the case of RNG having too much of an effect on combat. From what was experienced this will need a good deal of focused attention. If it is not suitably balanced the fear of yet another game being left to the mercy of the RNG-gods will become all too real. Yet if the potential hinted at managed to hit somewhere near its ballpark, then this card crawler may retain an addictive nature equal to its compelling play. Another concern has to be the level of grind and the necessity for farming scrap. Will this be fair to players who do not want to or are unable to put in hundreds of hours of playtime!? Only time will tell.
Wastenauts is being developed by Razbury Games. We would very much like to thank them for providing the key used in this preview. Written as it was based on an alpha version – The Bing Bang Bong build. The game has a Kickstarter that at the time of writing continues to require additional backing to meets its target. There is a store page on Steam and play-test keys can be requested from its Kickstarter or website. There is currently no set release date.