Spaceward Expansion – Wild Bastards Preview

Are you sick of space-western entertainment? Well, there’s a new game by the name Wild Bastards that’s beaming into town that just might change your mind. Developed by Blue Manchu, it’s a hybrid game that shares qualities from genres like first-person shooters (FPS) and turn-based strategies. I was lucky enough to preview Wild Bastards, and even though I’m personally over the comparisons between space frontiers and the Old West, I can’t deny that the art, gameplay, and voice acting is top-notch. Let’s take a gander at whether this old cowboy’s lassoing skills are worth your attention and pennies.

The demo I played included the first couple levels of the game, and narratively, it was okay. You play as a band of outlaws that are running from some sort of intergalactic crime family. The game doesn’t do much to set up the universe or give the player context, but saving the exposition for later on is fine, as long as it’s well done.

The characters, on the other hand, are one of the game’s best qualities. From the get-go, it’s apparent that the game will revolve around the outlaw gang traveling from system to system and resurrecting their fallen brethren (and sistren). This is one aspect that is really enticing for the full release, because if they can make the whole cast of characters as likeable and charming as the first three: Doc Casino (the robot), Spider Rosa (the four-armed vampire), and Smoky (the combusting alien cook), then we’ll be in for treat.

wild bastards cast of characters
Notice the coffins on the cieling…

I was also left curious about the mysterious spaceship, the Drifter. The ship saves the crew, but its intentions are unknown; it could be sentient and acting on its own volition, or being controlled. Despite the overdone spaceship-western flavor, the first hour of the game still did a decent job of setting itself apart and getting me interested.

wild bastards the drifter
Not much is known about the Drifter

As you play through the story, resurrecting comrades and whatnot, the game will procedurally generate pathways through “sectors” (star systems), and encounters on planets. The two star systems in the demo felt a little limited in their pathways: they had basic options to consider, like choosing one path for a bounty, or another for a special item. It makes sense from a game development standpoint that the beginning would be more simple for players starting out; hopefully the procedurally generated star systems become more complex and weighty as the game continues.

wild bastards sector map
Simple risk/reward decisions

While flying your spaceship through a path in the star system, you’ll land on planets and have to fight your way to the special items (like ex-gang member remains). After you’ve acquired the items, you’ll then need to get to the tower area that beams you back to your ship. Take too long, and a boss-type enemy will land on the map and chase you. Again, the decisions you make as far as navigating these planets isn’t hard, but it is easy to find yourself scrambling if your gang members are wounded from the shootouts.

wild bastards planet map
There are interesting tools to navigate and manipulate the planet maps

The real meat of this game’s gameplay is in the actual shootouts, where you’ll fight enemies in a small first-person shooter style arena. The fighting spaces themselves aren’t big, but they are varied, with different biomes and enemy types. The basics are standard: there’s jump, run, zoom, fire, and special move. What’s cool is that each outlaw has a different ranged weapon, and specializes in certain types of combat. If your current “band” has more than one outlaw, you can switch between them mid-fight.

All these basic components come together to make a challenging and satisfying shooter experience. You will have to make use of the cover provided on the map, as most of the enemies’ shots will hit you, since you can’t juke them with strafing like in other shooters. Getting hit takes a significant portion of your health away, and it doesn’t come back until you find health on the planetary map after the shootout. This might be a situation where the game becomes easier as you level up and get more health, but I hope that’s not the case.

wild bastards shootout
You need a steady gun hand when you only have three health left

As the demo went on, I was really impressed with both the art and the voice acting. The style of the environment and characters is consistent and aesthetically pleasing. It’s obviously not cutting edge graphics, but the excellent art permeates every part of the game. The showdowns, user interface menus, star and planetary maps all feel hand-crafted, and really pop on the screen with their neon color palettes.

wild bastards level up
Even the level up screen has panache

The voice work is actually what drew me out of my skepticism for Wild Bastards being another space-western game. The scenes are well written, and the characters deliver the lines with a western drawl that is entertaining, but not too over the top. Smoky’s dialogue was genuinely funny and provided some much-needed comic relief.

This hour-long demo of Wild Bastards is too short to come to any real conclusions, but I am intrigued. It has the bones to be a fun and replayable title. That being said, the game’s systems progression will really be the determining factor of its success. Can the rest of the 13 outlaws be as personable? Will the procedurally generated levels become more choice heavy? Will the gameplay stay as challenging after leveling up? Many cowboys thought they’d find wealth and prosperity out west, and instead discovered a rugged and untamed frontier. What will the Wild Bastards find spaceward?

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Kelson H.
Kelson H.

Kelson is a spud head from out west. He is most happy when holding a milky tea with too much honey and playing a sprawling role playing game or reading a fantasy novel. His video game tastes vary but his main genres are looter shooters, RPGs, and real time strategy games.

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