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Backlog Twosome | Wastenauts

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One of the greatest benefits of being a modern video game fan is that we get to experience the evolution of our favorite hobby first hand. One of the most fascinating movements of recent years has been the idea of crowdfunding! I mean, could you imagine being a part of the development of an exciting new game, even if it was just financially, and seeing your name in the credits when we were younger?! 

Well, that’s more than possible these days with services such as Kickstarter. It’s exciting to be able to seek out interesting and sometimes experimental games, and thanks to the generous folks at Mountain Giant, we were able to experience an alpha build on one such game, Wastenauts by Razbury Games. A dungeon-crawler meets collectible card game, based in a futuristic dystopian wasteland where your fate is decided by the top of the deck, and a roll of the dice.

Now, before we dive too deep into our thoughts on the game, we just want to put a quick disclaimer out there mentioning that the version of Wastenauts we played was an early alpha build. Meaning that many of the features we encountered, including art assets, game mechanics, story sequences, etc., can and very likely will change in one way or another. With that being said, sit back, relax and we hope you enjoy our early thoughts on this intriguing game!

Let’s just say that although I very much enjoy card games, they are certainly not my forte. Sure, I can whoop Patrick’s butt in Rummy or Uno, but when it comes to strategy card games like Magic the Gathering or even my beloved Unstable Unicorns, I suck… terribly! And when it comes to card based video games my luck doesn’t generally improve either, so I tend to avoid them like the plague.

When we were offered Wastenauts I will admit I was a little concerned about breaking the game with my awfulness, but thankfully it turned out to have a fairly straightforward playstyle that even I couldn’t screw up.

I’ve always been a fan of collectible card games, and being a long time fan of games like Magic the Gathering, the idea of building a deck and outwitting your opponent always excited me. So when we had the opportunity to check out Wastenauts, I jumped on it instantly.

Not only did it seem to have fun and “Borderlands” styled aesthetics, but the prospect of a card based RPG, with rogue-like elements really resonated with me. I love that a lot of what happens in these games is left up to chance, and that it’s up to you to strategize effectively in order to survive. But, that also requires balance, because any amount of randomness can cause frustration and I was curious to see how Wastenauts would play out.

Let me just start off by saying, Wastenauts has a ton of potential. I love the fun and unique characters you’ll encounter, all with their own traits and personalities, as well as the concept of the entire world. One where you find yourself scavenging desolate wastelands for resources in order to survive. You’ll encounter rogue robots, blood thirsty bandits, and even a wandering merchant or two! But the real draw to Wastenauts is its thought-provoking approach to the classic dungeon crawler.

Instead of exploring dank, dark, randomly generated dungeons, you’re facing off against a random assortment of cards! It may seem a little less engaging on the surface, but it’s actually quite fun to see what cards you’ll uncover as you progress through each stage. Also, I like that the gameplay loop isn’t you just building a deck and battling opponents. Rather, you’re building it as you go based on the cards you encounter. So, for example, if you defeat a robot you can take it back to your camp and break it down for materials. Which in turn can be used to craft various temporary cards, stat boosts, or abilities that’ll help you on your next excursion.

Of course, you can still buy cards and add them to your inventory permanently, with the currency you’ll obtain by completing a mission, but I really like how dynamic the on-the-fly card crafting made each mission feel.

I haven’t played many card based video games, so my frame of reference isn’t the greatest, however having played Magic: Online, Gwent, and Tetra Masters plenty I really have to hand it to Wastenauts. They really took the whole concept of a card game and made it feel like you were playing a standard RPG. There’s level ups, weapons, boosts, and bosses galore! Very exciting stuff if you ask me.

Also, to its credit, you aren’t playing against someone else who also has a hand full of cards and the strategic knowhow to use them, but a deck of randomized cards instead. You are given the ability, almost straight away, to peek at and reorder the top three cards of this deck as well, so being able to prepare and divide your team appropriately in advance is a nice breath of fresh air. In the beginning, which I imagine will change as you progress, the characters don’t have a lot of turns to spare so knowing even those top three cards takes the pressure off learning the mechanics of the game and just succeeding in general.

I love, love, love the whole Borderlands meets card game aesthetic of Wastenauts. The wasteland dystopia inhabited by a mosaic cast of characters really lends itself well to this style of game. There’s plenty of colorful characters and enemies already and I hope there are more planned. We also got to see a few nifty looking weapons and bonus cards. I’m really excited to see where Razbury Games takes Wastenauts and how they expand on what seems like an already stellar system.

At this point, since the game is still in very early development, I don’t want to get too bogged down with any criticisms I might have, but I will say that it was unfortunate that my bad luck seemed to follow me into our playthrough. Man those RNG gods were not in my favor AT ALL when it came to dice rolls and fighting enemies. More often than not we rolled nothing but blank red dice, even when we had boosts on for 5+ dice. And since taking any damage severely cuts the character’s amount of dice to roll we lost more than a few battles. Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of consequences if you do fail so again, progression within the game may just be what is needed in this case.

Wastenauts certainly isn’t without its flaws, but since this is an alpha build of the game, it’s difficult to lean on them too hard since there’s still plenty of time for refinement. With that being said however, the biggest thing I would love to see improved would be the combat balance. Like I said earlier, many of the things you’ll encounter when you’re out on a mission are thrown at you in a random fashion, but that’s doubly true during combat. Sure, you have a few cards here and there to help you even the odds, but since your attacks are 100% reliant on a dice roll, and it’s very possible to roll zeros on those dice, you’ll be critically missing more often than what feels right. Combined with the fact that it seems like enemies can never miss, there being very little opportunities to heal during battle, and the fact that as your characters get damaged they become weaker in more ways than one, and you got yourself a recipe that feels unfair and frustrating. There’s a hopelessness to fighting a battle that you know you’ll lose because the dice rolls keep fighting against you, and I’m not sure if I’m a fan. Nonetheless, there doesn’t seem to be a significant penalty for failing a mission, so maybe take all of that with a grain of salt.

On the flip side, I love the inclusion of random “card abilities” that can alter the behavior of another card, gear, or even a character. Things like boosting your attack damage, or even an enemy randomly gaining additional health when they first enter battle. It’s things like that that really make it feel like you’re playing an honest to goodness CCG. It would be great to see more of these to spice up your encounters, and maybe even give us more passive character abilities that offset the randomness of battles.

It’s difficult to recommend a game that’s still so early in development, but all in all I think that Wastenauts might be just the game to keep an eye out for. Especially if you like collectible card games, and the randomness of rogue-likes and dungeon crawlers. With that being said, there’s still a long way to go before we see the final product, and it’ll be fun to see how the completed game turns out.

I think Wastenauts is an easy recommendation even in this early stage of development. Really I can only see the mechanics, story and gameplay getting even better with time. Personally I’m quite eager to see how the finished product turns out and we will definitely be back to experience it in its full glory once it is. I’m very appreciative of Razbury Games for allowing us to have this sneak peak into this super fun, cooperative card-crawler of theirs.

All in all, we were quite impressed with what Wastenauts had to offer, and although it has its flaws, there’s too much potential to ignore. Plus, the devs have plenty of time to make it the great game it deserves to be. We’ll definitely be keeping tabs on Wastenauts progress and you can be sure we’ll be back when it hits its full release.

If you’re interested in checking out Wastenauts, you can wishlist it right now on Steam or you can check out its Kickstarter campaign!