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Wild Bastards combines stylish shooting with outlaw ego management

A wild west-looking town in Wild Bastards.
Maximum Entertainment

While 2019 feels like a lifetime ago to me now, thanks to a time-warping pandemic, I still vividly remember playing Void Bastards for the first time. I had learned about the unique shooter a few months after it launched and was instantly drawn in by its graphic novel art style and eye-catching name. I’d buy it on a hot holiday weekend in July. It was the perfect time to go outside and get some air, but I couldn’t unglue myself from my computer. I chewed it up in a few sittings, obsessing over its sci-fi setting, roguelite systems, and slick shooting.

All of that came back to me when I demoed Wild Bastards at this year’s Game Developers Conference. The title isn’t exactly a sequel to Void Bastards, but more of a spiritual follow-up. It’s another brightly colored first-person shooter with procedural elements and a light board game twist. However, the new game isn’t just repeating the same trick twice. It’s a smart riff on Void Bastards’ riffing formula filled with Western flair, feuding teammates, and bean-trading.

A shootout in Wild Bastards.
Maximum Entertainment

Like Void Bastards, Wild Bastards is split up into a few distinct phases. The overall goal is to navigate an interstellar map with a team of outlaws, nabbing loot and clearing arena-based shootouts along the way. My demo would first throw me into a planetary map with branching paths. Some routes were safer than others; one risky choice caused me to lose one of my equippable upgrades. I’d keep moving forward in a board game-like fashion until I reached a planet and beamed down onto it. Everything widened out from there.

First, I’d have to select a team of outlaws from my crew to bring with me on my loot-hunting expedition. Each one has its own unique weapon that can be used in battle, skills that can be learned over time, and equipment slots for perks. But Wild Bastards takes the idea of team management one step further. I’m not just picking my favorite guns; I’m managing egos and clashing personalities.

My outlaws form interpersonal relationships with one another as the run progresses. Sometimes, two will grow closer. Other times, they’ll hate one another, so I can’t bring them out on a mission together. The only way I can resolve that is by using beans, a resource that can be found on planets, which are traded to squash the beef between crewmates. Wild Bastards disincentives players from simply bringing the same crew members on every mission, too. An outlaw with a full energy bar will get buffs when taken out on a mission.

The map in Wild Bastards.
Maximum Entertainment

That overlaying emphasis on crew management adds a new layer to a familiar formula. When I finally land on a planet, I’m thrown into another board game setup where I have to move my crew towards loot to collect it and successfully extract it by finding an exit point on the map. To do that, though, I need to take out rival outlaws that block key paths to treasure. When I land on those enemy spaces, I’m dropped into first-person combat encounters in small arenas where my crew selection comes into play.

Each outlaw essentially acts as a different gun loadout that I can switch between with a mouse wheel turn. In one level, I’d bring along a character with a long-range sniper rifle, who I had equipped with a jetpack. That would allow me to fly high into the air to find enemies and pick them off from afar. I paired that with a close-range character who shot flaming lob shots, which was a perfect playstyle compliment. The few arena battles I played through were very short, offering bite-sized chunks of fast-paced shooting that isn’t so far off from Void Bastards’ stylish combat.

I’m eager to see how much depth that promising setup has. A developer on hand noted that some arenas will have occasional modifiers that shake gameplay up, like a lightning storm looming over the planet. Twists like that should give the roguelike runs the same kind of surprises and tension that made Void Bastards such an engrossing delight in 2019.

I can’t wait for my next weekend binge when the full release launches on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch this year.

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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