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Space-Western Wild Bastards has OK shooty, decent looty, but darn fine rooty and tooty

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Image credit: Blue Manchu

Roguelike FPS Wild Bastards is the space western follow up to 2019’s Void Bastards. It takes some of that game’s ideas, mainly those related to shooty and looty, and reforms them into a largely different can o’ campfire beans. This time, it’s less focused on exploration, more on individual, tense shoot-outs. You collect a cast of weirdos, each with different guns and abilities, and form the deadliest dang posse this side of the last tactical overworld map you descision'd your way through. I like what I've played so far, although I think a lot is going to hinge on how much evolution the mid-game offers. As always, here’s a Steam demo, if you want to be all contrary and 'form your own opinions'. Pah.

The first thing you’ll want to do is whack mouse sensitivity as high as it’ll go. Seems as if Ol’ Jimmy Molasses has been gunking up the pistols again, varmint that he is. Once this is sorted though, Wild Bastards appears to have pushed far more of its chips into the FPS pile this time around. You get two outlaws quite quickly, a spidery Pistolier and a robot with a large laser shotgun. I’m not too hot on the shotgun, but the spinny dual pistols feel pretty solid. There’s still a sense that, whether through engine limitations or design, Wild Bastards is a game that includes shooting, rather than being a dedicated shooter. Still, solid pistols.

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I spend some of my first showdown hiding on top of a water tower, which elicits barks from my confused enemies. Feeling sorry for them, I eventually decide to return to the ground. I switch Bastards from pistol to shotgun, which is instant, so it basically just feels like switching loadouts. Except! Individual Bastards can get wounded, so it’s a bit like each of your guns having their own health pool. When the short showdowns end, you’ll enter the overworld map. Health carries over between showdowns, but you can find heals on the map in between bags of money, upgrades, and other encounters. This incentivises you to either finesse each showdown as smoothly as possible, or switch out Bastards often so you get an even spread of wounds. The overworld map itself is styled somewhat like a board game, giving you a certain amount of movement points each turn instead of just a flat node hop.

Why does this movement limit matter? Because you’ll also be pursued by enemies as you move around. I finish the first map, do some upgrade stuff in space, then start the second. Eventually, a no-good rotten treacle-bellied prairie dog-kissing varmint called McNeil arrives. He pursues me across the map, and the game tells me to avoid him. So, of course, I decide to run straight toward him to see what all the fuss is about. He manages to kill Spider Rosa. But! The duff-feeling shotgun turns out to be quite effective. I change tac from hiding out in a big pipe, and bunny hop over to McNeil and his horse, giving them old shell-to-face as I go. McNeil? More like McNeil, but dead! Did the game make McNeil deliberately weak to make me feel special, or I am just that good at Wild Bastards? I suppose I’ll learn more when the full game releases this year, September 12th 2024.

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