The developers over at inXile Entertainment have been pretty busy since their Wasteland 3 RPG was released late last year. They have been steadily patching the game, as well as adding new features and even some cosmetic upgrades. It’s been good to see them steadily improving what was already a pretty great core game in the role-playing space.
Improvements to the core game include, in addition to a few needed patches, a kennel to keep your animals safe and sound when not adventuring with them (which also makes it easy to swap them out to different rangers), lots of rebalancing improvements and finally the ability to craft new weapons, armor and equipment, including some special items that you might learn about along the way.
But The Battle for Steeltown is the first full DLC to come out for the game, and first one that users need to pay to obtain. Yes, it’s interesting that inXile used to be solidly against DLCs, and now seem to be embracing the concept, but that is kind of beside the point. The DLC is available for under $15 on Steam, so it’s not too much money for a relatively nice amount of new content.
The Battle for Steeltown adds a new location to the overall map, way down the in lower left corner. With the DLC installed, you will get a radio call from The Patriarch as long as your characters are above level 9. He asks you to look in on the factory because he is no longer getting weapon and equipment shipments from them which he needs to defend against his marauding children and the armies of gangs threatening Colorado. You will need to either start a new game or load up a save prior to the final battle in order to jump in and play. I loaded mine up from about five minutes before I took on Liberty. The DLC is level-scaled, so it will be a challenge for you regardless of your team’s current level.
The factory DLC map consists of several factory levels plus a scrapyard outside and a hidden map that you will discover later in the adventure. It’s about as big as the maps surrounding the President Reagan-worshipping people, though a lot more compact because you can travel between most levels using a single, convenient elevator.
As with most things in Wasteland 3, there is a lot going on in Steeltown, including a lot of competing factions. The story is kind of standard for Wasteland, with workers rebelling against factory management, a rouge AI which is more than it seems, and an approaching army of thugs lead by Liberty who will presumably wreck everything if you can’t resolve the situation in time, forcing everyone to lose.
One of the most unique new mechanics in the Steeltown DLC is probably also the most controversial. The owner of the factory wants you to bring the workers in-line, but not kill them, since they will be needed to build defenses to fight off Liberty. Otherwise, everyone dies in the end. So you have to use non-lethal weapons on them. And because all factory workers have cybernetic implants, you are given new weapons that do “disruption” damage without actually taking off too-many hit points. Whenever you stack 10 levels of disruption on an enemy with those implants, they are knocked out.
I have to say that I for one hated this new mechanic. If you want to give me a taser that knocks people out in one hit like in real life, fine. But each time a disruption weapon hits, it only adds between one and three levels of disruption (don’t forget that you need to get to 10) and sometimes they resist the disruption all together. Some of the factory NPCs also annoyingly have shields that protect them from all damage other than the type of shield they are using, so if they are shielded with a heat shield, you need to use fire weapons against them. Only, you don’t want to do that either, because it will kill them, and you are supposed to use non-lethal means. So you have to wait till their shield expires. And did I mention that they are trying to kill you with real weapons the entire time?
The factory workers also normally have perfect positioning which makes getting at them or hitting them with area of effect attacks difficult. It’s like the entire DLC was designed to make combat artificially more difficult. And also, because nobody outside of the factory has the same cybernetic implants (they explain this away by saying that even the Star Collectors use a different system) then your factory weapons are worthless outside of the DLC. You can upgrade them if you want using a special steel found in the DLC, but it’s pretty pointless to do that because they are basically paperweights in the world outside.
I’m not really sure what the developers were thinking with some of the elements in this DLC. First they give us the ability to modify and craft our normal weapons so that we are even more powerful than before, and then they make us sit on our hands and not use anything good in several of the battles across Steeltown. Thankfully, there are a few fights where you are free to let your real weapons reign down the death, but I would have preferred the entire DLC be like that. I suppose if you are looking for a really hard challenge, then try to go through the DLC without killing anyone. It’s not easy, as even your pets will often destroy those squishy factory workers if they get close, and this includes non-dismissible companions like the Provost. Also, on my ranger with an energy build, her perks made it so that even her non-lethal attacks were deadly, doing much more hit point damage than disruption.
At least some of those tricky battles can be avoided with high Kiss Ass or Smart Ass skills, which is nice. I actually avoided a major battle all together by sneaking around and making several non-combat skill checks.
There is about four hours worth of gameplay in the Steeltown DLC if you do everything, including all the side quests. It’s probably going to take most people a bit longer with all the reloading and refighting battles if you are trying to keep the factory workers alive. Because they will die sometimes despite your best efforts – or kill you instead.
For me, The Battle of Steeltown is a bit of a swing and a miss. I went through the entire DLC, but didn’t really enjoy the experience like I did when playing the core game. I would still recommend the DLC, especially for players looking for a bigger challenge from Wasteland 3. The Battle for Steeltown is certainly well-made and the story is interesting enough to keep you playing to see what happens and which factions “win” in the end with your generous help.
You might even consider just playing the DLC again and backing a different faction if you don’t like your original results, because it’s hard to tell who is telling the truth until after you have made at least a few critical decisions.
While The Battle for Steeltown might not be earthshattering, it is a fun way to add some extra playtime to an amazing RPG. Kudos to the developers for trying something new in their DLC instead of just giving us more of the same, even if not everyone will totally appreciate the results. Even I came to like this DLC mostly for its story. Also, note that there is one more battle once you think that everything is over, and this final conflict (after you leave the factory for good — and get called back) is pretty darn epic.
The Battle for Steeltown earns 4 GiN Gems, which is a little bit less than the 5 GiN Gems the core Wasteland 3 game earned when it first came out. But don’t let that discourage you from checking out Steeltown. It’s a good addition to the core game that is worth the money as an interesting and challenging side-adventure.