Fans of the Fallout series may be used to the more laidback nature of the modern Bethesda offerings, but the origins of the beloved franchise go way back. The premise of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world struggling to survive, and how players can change and affect things is not new, considering the first Wasteland made its debut in 1988. 32 years later, the post-nuclear roleplaying landscape welcomes Wasteland 3.
InXile Entertainment’s latest offering brings together a ragtag bunch of characters, crafted and recruited by your own hands, joining a conflict that can be simply be described as being in way over your head. Trading the sands and heat of Arizona and California from the previous entries, Wasteland 3 invites us into the cold embrace of Colorado.
As part of a squad of Desert Rangers sent north to obtain supplies that your settlement desperately needs, the team is unceremoniously wiped out in an ambush. With just two Rangers (who you can customise) surviving, it is a long trek to salvation that begins with the all-powerful Patriarch of Colorado Springs.
He needs help containing his rebellious offsprings, all three who have aligned themselves with some really weird folks. There are crazy, murderous clowns, loyal worshippers of Reagan, and you will need to find a way to maneuverer through all the kookiness that is now a trademark of the Wasteland series.
Suffice to say, the outlandish plot, the setting, and the way Wasteland 3 invites you into this story is captivating enough such that even after 60-odd hours spent adventuring and getting into trouble, everything is still good for a laugh or two.
Thankfully, for a series that is steeped in deep mechanics, Wasteland 3 has wisely streamlined the experience. This removes plenty of the awkwardness that was in Wasteland 2, a certain skills are now parked under the same umbrella, while interacting with objects will take place automatically if you have the right skill, so there’s no more fumbling through multiple steps just to open a damn lockbox.
That applies to the turn-based combat of Wasteland 3 as well. Seeing as this will probably be where most players spend their time, InXile has stripped away most of the minutiae and made things easier to understand. This will likely rankle the hardcore players, but for the general populace, this is a good move.
If you have played some XCOM 2, you will be right at home. Mousing over spaces will reveal the opportunities of attack, as well as the percentages of success. It is an instantly recognisable setup that is easy to grasp.
The turn-based nature of Wasteland 3 is also clear and straightforward, you can do whatever you want within your limit. Be it moving, shooting, using items or skills, it is up to your tactical leanings to position your team as best as you can. Flanking enemies is always the best option, just be sure to watch out for yourself as well.
When you do attack, each character will be building up a strike meter that leads to a precision strike attack. This allows most conventional firearms to damage a specific body part or an environmental hazard. Nothing feels quite as good as setting everything up to get that toughest foe down in a coordinated concert of bullets and explosives.
On occasions, you may find yourself in the company of animal sidekicks or NPCs. While they are not under your control, they lack the necessary thinking to survive as such. Instead of being tactical, they tend to rush headfirst into danger. It can be a struggle trying to wrangle such beings, and no one would blame you if you just let them expire on the battlefield sometimes.
Unfortunately, more can be done on the equipment side of things. As it is now a shared pool between the party, the deeper you go into the game, the more stuff you will have to contend with.
Junk can easily build up, and you may have a hard time finding the stuff you really need. Filters are present, but utility items and others like cybernetic mods do not fall under a particular category, and scrummaging through your own stuff is not the most fun you can have.
On the other side, there is certainly a glut of enjoyable roleplaying involved in Wasteland 3, which makes for an awesome experience from start to finish.
Choices are vital to this genre, and InXile has included memorable moments aplenty. You will never know what might just happen down the line because of your one decision. Grey areas are where most individuals and groups operate in for most of the game, and you are no exception.
The roleplaying concerns your team as well. As they grow in number and skills, the depth of the Wasteland 3’s skill and perks systems come into play more prominently. Rather than having jack-of-all-trades, it is recommended that you spec your team members accordingly to their strengths. This allows you to have a variety of options when approaching problems.
Be it sweet-talking your way out of trouble or just having enough expertise to defuse a bomb, having the necessary skills can often result in scenarios taking a surprising turn. Wasteland 3 is truly about choices and surprises.
That said, characters you will meet are sufficiently colourful, although not all of them have all-star personalities. Party members can be a hit-or-miss when it comes to notable standouts. Not all of them have interesting things to say, which is reflective of life in general, but just does not work that well in a game.
The lack of a way to check in on them, outside of the occasional conversation that takes place as you wander the world, provides little opportunity to learn more about them.
Wasteland 3 also introduces the conversational camera change when it comes to major events. The dialogue takes place up close and personal, as you eye your opposite number and make your choice.
The mo-capped performances are lively, expressive, and provide some of the more nuanced and interesting portrayals of post-apocalyptic survivors and crazies alike.
Psychopath Victory Buchanan definitely lives up to his name, exuding charm and creepiness in the few moments you have with him. Unless you decide to recruit him into your party, that opens up another large can of worms down the line. The people of this world certainly do not appreciate a murderous mad man wondering about, not answering for his crimes.
It helps that everything just looks substantially better than before. Characters look great and riding on the tank that is the Kodiak in the overworld makes for some fancy visuals. The sounds and the voice acting are all on point as well, bringing to life a world full of secrets, silliness, and brutal honesty.
While Wasteland 3 is definitely not a stark evolution of the strategy roleplaying genre, it is definitely up there with the best of them. Its brand of humorous, often dark comedy coupled with the constantly satisfying combat makes for a game that just does not get old. With plenty of story and side adventures to go on, it could possibly keep you entertained until the apocalypse and beyond.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Living with consequences is part of life, just make you don’t miss on the RPG gem that is Wasteland 3.
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 8.5/10