Title: Wasteland 3
Publisher: inXile Entertainment
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Genre: RPG, CRPG, Action, Dark Humor, Turn-Based Action
Official Site: https://www.inxile-entertainment.com
Release Date: August 27
Coming Soon on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Wasteland 3 is the long-awaited sequel to a series that has defined and innovated the RPG genre with the first game back in 1988. The series follows a group known as the “Desert Rangers” and their exploits in a harsh post-apocalyptic America. With the arrival of this third title, the series continues after the events of Wasteland 2 and takes place in the turbulent winter wonderland of Colorado. Now no longer in their former homeland of Arizona, the Desert Rangers find themselves in a strange, harsh world at the behest of a mysterious character called the Patriarch, the de facto ruler of Colorado.
Their mission is simple: they must find and capture the Patriarch’s children to fulfill a deal made with this mysterious man because in doing so, they will save their people back home from starvation with much-needed aid from the Patriarch. Even though the premise of the mission may be simple, the execution is not, and this is shown from the very start of this game. Decisions will have to be made and people will die. This is the world of Wasteland 3.
If you are either a fan or have played previous games in the Wasteland series you already know how this game plays; but for all of you new players out there, here are the details. Wasteland 3 is a CRPG where players choose from a selection of premade characters or make their own and command a squad of up to 6 characters of either companions or player made characters.
After that, players will explore a harsh world and command their squad through dangerous and deadly encounters with all various types of mutants, raiders, and really… big freaking robots in turn-based cover combat, reminiscent of games such as X-COM 2. In between the massive robots, players will also complete quests and meet many interesting colorful characters and explore the rich story of Wasteland 3.
Everything I just mentioned is only scratching the surface of what Wasteland 3 is, as the game has vast amounts of content and exceptional depth and can’t be summarized so easily. So with that said, let us begin with the review; here is why Wasteland 3 is a post-apocalypse done right.
A Colorful Winter Wonderland
There are many words I can use to describe Wasteland 3 but only one truly captures what I’m trying to describe, and it is breath-taking. I say this because, in short, it effectively conveys how I first felt when introduced to this world, it’s characters and story. To be quite honest, this game has impressed me with everything I have experienced so far, but what stood out most to me was the world, story, and characters. This is because all three have an extraordinary amount of depth so much so that everything felt real, from characters, to their motivations, the factions, and to the story that the Rangers now find themselves in.
The story in particular felt authentic and immersive and is also a massive example of how in-depth Wasteland 3 can be; which is displayed in the primary plot of the game. This being with how the rangers will run into many trials and tribulations on the road to capturing the children of the Patriarch. Which ultimately leads them to make difficult decisions that will forever change or scar Colorado. These decisions also have real weight, which is highly reflective of how excellently written both the story and the characters are in this game.
It is also through high-quality writing and excellent dialog from characters that even more weight is added to decisions littered throughout Wasteland 3. So when you are handed the power to change this world (thanks to both excellent writing and dialog displayed by this world) your actions ultimately have weight to them and have realistic and harsh consequences.
Which the end result of both can be either awe-inspiring or terrifying because you will have to see and feel the direct result of your actions and carry that on for the rest of the game. For example, at some point, you will have to face a decision where you either let an entire family be mercilessly slaughtered by crazed hillbilly cultists, or let some cyborg slavers get their hands on some power armor. The first option will also result in displeasing your mysterious benefactor as he gives you the order to complete the second option.
The first option will also allow these slavers to cause more harm in Colorado, but can you let an entire family die? This is something you will have to face quite often in this game, it forces you to make hard decisions, and this is something I absolutely admire about Wasteland 3. It is also honestly refreshing to see this sort of thing in a game made nowadays because I have only seen one other game manage to pull something like this, and that was The Witcher 3.
So, in short, I have nothing but praise for the story and the underlying narrative, I also have high praise for the colorful cast of diverse characters present throughout this game. You will meet individuals from many backgrounds who all have stories to share, and in the end, help make this strange post-apocalyptic hellscape an exciting place.
Furthermore, this is helped by the fact that all characters in this game have excellent dialog and voice actors that help exemplify how great the writing is. They also surprisingly make this strange world that is home to insane killer clowns, giant robots, and a cult that worships Reagan as a god feel alive and unique. Every interaction is also just as immersive and as the world; the problems faced by these characters feel real as well. Further, you can hear and feel the emotions displayed by them, which makes quests, companions, friends, and foes in this game some of the best I have experienced in years. Even further, there is a wide range of branching narratives that you can experience based on the decisions the player makes. For instance, there is also a companion you can get early on that can change a third of the game.
To conclude, Wasteland 3‘s story, characters, and the world are simply put: amazing, and one of the best selling points with this third entry in the series. To be honest, I am quite impressed overall with the quality displayed in regards to the story elements I just described. It was also incredibly refreshing to see in a game such as this. In a sea of triple-A narrative mediocrity, Wasteland 3 shows there is still room for well-crafted stories and characters that felt real and inspire emotion.
I Can Hear The Cold Wind Howling
No game can truly inspire emotion without a good soundtrack and luckily, Wasteland 3 does not lack in that department. There are plenty of songs to listen to in Wasteland, and all fit the unique setting and the tone of certain events at several points in the game. For example, this is displayed heavily in the final moments of the tragic prologue; the trial by fire players will first experience in this game. When players begin the final fight, a song called “Washed In The Blood Of The Lamb” will play that will fit the tone of the current situation in the prologue. It also fits exceptionally well with the faction that you come into conflict with. Personally, when this song first came on it made my heart race and transformed the fight to feel even more intense.
Songs in this game also can vary depending on the faction, and they also have a wide range of themes such as gospel themes to strange “Marilyn Manson” like covers of classic songs such as “Monster Mash” and “Green Acres”. Overall, music in this game is exceptional and will also play from time to time on the radio when driving around on the open-world map. However, it can lack in the variations at times, and it can get relatively annoying listening to the same song over and over again. But despite this small problem, music in Wasteland 3 is fantastic, and I loved nearly every song I encountered.
The sound effects in this game are also equally as impressive as the music, and all-around further encapsulate situations and encounters. Everything from the way guns sound to the battle cries of raiders and cultists helps to carry the weight of combat to intense and fierce heights. However, there are some slight issues regarding sound where some weapons will bug out and not play their sounds, but this happened very rarely, so it ended up not worsening my overall gameplay experience.
Like a Wall, We Stand
We talked in great length regarding the story elements, but let’s get into the meat and potatoes of Wasteland 3 and what truly makes this game both fun and engaging. Well, for starters, it is primarily due to the overall gameplay of this game and how the actions of the players through quests, fights, and dialog make this world feel alive and react to the player’s every move. However, there is a lot to talk about, so let us start with the most basic but fundamental element to the gameplay, which is the combat.
Combat for starters is mainly a turn-based cover system largely reminiscent of games such as X-COM 2 mixed with classic CRPGS, with the action point system most of them have. It also largely is carried over mostly unchanged from Wasteland 2 but with notable improvements and the already significant influences from Fallout 1-2. Further, Wasteland 3 takes some more significant influences from X-COM 2 with how both the UI looks and with particular abilities.
The influence is shown with abilities such as Ambush, which is pretty much the game’s “Overwatch”, and also a defense ability that serves as the game’s “Hunker Down.” However, the game also has a third ability called “To Prepare,” which saves any remaining AP points so that you can perform additional combat actions next turn. Overall my experience with the combat has been phenomenal, and I really enjoyed it and found it to be quite engaging and I particularly liked using all of the different abilities you can get.
Which is another aspect that further drives player engagement as there is a lot of these you can get, which can often change the course of fights. Also, like with abilities, there are a lot of guns that now come with unique abilities that can also prove quite useful in battles. Furthermore, there is quite a large selection of these weapons that encompass a broad range of skill sets, which in the end, allow players to equip their squad however they want. These guns also can vary in the tasks they perform, with some being useful in certain aspects more so than others.
For example, big guns (which include flamethrowers and heavy machine guns) are extremely useful for hitting multiple targets at once. Heavy machine guns also are great for shredding armor, so when combined with other weapons such as submachine guns, you can end up with great combos for taking down various enemies. This is also an aspect that largely remains the same from the previous game but with some notable changes like with how energy weapons are no longer a category of weapons but instead an element that can affect any of the weapon categories in the game.
Overall, I really liked this change because it adds further depth to the weapon system as a whole, and the result is more fascinating weapons in the game like laser crossbows. Another really cool aspect regarding weapons in Wasteland 3 is that there is a vast selection of them which range from anything from shotguns, pistols, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, melee weapons blunt and bladed and more. I really enjoyed this aspect of the game because it adds to the overall custom ability of character later on, and well, who doesn’t like having a crapload of guns?
Enough about guns, let’s move to the next notable addition, which is the inclusion of a vehicle called the “Kodiak” that ultimately serves as another member of your squad. This vehicle I have to say is awesome, and it can really make the difference in fights through either tanking damage or running over and instantly killing enemies on the map. However, this can prove to be costly as each time you do it, it will damage the Kodiak, so it can be pretty much a reward over risk situation at times.
A Highly Customizable Adventure
The next fundamental part of any RPG is character customization, and Wasteland 3 has it and more with how customizable your squad is; in short, you can make any type of class that you desire. This is due to the game having a system built around players being able to create any type of character through skills and a classless system. However, the game also stresses the importance of what I call squad harmony, which is the necessity of making sure each squad member has skills and perks that compliment each other.
This also applies to making sure to pick weapons for your characters that will all serve a specific role on the battlefield because everyone can’t be good at the same thing. This also ties into the fact that skills can also be used to unlock certain dialog options, completing specific options in quests, and performing various actions in the game world such as lockpicking doors and disarming mines. So, in the end, it all comes down to the fundamental importance of choosing a diverse squad that can perform a wide range of tasks so as not to miss out or close off any options in the further potions of the game.
Although the skill customizability of characters is solid in my opinion, I feel the game somewhat lacks in the customizability of the character’s appearance. This is most evident with how certain characters when you choose a hat, will have no hair despite other characters in the game wearing hats having hair. There is also a rather small amount of character portraits, but overall both of these are minor gripes when taking into account the vastness of the other customization options. However, characters are not the only part of this game where you can customize to your heart’s content; you can also customize the entry’s perhaps most exquisite addition to the game, the Kodiak.
Whereas you can buy new guns, armor and add different horns and ornaments at leisure to the Kodiak, in short, the customizability of the Kodiak is excellent. In addition, by upgrading the Kodiak chassis, you can open up more of the world map as certain spots are blocked off by radiation. Thus by upgrading the chassis, you will gain radiation protection, which is, in my opinion, is an excellent way of making a progression system. However, although Kodiak customization is excellent all-round in my opinion, still, I feel it lacks some options such as changing the color of armor, etc. But overall, the customizability of characters, skills, and the Kodiak is exceptional all around, and it is an aspect of Wasteland 3 I feel that will appeal to a broad player base.
Cries of a Dead World
Quests are another of the more appealing aspect to the overall gameplay I found within Wasteland 3. They are also quite possibly some of the most interesting I have played in a while. Each quest revolves around a small plot and narrative that makes each feel unique. There are also a lot of quests to find in this game and all of which have multiple ways to complete them, which ultimately leads Wasteland 3 to have a substantial value on player choice. In addition to having engaging quests, Wasteland 3 also has an equally engaging open-world map.
Players will also spend a lot of time exploring the map and seeing all of the different locations the game has to offer. This is great on its own, but the true gem about this aspect of Wasteland 3 is what happens in between, and it’s random encounters. This can range from text narrative events that can lead to combat encounters, little points of interest on the side of the road, or Road Side Shops.
First, let’s start with The combat encounters. These, in particular, were exciting and are an aspect that was borrowed from the original Wasteland and Fallout 1-2, but overall functioned great in the game and ties heavily with the skills as certain ones can help you avoid these encounters or gain an advantage. However, when you do get into these encounters, the experience can get dull because it seems it’s always the same map being used.
Next, the little points of interest are basically small little story adventures that the player can find that will often lead to several events based on the player’s decisions that can often lead to the player getting some good loot. These were fun when I found them, but I felt that they could often be too far in between locations, but overall help make the open map more lively. This can also be said in regards to the little roadside shops which can pop up around the map; these also felt fun and can either provide a nice place to sell loot or gain items based on your reputation in the game. Overall the world map felt great, and it was a real joy to explore and felt like its own area sperate from the specific locations in the game.
Verdict: In the end, I found Wasteland 3 through the combination of several elements of engaging gameplay and an excellent branching narrative to be an all-around breathtaking and phenomenal game. Everything from characters to the simple way of how guns sound is simply amazing and the game is just simply put incredible. If you are a fan of CRPGS or the Wasteland series, or just RPGs in general, I highly recommend picking up Wasteland 3 because it is a narrative masterpiece and exactly the kind of post-apocalyptic RPG we needed desperately.