Title: Wasteland 3
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Release Date: August 27, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: inXile Entertainment
I typically try to stay away from games like Wasteland as they promise to offer a variety of questlines and ways to approach gameplay but end up a bit too streamlined. After I’ve poured countless hours into other titles, a new adventure right now sounds daunting. Still, here I am 80 hours later playing Wasteland 3 roaming around a hellish Colorado landscape and enjoying every moment of it.
Wasteland 3 begins with a tragedy. However, it marks the perfect introduction to just how punishing the rest of your adventure will be. After losing a significant battle, you find yourself taking a job from the Patriarch of Colorado, and with it, you receive a new base of operations. It’s a speedy opening, but it gives you the basics of how to play, and then it lets you out into the world.
Throughout your adventure, people will request help, and you decide whether you want to do it or not. You can even work out how you’ll approach the situation entirely. However, it isn’t always so black and white, some choices that are made require a great deal of thought because they’ll affect relationships you built 40 hours earlier.
These choices also lead to your overall appeal with various townspeople. Depending on how you respond or who you assist, things could become more accessible to you. Still, you aren’t some untouchable force within the community, as there are few things ready to knock you off any high horse you’ve established after the 20-hour mark.
Quests offered are mostly all thought-provoking and unique. Simple quests like “Go kill someone” turn into lengthy adventures full of new insights. Wasteland 3 has some incredible RPG storytelling, as you are in complete control over the flow of the narrative. I couldn’t seem to get enough of it as I kept telling myself, “one more quest” into the early morning hours.
One other aspect you have complete control over is the growth of your base, which expands as you recruit NPCs to help liven it up. Depending on your choices or which people you invite back to your base, the overall atmosphere seemed to be unique to me as it grew based on my actions. It’s as if the HQ is a representation of the many hours you’ve poured into the game. Watching it grow is exceptionally satisfying.
The main quest will lead you through a few narrative twists, but the choices of how you get there are yours to make, and I’d hate to spoil that experience. It’s a game that is genuinely shaped by the player as you put your trust into certain groups. I would say that the journey is just as gripping as the destination, and the memories you make on the way to your objective are just as gratifying.
Wasteland 3 isn’t all about dialogue trees and fetch quests, though. There are plenty of strategical turn-based battles to encounter throughout the world. During gameplay, players can ride around on their customizable vehicle to access new dungeons and towns. There are random encounters that occur on route sometimes, but specific skills can help you get through it. The land is dark and unforgiving, making it pretty fun to drive around and try to find new areas of interest.
The developer seemed to put a lot of time into the layout of the towns as they each flowed nicely with place to explore, even though they were just towns. NPCs will call out for you sometimes, but there are also quests that you will need to initiate yourself. Again, this only makes the entire experience feel unique to the player. You could also be bad and find ways to steal from people, which is always a good time after a Quick Save.
Dungeons each have various paths and ways to approach exploration. The designers seemed to use the isometric view to their advantage to hide secret areas and items. Like most of these games, I typically spend time maxing out Lockpick and any kind of Hacking skills so that I don’t miss out on any loot. Thankfully, only one of the six-party members had to have a skill maxed out, and each member benefits from it. So I just had super-skilled one-trick ponies as my party, but you better believe nothing stood in our way.
I ended up really enjoyed the variety of dungeons that I was able to explore. Sure, each had apparent areas where you knew a battle was going to take place, but I never felt that the layout become overly repetitive. There are also gimmicks that they lay around the dungeons, some are tied to the questline, but others are just there to shake things up a bit.
Once you encounter a group of enemies, a battle begins. Similar to games such as XCOM, Wasteland 3 is a cover-based SRPG. You’ll be moving units behind structures, flanking, and continually adjusting to a variety of enemies. I created a diverse group of Rangers to run with, so I strategized battles around their strengths. Enemy AI takes some interesting actions sometimes, but they are pretty ruthless overall, depending on the difficulty setting.
Given that you’re living in a post-nuclear world, resources are pretty scarce. One wrong move can mean the end of the battle for you, but so can running out of ammo. It’s a balance of resource management and strategy as the battle progresses. There are some interesting ways to take advantage of the environment to help you out, but I always enjoyed throwing down a couple of turrets to even the field. The new enemy types and dungeon layouts make encounters less repetitive, and each battle is memorable because of it.
Character customization improves across each level as you distribute points into Skill, Abilities, and Perks. You’re pretty much free to create the specific type of party that you want, and I found that I was able to fine-tune each party member to fit my playstyle. Furthermore, some items can only be used by characters with a high enough proficiency in a skill making each character an asset during an encounter.
Where Wasteland 3 is currently lacking is in its multiplayer elements that are having some substantial issues. These issues are pretty much exclusive to multiplayer mode as I lost access to a particular questline. However, I did encounter a few glitches during the main campaign where a character transported across the map, which was strange. Still, the developer is aware of these bugs they have promised a fix.
Wasteland 3 is an incredibly long game, and some aspects of it make it feel a bit longer, such as the general running speed of the group or the load times between areas. Graphically, the game is great and represents the world and environments wonderfully. Still, I would have liked more cinematic moments during campaign missions just to make them feel epic.
Wasteland 3 will consume your life as it did mine. The game makes progression come across so naturally through its narrative focused world-building made by player choice. During the countless quests across impressive setpieces, I would say Wasteland 3 is one of the best entries in the RPG genre. Throw in accessible leveling features, likable characters, and wrap them up with an engaging cover-based battle system, and you have everything you need to keep you playing for months. Sadly, the bugs encountered were mostly found in multiplayer, but the developer has acknowledged that these are being patched.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.