It’s worth saying it immediately: Wasteland 3 is a bloody big game. It’s full to the brim with deep storytelling, intense action, and an array of intricate locations to explore, with hours upon hours of gameplay to be found across its epic adventure. When you’re in, you can expect to be in for the long haul.
That’s not a complaint by any stretch of the imagination, though; in fact, I found myself so absorbed in the brilliant CRPG adventure that it offers that I haven’t even thought about playing anything else since its release. It’s also a lot more streamlined that similar games in the genre, which helps it offer a more accessible experience that isn’t so intense for players for aren’t used to having so many strategic elements in their games. It caters itself for all players – just expect to be playing it for a LONG time before you reach the ending…
Wasteland 3’s narrative kicks off with the player leading a group of Rangers from the sunny state of Arizona to the more colder climate of the peaks of Colorado, with the promise of plentiful resources more than enough of an incentive to make the dangerous trek. Of course, this is a video game, so the sh*t would have to hit the fan pretty quickly, right? Enter the Dorseys: a group of villainous thugs that attack your handy convoy of Rangers and wipe out the vast majority of it, leaving just two survivors that escape the chaos and try to make their way to safety… and, of course, eventually get revenge.
That duo of survivors? They’re your protagonists of course, with the player able to either use a pre-set pair of characters offered by the game or create their own. With its robust and impressive character creator, I’d highly recommend working on your own pair of heroes – fine-tuning their appearances, stats, and abilities is very satisfying and allows you to add your own personal touch to your Wasteland 3 experience from the get-go. Besides, the stories and relationships shared between the pre-set selections don’t actually get explored in-game, so you’re not losing anything from a narrative perspective by skipping over them.
The narrative-driven elements of Wasteland 3 are great, so it’s easy to find yourself totally absorbed in everything that’s going on. There are plenty of NPCs to interact with that’ll fill you in on minor details about the world and its inhabitants (some of which will even reference back to Wasteland 2), whilst the main story sequences are so well-presented that it’s hard not to find yourself obsessing over the tasks at hand. The characters are all well-written with a myriad of wild personalities to be found and there was no sequence throughout the game that felt like it dragged out too long.
Honestly, it all ties together perfectly with Wasteland 3’s narrative proving to be a real treat throughout. I was surprised at how invested I got into the game’s world, but I found myself looking for every little detail that I could find. Then there’s the fact that you’ll have to make an assortment of very important decisions during the story that’ll affect your relationships with others and shape the world around you, with a good variety of choices to be made when interacting with other characters. It really ups the stakes of the adventure at hand and adds replayability to the experience, but be warned: some decisions are tough to make and the consequences can be brutal…
It’s all well and good having a fantastic narrative to support your game, but it needs to be fun to play too – thankfully, Wasteland 3 also delivers on the gameplay front. Besides exploring the detailed world, interacting with characters, recruiting new companions to join your base (that’s right – you get your own Rangers HQ) and completing the myriad of side quests that come your way, you’ll also face off against enemies in strategic showdowns that’ll test your wit, patience, and killing skills. It has all of the hallmarks of a CRPG, so anyone familiar with the genre will feel right at home.
Combat in Wasteland 3 is a turn-based affair, with players using each characters’ AP to move around and perform actions. This might be simply placing yourself in strategically safe locations, applying buffs to help out your party, or unleashing attacks – success percentages play a big role too, with an XCOM-like vibe ever-present with your chances of hitting enemies (it even manages to feel unfair when those high percentage shots don’t roll your way too). Each character has a different skillset that can help out in combat situations in a variety of ways, with a bit of strategic planning often the best way to find success in each situation. You’ll actually come across a wide selection of different companions to bring to your team throughout the game, so finding those that work best for your playstyle can also be pivotal to your success.
That is if they stick with you. Remember those story decisions I said that you make? Well, if your companions don’t approve of them, they won’t be shy in upping and leaving Ranger HQ for good. Hell, sometimes they’ll take actions of their own accord in combat, leaving you with no control and worrying about the repercussions of their actions… crazy. It adds an unpredictable element to the game and, again, demonstrates the impact that your choices make. Find yourself attached to a particular companion? You might want to pander to them a bit if you want them to stick around.
Whoever is in your party, you’ll definitely have a good time with Wasteland 3’s combat. It’s frantic and action-packed, but with plenty of room for clever strategic thinking. It’s never overwhelming either, with all options clear throughout and never leaving you at a loss what to do – as mentioned earlier, it makes the game feel accessible to those who aren’t familiar with the genre. Add to that some impressive battle visuals and you’ll quickly find yourself eagerly anticipating each showdown.
Between the combat, managing your base, dealing with different factions in the game (I haven’t touched on that a lot, but believe me, there are some colourful and eccentric folk to meet), completing quests, and making pivotal decisions, there’s one hell of an engaging adventure to be had in Wasteland 3. It’s packed to the brim with things to do and even after spending a ton of hours in one playthrough, there’s NO WAY you’ll see everything. Fortunately, the content is of a high quality, so you certainly won’t begrudge a second (and maybe even a third) run through the game.
However, whilst I have a lot of praise for Wasteland 3, it does have a few imperfections in its console port. The controls can feel a little fiddly in places and often lack precision – this isn’t a huge issue given the turn-based nature of combat, but it could feel unnecessarily cumbersome at times. Then there are the occasional issues you’ll run into, such as graphical glitches or NPCs not responding to your interactions. Instances of the latter are few are far between, but their presence was enough to make me worry that some questline might glitch out at some point and leave me in a state of limbo. Add to that the occasional moments of the frame rate stuttering and it becomes clear that Wasteland 3 isn’t in a perfect state.
But hey, it still manages to look great on console and feels really good to play, so who cares if there are a few imperfections here and there?
Wasteland 3 is an absolute blast to play, with its deep and involving story complimented by some wonderful gameplay mechanics that’ll keep players hooked in for hours on end. There really is a whole lot of things to see within its rich world, and honestly, discovering more about the narrative, its characters, and the events occurring behind the scenes kept me utterly enthralled in the adventure. I loved it.
There are a few issues that do prevent Wasteland 3 from striving towards CRPG perfection, but it’s still a fantastic release in its own right and one that fans of the genre simply won’t want to miss out on.
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: inXile Entertainment, Deep Silver
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC