The Wasteland series first turned me onto CRPGs. I was only 9 months old when Baldur’s Gate was released, and by the time I was old enough to understand CRPGs, the genre fell to the wayside. It wasn’t until the release of Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland 2 that my head was finally turned onto this genre. I had previously enjoyed modern takes on the genre, like Dragon Age: Origins, so it was about time I jumped into this amazing genre. It wasn’t too long until I found out just how dense and amazing the genre is, in some cases being too dense for my small monkey brain. Many of my personal issues with the genre are remedied in Wasteland 3, and I can safely say it’s my favourite in the genre.
Where the previous Wasteland games are set in the post-apocalyptic deserts of Arizona and Los Angeles, Wasteland 3 is set in the snowy tundras of Colorado, a welcome change from the typical apocalyptic settings of similar games. You still play as the Desert Rangers, but you trek across to Colorado where you have to meet the Patriarch, the ‘head’ of the Colorado wastes. Your team is tasked with helping him with his ‘family issues’, meaning you’re going to deal with his three kids who all have their own vision for Colorado.
The events of the previous game left the Desert Rangers in disarray. With the promise of a new base with which to rebuild the Desert Rangers, you set off to Colorado in hopes of rebuilding the once prevalent rangers.
Traveling across Colorado led to some amazingly bizarre situations, and while the story was interesting, I found the side-quests to be the most engaging. One in particular was a noise complaint in an apartment block that turned out to be a scientist’s clone trying to clone himself, but each one was dumber than the previous. It was both hilarious and engaging.
There are some even crazier storylines in Wasteland 3, something I won’t ruin as they are better experienced blind.
Both Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin released back in 2014, and it was clear to see which one was the looker of the two. It was one of the main selling points of Divinity: Original Sin and was the weakest part of Wasteland 2. The graphics are a step up from Wasteland 2, and the texture work and character models look great. It’s not on the same level as Divinity: Original Sin or Baldur’s Gate III, but I still loved exploring the wastes of Colorado and interacting with the many NPCs in the game.
There are two things that I loved about the presentation. The first is the face-to-face conversations with many of the story characters. It adds that extra bit of engagement in the conversations that can be missed with the isometric camera. The second was the UI. It’s very clean and easy to use. Character portraits are beautiful, and as specific a strong point this is, I love the look of the enemies’ health bars and the font of the damage numbers.
The game is fully voice acted, which again adds just that little bit of extra depth to help engage you in the story. Graphics aren’t too important, especially in a game like this, but the little things like face-to-face conversations and voice acting take this level up a notch.
This is where Wasteland 3 shines. One thing I have always struggled with when playing CRPGs is the speed of combat. After 60+ hours, slow combat begins to drag, and this game fixes that issue. Combat isn’t anything new, each character has action points, with actions costing different amounts of these points. Where it improves the combat (and is a big plus for me) is the fact that enemies’ move only last a few seconds, so you’re not sitting and waiting for the enemies to move for five minutes. They all pretty much move at once. I can’t explain how good this is. The combat constantly felt engaging as a result.
You start the game by creating two characters. For me, I created my main character as a leader who could befriend animals, use assault rifles, and pick locks. My second character was a close-quarter combatant who could knock people’s heads off their shoulders, all while healing his teammates around him with first aid. There is an insane number of options on show here. I spread my characters out to cover a wide range of skills; if anything, the number of skill points I was given meant I could basically do whatever I wanted. This could be an issue for some who want a more hardcore experience. Not only are there combat skills, but there are also other skills that can help you in the overworld, like sweet-talking a guard at a gate or using your science skill to disable the turrets before a large encounter.
Wasteland 3 is tough, really tough. Now, Wasteland 2 was significantly harder, but this game constantly challenged me throughout my playthrough. I’m no expert on CRPGs, so I found myself constantly restarting combat encounters after I made a stupid move that somehow got three of my six party members killed in one move. Eventually, I learned the inner workings of my party members, what their strengths and weaknesses are, positioned them correctly, and I had an absolute blast with the combat. Again, the enemy moves are over in a flash, so you’ll never be waiting too long before you can get back into the action.
Wasteland 3 does everything right. It’s a clear improvement over the previous title in every single way. The best improvement in my eyes is the combat and overall speed of the game. While it’s still a long adventure, it doesn’t feel as bulky and intimidating as Wasteland 2. This could put off big fans of the genre as it’s the most accessible CRPG I have ever played, so if you’re new to the genre, then this is a good starting point.
I played this game on PC, but it’s on Xbox Game Pass, meaning there’s not much of a barrier to entry, so why not try it out? It’s available on PS4 too, but I can’t comment on how the game both runs and controls on the console.
Developer: InXile Entertainment
Publisher: Koch Media
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 27th August 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Wasteland 3 was provided by the publisher.