Wasteland 3 Review

Dan Webb

What exactly is Wasteland 3? In simple terms, it’s a tactical, squad-based, turn-based isometric RPG. Think XCOM meets all the other CRPGS that we’ve been inundated with, like Divinity: Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity, and you're pretty much there. So, essentially out with the fantasy and in with the guns, but in a brutal post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s effectively old-school Fallout before it went first-person and more mainstream in the hands of Bethesda.

Wasteland 3 sees the Rangers (the faction to which your ragtag squad belongs) leaving behind the dusty, sand swept planes of Arizona for the Baltic temperatures of Colorado and its surrounding areas. You play as a crew of fully-customisable Rangers, who have to assist the local Patriarch in capturing (or killing) his offspring, in exchange for the assistance of their homeland. Then what happens is entirely up to you. You can reunite the people of Colorado, become a tyrant, be completely maniacal or devilishly calculating – that’s the beauty of Wasteland 3: it really is your story and the choices you make can drastically alter the outcome of the game.

Who you welcome to your squad, who you employ in your Ranger HQ, who you side with, that’s entirely up to you, too. Heck, if you want to flip-flop on every choice and change your mind throughout – because Wasteland 3 has more shades of grey than an ‎E. L. James novel – then you can do just that. We know, because we did exactly that. We changed teams more times than Nicolas Anelka did (one for the footie fans, that)! And that’s why Wasteland 3’s depth lies not only in its intricate RPG mechanics, but also in its replayability.

Having played none of the previous Wasteland games, I honestly thought that jumping in at the third instalment might be a little daunting and confusing, in the same way that watching Avengers: Endgame as your entry into the Marvel universe would be. Luckily, you won’t feel out of sorts at all, if Wasteland 3 is where you begin your Wasteland journey. Granted, there's stuff that may baffle you a little, like why are there burned out toasters everywhere and why does the game have a toaster repair stat? Or who's this mysterious guy following you around killing everyone with you, without saying a peep? After a while you'll just learn to embrace it. Obviously, if you've played the original Wasteland and its sequel, you’ll know all of the recurring characters, like Angela Deth, but for newbies like me, a lack of prior knowledge won’t leave you feeling out of the loop.

As inferred earlier, the general make-up of Wasteland 3’s combat is effectively a percentage-based game of battle chess, in a very similar vein to XCOM. That means lining up shots and getting into positions boasting the optimum hit percentage, while also keeping your squad protected. Thankfully – well, for me, anyway – there is no XCOM permadeath, so you can actually develop a sense of attachment to your squad. Yet, not unlike XCOM, Wasteland 3 manages to induce bouts of frustration with the sometimes arbitrary nature of its hit percentages. Missing five 80%+ shots in a row? Sure, that’s normal. How about missing three 95%+ shots in a row, as well? Cool, that’s not annoying at all. Like XCOM, Wasteland can be infuriating, but that’s all part of the genre, I guess.

While its slew of choices and consequences might be one of Wasteland 3’s major selling points, it wouldn’t be the same without the sheer depth in the game’s RPG mechanics. These range from the simple, like choosing your squad, to weighing up whether a mod on a weapon or armour is worth the trade-off, or whether a certain skill or attribute best suits your build. To say there’s a lot going on at a numbers level is an understatement, and that, for me personally, is one of the game’s biggest draws. Balancing a squad, choosing their armour, your weapon loadout, the perks you use, the bonus stats that some items and armour grant, whether you turn into a cyborg, managing your inventory, upgrading your vehicle, making sure you’re ready for the next encounter and so on – that’s what makes Wasteland a truly great game. You could say that Wasteland 3 has more levels to it than Candy Crush!

As good an RPG as Wasteland 3 is, it’s fundamentally let down across the board by its inability to function as a working game for a good portion of its runtime. I’ve never known a game crash as much as this here title. Throw bugs galore into the mix, including one that corrupted both my auto saves and quick saves, and what you have is a game that feels more like an early access build than an actual final release. And that’s without talking about the occasionally choppy frame-rate (especially in the Ranger HQ), the fact that I swear you have to hit buttons multiple times before your squad reacts, the dumb AI that causes characters to walks across traps as you’re trying to defuse them, and the ridiculously long load times. It’s a game that really could have done with a few more months in the oven, so to speak.

Do Wasteland 3’s technical issues ruin the experience? Simply put, no, but they absolutely put a dampener on things. The amount of times I had to replay sections because the game crashed is far in excess of what you’d deem acceptable, which is truly a shame. It’s a shame because Wasteland 3 is actually a really great game. From its unbounded creativity and offbeat eccentricity, to its sheer depth and sense of control, Wasteland 3 is a truly unique RPG and one that everyone should at least try, if only to meet with President Reagan. We can't help but think that it could have been so much more, though.

Wasteland 3

Wasteland 3 is as deep a CRPG as you’re ever likely to play, with meaningful choice and consequence in abundance, if you can get past the frequent crashes and array of irritating bugs.

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The music – both licensed and original – is one of the game’s best beats, with inXile and Mark Morgan nailing not just the tone, but also the timing. Voice acting is solid, as well.


From a distance, Wasteland 3 is a pretty game, but the closer you get, the more the cracks appear.


Bugs aside, Wasteland 3 is fab, and thanks to its easy controls and its non-static camera, combat scenarios play out like a free-flowing game of battle chess.


A weird and wacky world, packed to the rafters with tons of choice and consequence, which is fantastic. But there are far too many bugs and crashes to overlook. To say Wasteland 3 is rough around the edges is an understatement.


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