Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: Deep Silver
Genre: RPG, Action, Adventure, Squad-Based, Tactical
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Age Rating: 18
Release Date: 28/08/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
When we think of post-apocalyptic games, the Fallout series is the one that most people think of. With its (now) first-person gameplay, hunting down Ghouls and Mutants, to collecting loot and doing quests for its quite often bizarre cast of characters. However Fallout owes a lot of its gameplay to a franchise that’s been quietly hiding in the background waiting for its time to re-emerge from its slumber.
The Wasteland series has more in common with pre-Bethesda Fallout in that it is an isometric RPG in which fans of Fallout 1 & 2 will feel strangely familiar with. The original Wasteland released way back in 1988 and was developed by now defunct studio – Interplay. Yes the same studio that brought us Fallout a few years later. Whilst Fallout went on to garner major success and spawn several sequels, Wasteland fell into the abyss. There it would stay until 2014 when a successful Kickstarter campaign resulted in Wasteland 2.
This time round development was handled by inXile Entertainment and publisher Deep Silver. Wasteland 2 received fairly positive reviews with praise for its storyline and tactical gameplay. Fast-forward to 2020 and inXile Entertainment are back with Wasteland 3.
The gameplay of Wasteland 3 stays pretty similar to its predecessor. Wasteland 3 is a top-down, turn-based, squad-based, story-driven, tactical-RPG that’s set in the now frozen wastes of Colorado. It’s a huge game that has lots of depth with a carefully woven narrative. You get a lot of bang for your buck with Wasteland 3 and it’s easily a game you will spend hours in if you wish to see everything on offer.
Wasteland 3 once again puts us into the boots of a highly customisable team of Desert Rangers. This team of Rangers that we take command of are far from home and stranded deep within uncharted territory and cut off from support. The game takes us far away from the Rangers home turf of the Midwestern United States that featured in the previous games, and it sends us to the frigid mountains of Colorado.
Unlike previous Wasteland titles we are now in control of our team in a style that feels very familiar to X-COM. Instead of controlling one character at a time we can now freely switch between team members as soon as their turn begins. Not only does this vastly speed up combat, but it also gives us the ability for a more deeper, tactical approach and allows for more strategic gameplay options. We also get given access to a vehicle which can be used in most combat situations. This adds to the strategic element as you can hide behind it as you command it to run your foes down, or use its powerful cannons to set up covering fire for your team (more on that shortly).
The game starts of with a pretty decent cinematic of the Rangers arriving at a rendezvous location in Colorado. Naturally things soon go pear-shaped and most of the team end up dead. We then take control of two characters (more on this later) and we are thrust into the game’s tutorial. It flows together seamlessly as one minute you’re watching a cut scene, the next you’re playing a tactical game of cat and mouse for your literal survival.
As touched upon before, combat this time around is very X-COM inspired – or any other turn-based tactics game. Combat is played from an isometric viewpoint and we can freely survey the battlefield for enemies and tactical options. When it comes to fighting we have the usual options of ranged attacks and close-quarters attacks. Tying into this is also the ability to use cover to shield from ranged attacks, and the option to use the environment to flank enemies and exploit their weaknesses.
At times the combat can feel like a giant game of chess in which both sides vie for control. With Wasteland 3 you can’t just steam roll your opponents, you do have to factor in a variety of situations which with a wrong decision can lead to your teams demise.
After the opening cinematic we can then select our two characters. These characters can either be a duo selected out of a pool of pre-determined characters, or a couple that we make ourselves. I opted for a father, daughter combo who both excelled in hand-to-hand combat and long-range. The father character felt a bit squishy to begin with as the hand-to-hand combat can leave you feeling exposed if you run out of action points in getting close to the target. The Daughter character however was the polar opposite. As a sniper she came equipped with a semi-decent starting weapon and excelled at long range. For the majority of the time I had killed the Father’s target with the Daughter well before he’d gotten to it. Whilst this can seem a little unbalanced to begin with it soon sorts it self out once we start levelling up and equipping better gear.
As we play though the game we are given a base of operations in which we can recruit other members to our team. Again this can be done using pre-determined factors or we can create a team member from scratch. The character creation screen is pretty basic and we can select from a few faces and hair styles for both male and female characters. The “nitty-gritty” comes from selecting perks and attributes. With Wasteland 3 it’s best to have a team of multi-skilled characters. My team of six consisted of two DPS (long and short range), a barter/computer expert, dedicated Sniper, a medic and finally an explosives expert. For the majority this load out worked well and I was able to approach most situations with relative ease.
Throughout the game we are also able to recruit various NPCs to join our party. These NPC characters can either directly join our party or can be sent back to our base of operations to act as a form of on field support to the team. In traditional Fallout style the NPC characters are extremely quirky and an interesting bunch to have in your team or base.
The difficulty curve in Wasteland 3 can be a bit unforgiving, even at the start, and the constant clicking through menus and dialogue based plot can be a bit in your face at times. Plot progression can also seem unfair as a mistaken action or saying the wrong thing can cause a cascade of issues later on. Because of this Wasteland 3 isn’t a game you can idly play. You do need to quite literally pay attention to everything, from your combat actions right down to dialogue choices. Everything can and will come back and bite you in the behind.
This spike in difficulty is offset by a very generous autosave function which activates before any combat situation and before any plot altering dialogue is entered. This is a good thing because Wasteland 3 supports plenty of both these things.
All in all, Wasteland 3 is a fantastic game. Fans of the previous instalments and early Fallout games will feel right at home, and will take to the game like a duck in an irradiated pond. The story is brilliant and had many twists and turns throughout; many of these can be player created. For new fans, Wasteland 3 can be played as an introductory title and it even offers a fairly robust co-op experience. The location of Colorado is presently presented and the harsh cold environment is a stark contrast to the landscapes of Wasteland 2. For anyone looking for their next slice of post-apocalyptic pie then Wasteland 3 is definitely worth taking a bite from.