Review: Wasteland 3

Wasteland 3 is a large game, upwards of 60 hours to fully finish it I’ve heard. I can see that – I spent the best part of 30 minutes designing my pair of characters to play as.

I settled on a created pair. Pre-set couples range from father/daughter, punk-lovers, best friends. I went for a Joel/Ellie style relationship and specced them as a power/finesse balance.

As Wasteland 3 begins, any prior experience of old Wasteland games is not essential. Before we get to that however you need to spec out the stats on your team, and there’s a lot. Skill points, attributes, quirks – there’s a lot of pro and con weighing up to do. I elected to take the ‘Sex Machine’ attribute and put some points into the ‘Toaster Repair’ skill. It’s borderline overwhelming.

Into the game then, and your small group of Rangers have ventured to the snowy wastelands of Colorado to source supplies for your home. To do this you’ll need to meet and negotiate with ‘The Patriarch’ whose kids have run amok and sided with different clans which range from juggalos to those who worship Reagan like a deity. It’s weird – this is Wasteland’s humour.

Journeying about is a top down affair, which switches to an overlaid grid for turn-based combat once hostiles are met. For anyone who has played XCOM, this will feel familiar. Action points determine how far you can move and what attacks you can make. Percentages above the heads of enemies show the likelihood of administering damage, affected by full or half covers. Ammo however is exceptionally scarce which adds significant strategy during the fight and a desire to search everywhere outside of combat. Of course, you actually have to be able to fire your weapon.

Different weapon types have stat gates. Want to fire a rocket launcher? Go for it. You’ll probably kill yourself unless you have ‘Explosives 2’. What you find then becomes relevant based on your skill sets, thankfully you can bulk out your party with a number of other folks who you recruit, along with guests. At this point, I honestly felt stat overload. I’m writing down who has what, trying to balance my party. Fortunately, as you run about the world, you only need one of your team with the appropriate ability. Want to pick a lock, as long as you have one person with it, the lock will get unlocked. This is convenient.

Other conveniences are a shared inventory which is frankly a god send. However you still have manage the load outs of your crew, which felt a bit like work along with the stat management. Thankfully, the story is interesting and I genuinely wanted to keep playing to see what happens. Often I tune out in stories and just want to get on with the gameplay. In Wastleland 3 I actually felt the other way around.

Some of this is due to performance. On PS Pro it runs badly. I’ve read it’s not exactly fluid on PC, but on the PlayStation it genuinely chugs as you navigate the world which I found actually made me feel motion sick at points. At this point in the console generation I don’t think it’s a great thing for a game to be struggling this badly (especially one that doesn’t seem intensive graphically).

Wasteland 3 in some ways can be the game you want it to be. A fairly by-the-numbers tactical strategy shooter with an interesting story, or an off-the-wall ‘your way’ game. Really early on your collect a yellow snowball. Yep, it’s what you think it is. Throw it at an enemy, and they’re debuffed with a status effect. This is barely scratching the surface of how weird Wasteland 3 gets. At least this therefore offers a lot of room for a unique experience, and a lot to talk about with friends, and in that respect I’d recommend it to someone looking for a thinky, meaty experience.

Reviewed on PS4

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