I’m quite picky when it comes to games. I love jaw-dropping graphics, modern gameplay and sandbox freedom. So when I was asked to review Wasteland 3, an isometric (semi-overhead) turn-based RPG combat game, I’d already decided it wasn’t for me. I had no experience of the earlier releases (‘Wasteland’, 1988 and ‘Wasteland 2’, 2014) and my last true experience of a turn-based game was Final Fantasy 7, circa 1997. But I was willing to give it a good.
Wasteland 3 takes place in the post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland of Colorado, USA, five years after the previous game. The year is 2107 and the country has been ravaged by a nuclear war, wreaking havoc on civilisation and promoting lawlessness throughout.The Arizona based ‘Desert Rangers’, a heroic military faction, have been fighting tooth and nail in the southwest of the country to return law and order to the streets. This action has gained the attention of ‘The Patriarch’, the ruler of the state of Colorado and he’s requested the Rangers’ assistance in return for aid supplies.Your platoon of Rangers, ‘Team November’, have travelled east into the snow covered tundra of Colorado, which is where the story begins. On route, your team is ambushed by a maniacal cult of fighters controlled by The Dorsey family, leaving only 2 members of the platoon alive. It your job to survive the wasteland and complete your mission.
Firing up the game the first thing that struck me was average player model graphics. That’s always a little disappointing to see on a new game when you’ve experienced the high end motion capture that some games have been using for a few years. I let it slide though seeing as during gameplay the camera angle is high up, so you barely see any detail anyway.I began by choosing my pair of starting characters from a predetermined list of 5 couples. Each duo had different skills and perks to decide from, all with their positives and negatives. As the game progresses these skill trees can be developed further, or new ones can be added, so which group you choose is really not a deal breaker at this point. While scrolling through the various skill options the game’s fun side began to show already. Perks such as ‘Sneaky shit’ and ‘Kiss ass’ could be chosen and developed, giving new option in the story later on.
After watching a fantastic cinematic intro of the platoon’s ambush, you’re immediately thrown into a fight with little explanation of how to play the game. Hints pop up though and I soon got the hang of it. Having watched gameplay videos of Wasteland 2, the style of this latest instalment is more of the same. The same camera angle and the map is shrouded in shadow until your team uncover it as they move through the levels.After what’s left of your squad fights through the ambush you make it to the Colorado base and are introduced to The Patriarch. He’s a typical macho, marine type guy with a hipster haircut and a gruff tone. The voice acting is excellent, although a little dramatic, but then the whole game seems to have a ‘Borderlands’ style silliness weaved through it.
Battles are a regular occurrence between the main enemy – ‘The Dorseys’, local thieves, robots or even wild, aggressive animals. Your pathetic squad of two Rangers is very quickly expanded to 4 customisable characters with an option for up to two story characters to tag along to assist, bringing your full team to 6. This makes battles much easier as the more people there are in your squad, the more turns you get during a fight to deal damage to the enemy, and a larger variety of fighting styles can be called upon. Most battles start when you either attack an enemy, or if you get close enough to step into their vision ring. Some fights can be avoided by sneaking past outside these rings, or using skills to talk your way out of them.
One frustrating issue I came across was positioning my team for a battle. When moving your squad about the map the leader, marked with a star at their feet, runs slightly ahead and the rest of the squad follow behind. When the battle begins, their current positioning becomes their place on the ‘chess board’, meaning all but one of your squad are too far away. You then need to move each player into a suitable position, or to cover. Any travel uses up attack points (AP) and this means once they’re at a suitable firing position that turn is used up and it becomes the enemy’s turn, who are already positioned for the fight, putting you at a disadvantage.
All playable characters can have different base skills so you can have someone with close range weapon or melee skills for close quarters combat, and someone with a sniper rifle to attack at a distance. You can chose which 2 weapons they can carry (provided they have the specific weapon category unlocked) and equip armour and accessories you’ve bought from local traders, or scavenged while exploring, to all 6 characters. You can also develop their attributes, skills and perks separately so one can specialise in healing, others lock-picking and even the whacky perk of ‘toaster repair’ which does exactly what it says on the tin… fixing toasters that you find throughout the world. The developer even has fun with the clothing. During one mission in a strip club with adjoining brothel (there’s always one in a post-apocalyptic world!) I searched a locker and found some interesting armour. A ‘Phallus Chapeau’ hat adorned with pink dildos, a frilly tutu and lace suspenders. And I’m not going to mention the brothel’s bedroom containing the goat…
The map is quite expansive, but each sector is divided with relatively long loading screens. While exploring you’ll find story characters, NPCs, traders and animals to interact with, including cats, dogs and even a ‘cyborg chicken’; a part chicken, part robot. One of the unlockable perks allows you to tame the animals to follow you, or to encourage wild animals to assist you in a fight. I pitted my 6-person squad against a single cyborg chicken to see how strong the modifications had made it. Let’s just say it wasn’t developed for fighting.
The story appears to be quite linear, but your choices along the way can change the direction. The RPG aspect of the game means you get into a lot of conversations with a variety of people to gain information or to progress through the story. This can slow the gameplay down a little with lots of detail in the dialogue, but routes you can take during most of these discussions can heavily affect the story later down the line. Whether you go out of your way to help a stranger and they give you support as a reward, or you sympathise with a criminal and let them go free and they gather their friends and ambush your team later on.
Being that turn-based RPGs really aren’t my thing, I found scoring Wasteland 3 very difficult. I found myself getting hung up on my choice of answers during conversations incase it might cause issues for my team down the line, but my interest waned during long dialogue sections and slow fights where positioning your team used up all the attack points.Overall, if you’re a fan of this genre there’s many hours (around 80 according to the developer InXile Entertainment) of enjoyment, customisation and replayability with varying decisions.
I’d give it a solid 7/10.