Now I feel that I have to explain this in advance prior to the review. As much as it pains me, I cannot in good conscience recommend that you play Wasteland 3 in the current state it is in. Since my time playing this, dating back to early August of this year, the game has repeatedly crashed. Every play session, the game will crash without rhyme or reason. Sometimes once or twice, the most crashes I had was 6 crashes in one 7 hour session. I recently played the game again and managed two or so hours before it crashed.
As I said, the crashes do not seem to be caused by something specific. Sometimes I back out from a menu, other times I’m mid-combat and I press a button and it crashes. It also seems like I am not the only one. A Google search reveals Reddit threads of gamers asking why the game is crashing. I played this on my Xbox One S, and a friend of mine who played on PC also reported the same problem. Whenever it crashed I would be taken back to my last save or quicksave, which was sometimes 30 or 40 minutes prior.
Another issue I encountered occurred after resurrecting an ally. Twice this actually happened. Characters would be revived, however, they would be stuck in a pose. They would not be animated, and would “skate” around. There would be no animations for shooting, running or anything. Rebooting the save, and the game did not help this issue. I have even uninstalled and then re-installed the game, thinking that maybe an issue occurred when I installed the game. Unfortunately, this did not fix the issues.
Which upsets me, because Wasteland 3 is a good game. I did have fun with it when I wasn’t raging over it crashing. Those of you with Xbox Games Pass can play the game via that, but honestly, until these crashes are fixed I cannot recommend you pay for this game.
It is worth adding that developers are working on fixes, with a patch due very soon after posting this. Should a future patch address these issues I will update the review to reflect this, however at the time of writing this review these issues have not been addressed. That being said, should you wish to know more details of the game the full review is below.
Prior to this review, I had never heard of the Wasteland series. I saw a trailer for the game and immediately knew that Wasteland 3 was a game that was right up my street. As a mix of narrative-driven gameplay and classic RPG elements, I was intrigued to see how well the game played out. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the game is a sequel to Wasteland 2, released in 2014. Wasteland 3 begins with a group known as The Rangers entering Colorado. Their mission is to liaise with The Patriarch; the ruler of Colorado.
Upon entering Colorado, The Rangers are ambushed and attacked. Their squad is mostly wiped out, all except for two Rangers. Rather conveniently these two Rangers are those the player is assigned to control. You make your way to Colorado Springs and meet with The Patriarch. He explains that he requires Rangers’ help to locate and reprimand his three children. Each of them has settled in a different part of Colorado and has amassed a following. The Patriarch worries they mean to overthrow them, and so enlists The Rangers to capture his children and return them to him. And so your adventure begins.
You meet many characters along the way, some of which you can choose to bring into your team or not. There are also decisions to be made regarding the residents of Colorado, and how you treat them, as well as what exactly you will do with the unruly children. The lore of Wasteland 3 is rich, deep and spreads across all of Colorado. Books and citizens dotted around the map supply the player with a deeper understanding of the story, should you wish to explore it.
In terms of gameplay, there is quite a lot to discuss. Let us start with exploring towns and locations, as this takes up the majority of the gameplay. Wasteland 3 centres around exploring Colorado, and the various towns it has to offer. Each town is rich and full of life, with many different people to talk to. Some areas are larger than others, with some locations being a single place (such as a hideout). Other places such as Colorado Springs or The Bazaar are somewhat bigger, filled with shops and the like for you to peruse.
You can walk around merrily, taking on or completing objectives. Each location is filled with its own lore and history, which nicely ties into the overall lore of Wasteland 3. When talking to NPCs, there is a range of dialogue options as you would expect from an RPG. These depend on the skills you have, and to what extent they have been levelled up. Standard RPG stuff.
Travelling around Colorado is done via a world map, which you explore in a vehicle known as the Kodiak. This armoured behemoth houses you and your squad and is directly controlled by the player. You can freely roam all of Colorado, however, there are certain areas which are radioactive. Staying in radioactive areas will damage your team. It is best to only venture into them when the Kodiak is upgraded to withstand the radioactive environment. Colorado is a vast place, and while travelling in the Kodiak you may well encounter some smaller areas which you can investigate.
Abandoned camp-sites, creatures lairs and more all await you and how you deal with the situation entirely depends on the skills your team possess. You may be able to ambush a creature, or simply avoid an encounter altogether. It entirely depends on the skill-set of your team. Vendors also litter Colorado and will trade with The Rangers. Or you can choose to steal from them, your call. The Kodiak also doubles up as part of your team when in combat, depending on how close it is. It can be used as cover, to attack enemies or to run them over; the latter of which results in the instant death of the enemy. It has it’s own health points, so make sure you have means to repair it.
In terms of combat, Wasteland 3 plays very much like a tabletop RPG. The map of the area is broken up into a grid, with each square of the grid requiring one action point (AP) to move to. A characters’ total AP is dependant on their constitution, something you can choose to level up as the character gains levels. Actions such as abilities, using items or attacking all use up AP. Each action will have its own amount of AP required. If you don’t have the AP, you can’t do it. Thus combat becomes a lot more strategic, and about preserving AP for when you most need it. At the end of the turn, leftover AP can be used in a variety of ways.
There are three options for using leftover AP, which you select once you have finished that character’s actions. The Final Actions system allows you to choose Defend, Ambush, or Prepare. Defend lets you use those leftover points to increase that character’s defence for your opponent’s turn. Each AP leftover increases defence by five per cent, something that proved to be very handy. Ambush allows you to ambush the opponent, should you find yourself with enough AP spare. While somewhat situational I did find that this comes into handy.
There were situations where I found that I could force the enemy to come to me, and so ambushing them and waiting was a much more viable tactic. Finally, Prepare allows you to carry over two points into your next turn, which is also very useful and what I did the majority of the time. This helps come next turn as it allows for you to move further, heal or even attack again depending on the weapon.
The AI is set to move as one, however, you can change this so that they individually move. Friendly fire is set to off by default, however, this is something you can also change. I personally found the combat system of Wasteland 3 to be very good. As a D&D player, I was familiar with grid-based combat and the AP system is extremely easy to understand. The combat overall gives the game that little bit more of a strategic edge compared to some other RPGs, something I was very happy to see.
In terms of exploring actual locations, the game plays fairly similarly to other squad-based RPGs. The game mainly uses an almost top-down view, however, this can be manipulated. Zooming in or not, and moving the camera around can all help to scan the area. It is possible to control the entire team or one solo character. At times controlling one character has its advantages. It can help you avoid detection or triggering traps, but can also be used to lure the enemy into an ambush. On one or two occasions I found myself using one character to become detected. I would then lure the enemy into a bottleneck situation where my team were waiting with an ambush.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an RPG without a levelling up system and I have to admit, I am rather fond of Wasteland 3’s system. Every character levels up in three categories; attributes, skills and perks. Attributes are similar to those in D&D consisting of; Coordination, Luck, Awareness, Strength, Speed, Intelligence and Charisma. Each of these affects the character in a variety of ways, allowing the player to upgrade each character in the way they want to. You can choose to upgrade the Coordination and increase the total AP, or Luck to increase the chance of critical hits.
Skills cover a massive range of things, which would take far too long to cover in-depth. From weapons of all types (melee to light guns, to sniper rifles), modding (armour and weapons), first aid to explosives, animal taming and toaster repair. Toaster repair is by far the strangest of these but is surprisingly useful. Throughout Colorado are broken toasters. As you upgrade, you begin gaining toast from a successful repair. While strange, the toast heals 100% Constitution so I wouldn’t knock it too hard. This vast array of skills allows you to essentially create pretty much any build you want.
Finally the perk system. Every three levels you gain one perk point, which can be used to purchase an extra ability. These are tied to the abilities you choose to unlock. I had a character that was proficient in explosives, and so through the perk system, I was eventually able to increase my ability to disarm traps successfully.
These three systems together create one of the most in-depth customisation trees I personally have seen. You are really only limited to what you can imagine. Wasteland 3 doesn’t require each character to know every ability, meaning that you can flesh your team out. The only real ability that every member needs is first aid so that they can heal themselves and their allies. Other than that go crazy! I had a science healer, a sniper, an automatic weapons specialist that also knew mechanics, a heavy gunner, a brawler, an alcoholic hobo who was good at sneaking and lockpicking. As a player, you really do have all the freedom with Wasteland 3.
In terms of graphics and audio, the game delivers just fine. I wouldn’t say that the game does anything spectacular, but it delivers just fine. The gameplay when exploring Colorado, or a location, looks fine. However, there are a few scenes in the game, where NPCs are close to the camera and you can really see them. These are done very well, with the animation being very well done.
My only real issue with the game relates to its use of humour. The more I played, the more I realised that the game was almost trying too hard to be funny. Its sense of humour is very tongue-in-cheek and sometimes dark. I am all for dark humour, but when it starts to feel like every second sentence is some form of a satirical or sarcastic joke it starts to wear very thin. Things such as being able to pee on snowballs, which you can then collect to throw at enemies and apply “Stink” sounds funny at first. But the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. I felt that Wasteland 3 tried too hard to be edgy, to be funny. Every character has this sense of humour, and it quickly becomes over-saturated and tedious.
If you’re looking for a lore-rich RPG with great combat and in-depth customisation then Wasteland 3 would definitely be the game for you. Once it is fixed and playable. And this is the main issue. Wasteland 3 could well have been one of the best RPG experiences I had in recent years. However persistent bugs (such as dialogue lines being spoken even after skipping the sentence) and crashes, ruined the experience and made it so Wasteland 3 is a game I cannot play any longer. That being said, once the game is fixed and fully playable I will definitely jumping back in.