Wasteland is a series about survival. As one of the Rangers, your trip will take you to Colorado, where the Patriarch needs your help to reunite his incredibly troubled family in the city of Colorado Springs. Are you helping the highly questionable despot for the good of the people? Perhaps you will recruit some of his children and destroy your father’s legacy. Hell, maybe you just kill them all and take over the town yourself, Ranger Creed, damn it. Wasteland 3 is about constant, meaningful choices. The story takes place in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, and over the course of a playthrough I loved and hated my choices, which moved from character to character and from faction to faction.
The fight is clean, smooth, and easy to understand in terms of movement and action – an improvement over Wasteland 2. It all depends on the action points. Firing a rocket launcher will cost you more effort than, say, shooting a pistol. Making a special move costs more than moving a tile. Cover is essential to defend against the endless hail of bullets and rays. Therefore, deciding where to end your turn becomes an important tactic. Your effective range is well highlighted in the user interface, so you know exactly where to go and still have the resources to attack with an excellent 88 percent chance to hit. You can cry when you miss and the enemy hack you in two with a giant machete, but hey, that’s what backup files are for.
You can create four playable characters and recruit two NPCs that you can customize too – but they have their own morals and loyalties. If you push them too hard, they can put a strain on your crew. You have a solid pool to recruit from, but if you are like me you will bind yourself to your behavior and balance it to make their needs easier.
It is important to determine how to deal with any situation, both in and out of combat. I had a varied team of experts who were ready for all kinds of situations. My character Duck is a racket master, can run over mines and shoot rockets with the best. Another of my allies is a skilled sniper who can target specific parts of the body and convince amazing trash enemies to submit and end battles before they even start. And that’s just the beginning of the decisions ahead of you.
Eventually I created a master ace with pistols that could fry the circuitry of any robot I encountered with expert CPU shots and turn them against their masters. Skills that don’t involve combat can save your life and allow you to be skillful with everything from trip wires to drunk bartenders. From lock picking, sweet talking, sneaking around, and even repairing toasters, every point you assign matters, and it’s a lot of fun to take care of every skill point you place.
The world is mostly open and you can walk around in your Kodiak vehicle to find random encounters, tons of side quests and places of interest, and other random shops and map pop-ups. You can even use your vehicle in combat if the situation permits and you can find a ton of improvements, both functional and cosmetic. If you’re a brash explorer, you can push the limits and probably get buried in the snow a few times, but that’s also how you can find cool and powerful upgrades. Chance encounters are mostly annoying, but you can eliminate them by using survivability.
Upgrading your Ranger HQ is one of the most satisfying aspects of the adventure. Unlocked almost instantly, your base is a rundown heap of trash that you turn into an amazing bastion, full of functional and essential services like a medbay and armory, and home to tons of characters. Your interactions with the people there have a significant and subtle effect on how things play out in your later ending.
In Wasteland 3 you feel the weight of your actions in an irreconcilable world. No good deed goes unpunished, and sometimes no choice is the right one. The post-apocalyptic world is broken, as is most of the people in it. Sometimes you won’t feel the effects of your actions for many, many hours when a questionable decision can come back and change everything. Characters you make friends with in the early hours of the morning can turn into enemies as your journey nears its end. Dumping a souped-up plasma cannon into one of your once-trusted friends is cooler than the endless snow that covers the ground outside.
Wasteland 3 is a little rough around the edges at times. I had various characters who fell out and refused to interact with me without restarting the game, sound skipping and looping, and massive slowdowns in combat that also required a restart. Most of the time, given the scope of everything you can do, these issues are forgivable and do not cause irreversible harm to the experience.
Wasteland 3 is a solid CRPG to task you with tiny and massive decisions as you bring your legacy to Colorado. Will you serve the Patriarch for the common good? Are you going to team up with his psychotic son? His rebellious daughter? Or do you just roll around in the snow looking for scorpion fights? They are all well worth a visit so dress up and roll out in the wastelands for some wild times.