The year was 1988 and there was a young boy only 12 years of age who was dipping his toe into the world of gaming. Yes, he was attuned to the pencil and paper worlds that made up the fantasy realm by a company called TSR. However, it was the age of the electronic world that was beginning to show life and he was drawn in like a moth to the flame. When he heard of this new video game coming out by Electronics Arts, Konami, and inXile Entertainment, he had to see what all the fuss was about. So, he took himself down to the local gaming store where he had previously purchased dice and character sheets among other things, and asked the all-knowing gaming gods behind the counter what is this game called Wasteland?
This is when the word Desert Rangers ever fell upon my delicate ears and I was told that Wasteland was a game that I may be too young for. It is about a global nuclear war that will happen in 1998 creating a world of destruction. The Desert Rangers, who are based in Arizona, come into being and are acting as peacekeepers like that of the old west. These lawmen not only protect their fellow survivors but also all their descendants. I had to convince my parents that I needed this game, couldn’t live without it and would do all the choirs for a month if they would get it for me. The deal was well worth it as this would leave me to be taken on an adventure for many hours each night to whole weekends disappearing. In fact, you could easily say I was addicted to a new genre of gaming.
Then when Wasteland 2 came to be thanks to crowdfunding, I had to throw money at it to be able to get that feeling back. However, it was not what I was looking for and it just left me feeling let down. I am not going to say it was a bad game, but for me personally it just didn’t have the same pull, the same desire or the same motivation of shock and awe like the original. Everything changed however when I heard that Wasteland 3 was in development and that the team was going to create a sequel closer to the original. I started biting my nails in anticipation of what could be.
Wasteland 3 is the next step in the post-apocalyptic video game world developed by inXile Entertainment and published by Deep Silver. One of the best things about this game is that you do not have to be familiar with the previous two installments to enjoy it. Wasteland 3 takes the best of some of my favorite aspects of games from multiple genres and smashes them together into one of the best games I have played in a while. From the moment I started the game, I was hooked. It was so bad that I didn’t realize until I started to get hungry that I had put in multiple and I do mean multiple hours of game time before I knew it. The game is stated as a squad-based role-playing video game featuring turn-based combat. However, what it doesn’t tell you is that it packs in so much more than just that.
The story is your basic post-apocalyptic narrative. It’s the end of the world due to a global war and there are people trying to survive in it, while others are trying to rule it. As a player, you are a two-person squad of Desert Rangers from Arizona. Arizona is hurting for food and supplies and a person from Colorado who calls himself “The Patriarch” reaches out to your commander and states that if you come and help him with his issues he will in return provide Arizona with the means to flourish again. Yes, to me it is the same old carrot on the stick story but every story even back in the TSR days has been that way. Oh, you want money, then go do this quest for me. Oh, you want fame, then go do this quest for me. Oh, you want an antidote for your poison, guess what, yep do this quest for me. And honestly, for any gamer we love a reward system, so we got our story started.
Now, this is where the other gaming genres start to come into play and make this game so much more complexing; the character selection screen. Wasteland 3 gives you a nice choice of some cookie-cutter two-person squads to start with. For me though, I am a person who likes to try to make his own character, so my AD&D days come rushing back to me. You get the privilege of not just choosing everything for one but for both of your characters. Their look, their outfits, their size, and stature to their voice. Then you get to do their attributes and their backgrounds as well as even giving them quirks or flaws as other games would label it. It took me about 30 to 35 mins to create both of my squad members to the way I wanted them to look, act, feel, and most importantly live in this world.
I am not going to ruin the surprise for your first character builds. All I’m going to say is that you need to read each thing. Yes, knowing that each selection of a skill or attribute you select will make you get this or that for addition to critical damage or healing. But the context and the thought they put into each one seemed like they had as much fun creating each of these ideas as I had when I read them. As you create your two-person squad, it should be known that if one of you has a certain skill then both characters will have it to use. So, not both characters need lockpicking since if they are in your group it can be used by either of them.
When it was all said and done, I had a sniper who was sneaky with lockpicking and toaster repair. I also had a heavy gunner with animal handling explosives and mechanics. There was more to each of them, but I don’t want to ruin it. I chose the third level of difficulty to play through the game, so friendly fire was on and it was more of a challenge. Then I sent my two-person squad out into the world and made their way to Colorado. This is where the opening cinematic took place and then all hell broke loose and I was going to be in for one heck of a ride. The game started me off with the basic tutorial on movement and action skills and left me to figure out the rest from there.
There was violence, there was carnage, a lot of swearing and some very dark humor, also there was a man pouring his victims’ blood all over himself in a shower and shouting out in enjoyment. All of this took place in just the first ten minutes of gameplay. The game gives you puzzles to figure out and you will have to return to spots again and again when you get up enough skill points to either lockpick doors or push your luck with a group of workers to get into a safe.
In-game choices make this game so personal to each person who plays it. You get the opportunity to recruit others to help you on the way. They can either become part of your six-person ranger unit, or they can work in your headquarters. You have the choice to save people who are going to be executed for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or you could let a prisoner run free that may come back to haunt you or help you later. It is all your decision, and those decisions will help make the game more of a dynamic feel the farther you dive into the game.
Another aspect of the game that kept me glued to my monitor for hours and hours had to be the combat phases. Figuring out the placement of your squad as the fight continues on is compelling. For me, however, the music that played during the combat phases was equally engaging. The music is that old folk style kind, like that from Oh Brother Where Art Though, but they put a creepy cult feel as if it was a mixture between The Hills Have Eyes and Mad Max. Dark and uplifting at the exact same time, is just genius.
In the ungodly number of hours of playtime, I cannot truly say my experience was not bugged from time to time. One of my biggest pet peeves of the game that I had was when one of my squad members perished. They can only be brought back from visiting a Doctor, or you can use a Nitro Pack. My issue was that the person carrying the Nitro Pack was the person who died. And I could not revive them or even search them to get the pack back to bring them back to life. I had to go find a vendor who was selling them. I had to travel back to the city, find a vendor who was selling them and then go back out of the city to find my downed squad member to revive them. Although all this took just a few minutes to do, it made me feel like this was an issue.
I also ran into some legit game bugs when I was in combat as well. I was fighting a group and the enemies turn froze and then my turn was skipped, so the enemy got to go twice. Another game bug I became aware of was when I was switching from a flame thrower to a rifle. My squad member’s turn was frozen in gameplay, so I had to end my turn. Both issues have been reported and are being dealt with accordingly.
Wasteland 3 for the PC is a fantastic improvement over the last installment that came out in 2014. With the game moving forward I hope to see more greatness from this title and can’t wait to see what the end game of it will entail. Wasteland 3 is available on Steam on August 27th for 2 different prices $59.99 for the original and $69.99 for the Digital Deluxe with some extra perks to start your journey off a little easier. The PS4 and Xbox One versions launch on August 28th for $59.99. This is a very decent game and I believe that anyone who enjoys a game with multiple things to keep you entertained (post-apocalyptic, western style, D&D, turned based, RPG game with surprises around any corner and your own decisions can change the outcome) this game will be for you as well.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Wasteland 3 for the PC provided by inXile Entertainment and Deep Silver.