Coming from InXile Entertainment is the sequel to Wasteland 2, the surprisingly named Wasteland 3. When this game was announced, way back in 2016, InXile decided to go the crowdfunding route, as they did with the game before it. Eschewing Kickstarter, InXile went with the equity crowdfunding platform Fig, and the campaign was launched in October 2016. They brought the appeal to an end just one month later, and in the intervening time had raised over $3 million. So there’s clearly an appetite for this game. So I guess the big question now has to be, does the extra money equal extra fun? I waded into a snowy, post-apocalyptic Colorado to find out.
Now, back in the day I was thoroughly impressed by the size and scale of Wasteland 2, taken in by the engaging story. Well, it’s time to be impressed all over again, as Wasteland 3 takes the bones of Wasteland 2 and piles in a heap of shiny new graphics, proper voice acting and good looking cutscenes. The story this time around is very interesting as well, seeing our Rangers leave their native Arizona, where it’s nice and warm, to visit Colorado, where it’s really not. The Patriarch of Colorado has asked for the help of the Rangers to deal with his wayward children, who seem to be in open revolt against dear ol’ dad. We are dispatched to go and see if we can strike a deal with the Patriarch, and on the way are attacked, ambushed even, as we cross a frozen lake. Our attackers are the Dorseys, a family that isn’t supposed to exist – but they do and they seem to have a nice line in rocket launchers.
Right from the off, the game starts as it means to go on, with demonstrations of the smallest choices having knock-on effects further into the experience. Within five minutes of starting, we have to choose whether to kill a Dorsey, or let them go and rescue an injured Ranger. Being an all round nice guy and having a bit of a soft touch, I let the Dorsey live, with the result that in the next combat encounter, the person I released ran around yelling a warning, giving the Dorseys the drop on my team, gaining the first attack. And this is all found just a few minutes into the game, so as you go, you have to make decisions that will have bigger ramifications. Do you help the doctor in the hopes he’ll join the team? Should you punish traitors or rehabilitate them? These and many more choices will come your way, so you’re always having to think several moves ahead; to use a chess analogy, to try and guess what the future brings. Honestly, this is very engaging as you get to know the members and how they relate to each other. It was this that kept me playing just so I could see the next step in the story.
Wasteland 3 plays out via an isometric viewpoint, with a camera that can be swung through 360 degrees to give the best view of the action. For me, the camera can’t zoom out quite far enough, and while it is always rock solid and easy to see what’s going on, it can sometimes be tough to see where your team is meant to go. This is more pronounced in towns than the great outdoors, as buildings can get in the way, despite the fact that if you get too close to a building the walls become transparent to see what’s inside. The running about the place is only half the story however; the other half comes when you encounter enemies, be they human or animals. The game then turns into a turn-based tactical experience, and a top tip for combat is to attack the enemies from just outside their radius of detection. If you see a large group of enemies clustered together, an incendiary rocket dropped into their midst is a great way of announcing your intentions.
The actual combat is very much business as usual for this type of affair, with a grid laid over the combat area, and a certain amount of Action Points available to allow you to move your guys and attack. If they stay still, in cover hopefully, and choose to only attack, then they can usually get two attacks off per turn. Using bigger guns, like LMGs, flamethrowers or rocket launchers takes more AP, and so they can only attack once. So when the combat has been initiated, the usual tactical questions come to the fore. Should we concentrate fire on one particular enemy, or spread the pain? Is the guy closest to us with a stick more of a threat than the guy at the back with a sniper rifle? Only experience will tell you how to play through these moments. Once all the enemies are defeated, the combat ends, and after a little light looting it’s off to explore more and the next combat encounter.
Now, as you’d expect from a game with RPG credentials, there is more loot in Wasteland 3 than you can shake a stick at. Weapons, armour, ammo, all these things and more, like medical items, can be found and equipped. The type of weapons, and to a lesser extent armour, that can be equipped by the characters depends on the type of traits that they have. There are many to choose from, from generic ones like small arms and automatic weapons, to the more esoteric focusing on weird science and toaster repair! As you perform actions and take out enemies, you gain points to allow you to increase the character’s proficiency in the various disciplines, allowing extra actions to be unlocked like suppressing fire for the Big Guns skill tree. Each character has other statistics that can be increased as well, such as health and so on, and so it’s possible to get your guys tooled up and also a lot stronger to boot.
Graphically and there is a definite improvement on the previous title, with lovely big people running around the place. The backdrops are looking good as well, with an almost palpable sense of cold coming through the screen. The biggest improvement has been in the voice acting, and when you talk to folk this time, important characters appear on the screen as you talk; the Patriarch in particular comes across as a real badass, but every character now seems to have their own unique voice, from enemies to NPCs to the members of our team. Overall, the feeling this time around is one of a game that has a certain polish to it, and the whole experience has been smooth sailing, with nary a graphical glitch to be seen.
All in all, I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Wasteland. The story is a corker, bowling along at a fair old lick, and the way it all plays is great, with real tactics needed to win the later combat encounters. Sneaking people into place before getting the drop on a group of enemies never gets old. Add into the mix the multiplayer modes, getting friends in to help with tricky encounters, and the whole package found in Wasteland 3 on Xbox One is a big improvement on the previous game. With the game launching on Game Pass as well, the whole thing is really a bit of a no-brainer: if you like tactical games, or those with a strong story, then you really should give Wasteland 3 a try.
Now, if you’ll excuse me these baddies aren’t going to ventilate themselves!