STAFF REVIEW of Wasteland 3 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020.
by Brent Roberts

Wasteland 3 Box art What if there was a game that you never knew existed, yet when you played it, wondered how in the name of everything that is holy, did this game slip past you. That my dear readers is Wasteland 3 by inXile Entertainment. If you've never played Wasteland or Wasteland 2, then Wasteland 3 is surprisingly a great place to jump into the story. Hoping to deliver a strategic RPG experience, Wasteland 3 is priced at full retail price $59.99. At that price however, can this be the RPG experience we have all been waiting for, or does this game leave players out in the cold? Let's take a look deeper into the realm of Wasteland 3.

On the surface, Wasteland 3 looks to be an incredibly in-depth RPG game that offers you an opportunity to jump right into battle with your premade character pairs, or you can spend a lot of time going through and customizing your characters and their traits that best match your gameplay. Do you spend all your points on AP so you can always have tons of moves per turn, or do you focus on defense and become an agro sponge to your enemies and in turn save your friends, or do you spend it all on toaster repair skills, because what's worse than some bread with oil on it right? Here's a rough breakdown of how the character development becomes so important for Wasteland 3.

For starters we have the backgrounds. This is a new setting for Wasteland 3 and provides various bonuses (along with some backstory) to your character. Bookworm gives you +5% Experience Bonus, Goat Killer gives you +5% Critical Chance, Mannerite gives you +1 to Kiss Ass and so on and so forth, you get the idea of where this game is going with this. Now, you're probably sitting there going, "did I just read that a bonus you can get is called Kiss Ass?". Why yes, my astute reader, yes it was. Those are but a few of the many skills you find to choose from. Skills such as brawling, sniper rifles and big guns are very self-explanatory, but skills such as Sneaky S*** which improves your ability to approach enemies undetected for stealth attacks or Weird Science which unlocks science arms and allows you deal elemental damage to your enemies, is less descriptive. Choose these skills carefully because some of them will unlock various story moments throughout the game which I will get into later.

Next on the character creation tour we have our attributes. These provide various stat modifications such as Coordination which contributes primarily to your AP and Max AP stats which allow you more options in combat (a knife attack may only take 1 AP point in a turn, but a sniper or rocket can take over 5 AP points in one turn). Awareness increases your hit chance, as well it impacts your perception and ranged damage. Strength will allow you to use the biggest weapons and the heaviest armor, but you will have an impact in Constitution, Melee Damage, Throwing range and more. These skills, without a doubt, will help shape your character and your gameplay experience.

The last element of meaningful character development comes within your Quirks. These can wildly alter your character and experience in Wasteland 3. You have the option to not even take a Quirk, but sometimes the risk is worth it. For example, the Quirk Death Wish gives your character +3 to Max AP and gives you +3 AP, but what's the cost to your character? You can never wear any armor of any kind. Ever. The Sadomasochist Quirk gives your character +33% to both Melee and Ranged damage but in turn, you receive +33% more damage. Towards the later parts of the game, that can be quite severe. As you can see, creating your character will take quite a long time given the sheer number of customization options at your disposal. And that's wonderful because in an RPG experience, the more customized character you can create, the more unique and independent experience you can develop.

Wasteland 3 enables you to almost become lost in all the customization options that are at your disposal, but if you thought that was deep, once you get out of the character creation and into the cold, vast wilderness of the game itself, you'll quickly see that this game offers so much more than you could possibly imagine. Now as for myself, I can say that I haven't played Wasteland or Wasteland 2, and the post-apocalyptic setting of Colorado delivers an ominous atmosphere of both savagery and hilarity. You play the role of the last standing member of a ranger squad called Team November that is tasked with bringing peace to the states like Arizona and Colorado, but first you must deal with the offspring of The Patriarch. Think of it like this, a dad has offspring that grow up to be real a-holes and have amassed their own armies and power, seeking to take the father down and the other siblings as well to obtain total control of the region. Your task is simple; stop that from happening. Along the way you'll gather various troops to aid your party including a foul-mouthed parrot, a half cyborg/half chicken... Yes, chicken, and other animals that contribute to making your party highly entertaining. And in the end though, you need that because the setting overall is a post-apocalyptic Colorado that looks remarkably cold and miserable.

While the plot is fairly direct and to the point, and the combat of this RPG is familiar and one that will require little time to become efficient in. Being a turn based combat system, you will have to not only manage your AP between movement and actions, but you'll also quickly become familiar with the cover system which can either provide half or full protection. If your cover can provide full protection, then your character will receive a maximum bonus for your defense and can only be flanked to receive any credible damage, so you'll know where to look for enemies. This is part of the in-depth strategy that Wasteland 3 brings to the CRPG realm. While this may seem to create a combat system that is overly simplistic where all you need to do is create a choke point and focus your attention on eliminating your enemies as they funnel their way towards you, the open levels of the world prevent that.

Instead you will have to balance your cover, hit percentage, AP point usage, critical change, any penetration percentage, enemy cover (yes the enemies will also seek out cover), environmental interactive pieces and more just to stand a chance of making it out alive. Remember how earlier we were going over characters and all the details surrounding them? This is where all of that becomes critically important. If you like to try and tank your way through enemies and overpower them, then tailor your character to wear heavy armor, have a lot of strength, specialize in melee combat or short arms combat and literally agro the opponents and go smashing while your team hits them off from other areas of the map. And believe me, you'll be glad you have your team when you're in combat.

Throughout the game you can build this team however you wish and that's in part to how you play the game and your interaction with characters. Through intimidation you can force weaker characters to bend to your will and submit to your requests, but hard headed and stubborn NPCs will see that as a threat and could potentially turn violent against you, forcing you to eliminate them and thus possibly taking them out of your party, and the game permanently. Other times however, a few choice words can smooth over an intense situation which can lead to valuable intelligence and even a possible teammate or two. Wasteland 3 though does have its "decision" points where there are times when you will have to decide if terminating an alliance with someone is worth it to ensure the safety of others, including yourself.

While you're travelling and exploring the lands of Wasteland 3, you'll come across various items for crafting gear, weapons, items etc. and this again is where it is valuable to have competent team members who have unique specialties. What this means is that you don't need to have everyone with an ability to craft armor and upgrades if one person in your party is already very proficient in that skill. As you can see this once again points back to where developing and selecting what type of character you will have, and their skills, is critical. Now you will have to be cautious. For example, if you are controlling the only party member in your group that can do armor upgrades and they die and you don't revive them (because you're out of health packs, etc.) then you have no one in your group that can make armor upgrades. If I've said it before, I'll say it again; character development in this game is fundamentally critical. One way that Wasteland 3 allows you to deal with this is by granting you the ability to play with a friend through co-op. This way you can spec your character one way and your friend can complement or break away from your character with regards to skills and development.

One of the biggest surprises I found was the audio of Wasteland 3. From the dialog, which can be comical in its delivery at times, to the dynamic soundtrack music that kicks in between overworld navigation and the battles you'll face, every note seems to have been crafted with the same level of quality that we see in every other aspect of Wasteland 3. You can see where inspiration was found throughout the soundtrack and it goes a long way to making your experience in the game one that you'll remember.

Outside of combat the gameplay mechanics of Wasteland 3 are very simplistic where you have a camera control mapped to one stick and movement to the other. You do have the ability to map certain items, weapons, etc. to "hotkeys" on the controller which can be priceless to you both in and outside combat, especially on the harder difficulties that Wasteland 3 offers. The biggest challenges I found were navigating the environments. At first I would take my entire team with me and then when I would accidentally trigger a trip wire or step on a landmine, a lot of damage would go to my entire team which forced me to utilize a ton of my health packs. To solve this I would only control one individual on my team (who would be able to scout for traps) and they would go throughout the pseudo open sandbox areas and explore for various pieces of loot and disable whatever traps they found.

Wasteland 3 is about adapting to a situation and environment while managing a "choose your own story" adventure. While the main story is fairly straight forward, how you experience that story is totally in your hands. This is why I can say that Wasteland 3 is one of the best CRPG games you will ever come across. It provides a depth that would allow you a seemingly infinite way to experience the game without being overly complex and hard to manage and all the while not taking itself too seriously in its delivery. If you want a good RPG there are a ton out there that are a dime a dozen, but if you want one of the best CRPG experiences you can have, then you absolutely have to purchase Wasteland 3.

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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