Wasteland 3

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: InXile
Release Date: Aug. 28, 2020

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Wasteland 3'

by Chris Barnes on July 8, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Wasteland 3 is a party-based role-playing game with an emphasis on deep reactivity, replayability, and strategic combat.

The video game industry is no stranger to postapocalyptic experiences. Wasteland was released in 1988, and the Fallout series debuted in 1997. As the industry has matured, the two series took vastly different paths. As Bethesda took on Fallout and modernized it with an open-world approach and streamlined RPG mechanics, inExile stuck to its guns and crafted an experience that's clearly geared toward a more tactical PC-focused player base.

Despite the recent acquisition by Microsoft, being folded into Xbox Game Studios clearly hasn't changed inExile's approach to Wasteland 3. A beta build was recently released to Kickstarter backers, and after playing it for a couple of hours, I have a good grasp on what inExile has done for the newest entry in the series.

Players will immediately feel at home when Wasteland 3 starts. You're given a number of pre-canned rangers to select from, or you can build a custom ranger from the ground up. The underlying system remains nearly identical to Wasteland 2. Between the attributes, perks and skills, there are plenty of knobs, levers and numbers to tweak to make your ranger feel distinct. This opens up the game for multiple playthroughs, forcing players to take different approaches to combat and dialogue choices based on their character builds.

While the game looks similar to its predecessor at a glance, the menus and stat descriptions reveal an off-putting tone. Wasteland 2 had moments of quirkiness and immaturity, but those moments were overshadowed by an otherwise complex game with bold player choices and deep RPG mechanics. In the Wasteland 3 beta build, players are bombarded with F-bombs and one-liners, and this writing style carries over into the dialogue and story.

A brief cut scene introduces players to the setup for Wasteland 3's plot. The rangers receive a message from a self-proclaimed "owner" of Colorado who offers resources in exchange for assistance against treasonous family members. With resources running low in Arizona, the offer is too difficult to pass up. The request quickly proves to be both demanding and fatal. As the rangers enter Colorado, they're met with a devastating ambush, and that's where the player begins the game.

Players who are familiar with the series will feel at home with the game mechanics. Turn-based combat forces players to take cover, flank enemies, and spend action points wisely to minimize the loss of health and ammo. It's in these moments that so closely align with its predecessors that Wasteland 3 truly shines. It's a tried-and-true combat system that I'll never get tired of. Outside of combat, players make their way toward the bandit leader who's responsible for the ambush. You'll encounter a number of deranged lunatics that celebrate a so-called "Deluge of Blood." Some of them are found dancing in the blood of fallen rangers, while others salivate over the thought of entrails. Players pass by hanged rangers with a blood-painted backdrop of "Deluge of Blood" graffitied across the cement wall. Visual scenes like this are disturbing and effective, but they seemed to clash with the game's quirky dialogue and voice acting. Story beats are delivered through up-close character monologues as opposed to text boxes and radio prompts.

After you take down one of the cult's leaders, you make your way toward an abandoned fortress to meet the "Patriarch of Colorado," who's responsible for the ranger's excursion to Colorado. The player is informed that the patriarch's three children have turned against them, and they're now are scattered across different parts of Colorado. I'm hoping the game lets players take their own path on these missions. In Wasteland 2, players were forced to make choices between multiple missions. Choosing one would negatively affect the group that you're turning a blind eye to. I expect this treasonous family triangle setup will take a similar approach. Taking down one of them will result in the advance of another — at least that's my hope.

The series has always had a somewhat corny tone, but it feels like inExile has doubled down on that but skipped other aspects of the series. I only encountered one "choice" during my time with the game, and that choice was void of any impact or emotional dilemma. It's worth mentioning that unfortunately, the game's executable was pulled from Steam during my playthrough, so I only got in a few short hours of playtime and could not complete everything that the beta had to offer.

Despite the playthrough being cut short, I felt conflicted on my overall enjoyment of the game. I often try to overlook bugs and place-holder development items that will get ironed out before a game's full release. Instead, I approach these types of betas at a higher level. Do I feel more excited about the game's full release after this beta? If I'm asking myself this question about Wasteland 3, that answer would sadly be ‘no.' Opening the game with character development screens cluttered with stats, numbers, and appearance sliders led to an initial excitement that quickly faded.

I'm quite fond of the Wasteland series, and its hardcore RPG elements are still present and accounted for in Wasteland 3, which has a scheduled release date of Aug. 28, 2020. Now that Microsoft money is backing the game franchise, I'm looking forward to checking out Wasteland 3 when it is unleashed next month.

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