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    Wasteland 3

    Game » consists of 1 releases. Released Aug 28, 2020

    The third entry in the iconic post-apocalyptic RPG franchise, backed again by crowdfunding like its predecessor.

    nateandrews's Wasteland 3 (PC) review

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    Wasteland 3's deep character progression and choice-driven narrative create a wonderfully diverse experience

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    Wasteland 3 is successful in so many ways. Its turn-based combat is challenging and requires thoughtful strategy; its character progression is deeply customizable and allows for a wide range of role-playing opportunities; and, perhaps best of all, its narrative is immediate and driven by player-choice. This game is a complete package in all the ways a great RPG can be.

    Some conversations take place from a terrifically animated face-to-face perspective
    Some conversations take place from a terrifically animated face-to-face perspective

    Wasteland 3 tells the story of Team November, a Ranger dispatch from Arizona, who are on a critical mission to Colorado to secure supplies for their beleaguered territory. A man known as the Patriarch, who claims to be in control of Colorado, has promised the Rangers all the supplies they would need if they help bring back his three wayward children, who are all vying to overthrow him.

    This provides the core narrative structure of Wasteland 3. Each of the Patriarch’s children are located in a different corner of the map. You’ll go to each one, figure out what to do with them, and report back to the Patriarch. Side quests that you encounter along the way fill in more of the story of Colorado and its various warring factions. And there are a lot of them. Clowns, cannibals, high-tech raiders, presidential worshipers, and more have all staked their claim over bits and pieces of the Colorado wastes.

    The utter chaos unfolding between these factions provides a fascinating counter to life within the confines of Colorado Springs, that town that the Patriarch has successfully made a safe haven. Wasteland 3 constantly presents the player with moral dilemmas regarding the Patriarch’s rule and the horrors encountered in the wastes. In fact, one of the game’s greatest strengths is how quickly it responds to player decisions. It doesn’t take long for the consequences of narrative choices to become apparent, and because every side quest feeds back into the story of the Patriarch in some way the overall narrative is frequently brought into question, as is the player’s comfort in sticking to the original mission. Everyone in Colorado has been affected by the Patriarch’s rule in one way or another, and the game leaves it up to the player to judge the man’s leadership.

    Random encounters on the World Map are presented with text adventure-style dialogue
    Random encounters on the World Map are presented with text adventure-style dialogue

    Wasteland 3 is broken up into distinct zones--primarily towns and faction encampments--that are scattered throughout a World Map. This World Map is traversed using an all-terrain vehicle called the Kodiak, providing a bit of downtime between missions. On foot, the player controls a squad of up to six members. Four of these members can be Rangers, selected from a pool or customized from the ground up. At the start you have the opportunity to select from a few different premade duos, but creating your initial two Rangers yourself is far more exciting. You customize their appearance, skills, attributes, and starting weapons, and you also have the option to select a Quirk, which are unique traits that have positive and negative impacts.

    The other two slots are reserved for companions, who are met and can be recruited during the course of the adventure. The game actually provides the first two companions very quickly, and I ended up sticking with them for the entire game. During conversations, these companions will occasionally chime in with their thoughts on whatever’s going down. They also have their own moral boundaries and will leave the squad if something crosses the line. The four Ranger party members never chime in during conversations, but they are chatty during combat, providing them with at least a touch of personality.

    Characters level up at a pretty brisk pace, opening up new opportunities quickly
    Characters level up at a pretty brisk pace, opening up new opportunities quickly

    I love Wasteland 3’s character progression, not only for the unique playstyles it allows for but also for how quickly the game evolves as your characters level up. There are so many different skills here; lockpicking, hacking, big guns, intimidation, weapon modding, barter, leadership, animal whisperer, toaster repair… it almost becomes overwhelming, until you remember that you can effectively spread these skills out across the six party members.

    Everywhere you go there are skill checks, and even alternate skill checks for things you can’t access. My teammate Crash was better at hacking before she became a lockpicking expert, so I was able to remotely open certain doors that I couldn’t pick my way through. My ability to be a Hard Ass was sufficient enough to intimidate an opponent into sparing a friend’s life, but my inability to be a good enough Kiss Ass prevented me from convincing my friend to do the same.

    Even within similarly skilled party members, there’s room for variation. I had two designated healers in my squad; one of them received a 2x damage bonus for a couple turns after reviving a teammate, while the other, thanks to their high leadership skill, would grant the entire party a quick health boost after performing a revive. I had two “runners,” as I like to call them, who could cover a lot of ground in one turn; one of them could sprint behind enemy lines to hack robots and turrets, while the other would get in close with a high powered revolver and land devastating critical shots. This gunslinger was also a skilled mechanic; in addition to repairing power systems outside of combat, she could deploy turrets and other robot helpers during combat.

    Environmental effects like gas clouds and fire can make parts of the battlefield difficult to navigate
    Environmental effects like gas clouds and fire can make parts of the battlefield difficult to navigate

    Wasteland 3’s turn-based combat is excellent in how it takes full advantage of the way you choose to build each party member. And each weapon type has advantages and disadvantages as well. I chose to stick entirely with guns for my whole squad, but there are ways to build melee and fisticuffs characters as well. The Kodiak even becomes an additional party member during combat encounters on the World Map, with crushing efficiency.

    Disappointingly, the combat is also where the game is at its buggiest, with minor issues popping up here and there making for an inconsistent experience. Things like exploding barrels inexplicably not exploding and the UI not clearly indicating when I’ve selected or deselected an ability can have consequential impacts on battle. Other issues, like the Rally ability--which gives everyone two more action points for that turn--not working half the time had me reloading quick saves more often than I wanted to. I also missed way more 95% shots than what should have been possible. I’m used to XCOM percentage tomfoolery, but this was on a whole other level. Finally, the game has some pretty gnarly framerate drops that seem to occur out of nowhere, tanking severely for a bit and then clearing up without explanation.

    I have an easy time calling Wasteland 3 one of the best RPGs I have ever played in spite of these flaws. It is a remarkably self-contained game, in the sense that everything plays into everything else. Combat plays directly into character progression, character progression impacts exploration, exploration leads to side quests, and side quests feed directly into the main narrative. Every system in the game is interconnected and focused. It's also got a wickedly entertaining sense of humor, and a killer soundtrack with vocals that make certain combat encounters particularly memorable. More importantly, it never wastes time, which is maybe the best thing you can say about an RPG today.

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