A fight's just broken out - a prim and proper lady of the upper class has just blown her now-ex-boyfriends head off for killing her family, and his friends aren't happy. A banger of a song kicks in, scoring the action with unexpected lyrics and tunes. My midget-sized commander in power armor fires a frozen ferret out of her rocket launcher with the power of Weird Science. My army of cyborg-chickens goes on the attack. The rest of my rangers start blasting, painting the snow in gruesome and beautiful patterns. At some point, you just start wondering - "Is this the greatest game ever made?"
Wasteland 3 isn't the greatest game ever made - it has its issues, after all. But it is full of weirdness, violence, weird violence, and a bitingly dark sense of humor. And more importantly, the game sets out to achieve exactly what it was meant to be: A post-apocalyptic adventure that explores what America might look like after the nukes drop. Where savagery and patriotism blend together in shades of gray. A story where your choices decide what kind of Rangers you want to be and how deeply that impacts the world.
Wasteland 3 continues the story of 2014's Wasteland 2. An enjoyable game at the time, though somewhat dated by now. Familiarity with W2 is not required, though as always with sequels, you will get some lovely easter eggs, cameos, and nods if you know your stuff.
The setup: Arizona is in dire straights for food and supplies, and your HQ has made a deal with the leader of Colorado to get them. The catch? Your merry band of Desert Rangers has to do the bidding of the imposing Patriarch before he agrees to send supply convoys back home. Your main task will be to find and arrest his three wayward children who seek to subvert his rule. Whether you comply - or how, is entirely up to you and the reactivity of this game is highly enjoyable.
Make no mistake - this is a very adult game with heaps of violence, language and mature/dark themes.
To this end, the writers did a job that far exceeded my expectations. All the main characters are wildly exciting and compelling. There are no good guys here, just everyone trying to survive or rule in the way they think is best. It's entirely up to the player to follow orders or not. There are also hefty doses of wickedly dark humor and snark built into the game. It's delightful. But make no mistake - this is a very adult game with heaps of violence, language and mature/dark themes.
You will have reputations with various factions, and weighing immediate benefits vs. long-term gain will factor into many decisions. The main story is compelling and lively, but don't forget the side quests and exploring. There's a juicy amount of content off the beaten path containing some of the game's most humorous or interesting moments. Not to mention some of the best loot.
Wasteland 2 teased you with this kind of freedom then promptly railroaded you in the endgame with a few narrow choices that didn't mean much. The ending variety here is dizzying, and easily would take a few plays to see them all - or reloading at key save points.
It's all about the skills baby
Character building in Wasteland 3 is relatively complex. There's a solid selection of preset options, but anyone looking to deep dive will want to make their own custom characters from the start or when you get to your HQ. A combination of Attributes, Stats, and Perks will decide what your character can do. Mercifully there have been some refinements since the previous game. Skill checks are streamlined to be binary - either you have the required skill level to pass, or you can't even try. Bladed & Blunt weapons have been merged into a single Melee Combat category. The UI is also a treat - nicely laid out to be intuitive while also containing delightful artwork.
Even with a complete party of high-level rangers, you won't be able to get *all* the skills maxed out, which is excellent. This encourages variety and adds replay value. However, for a fee, you can respec your rangers to try out new things, which is nice.
You can expect a lot of combat in Wasteland 3. You can talk your way out of more situations than you'd expect or even dodge encounters entirely with various skills like Nerd Stuff, Survival, or Sneaky Shit. But you will have to battle mutants, psycho clowns, cannibals, and generally unpleasant denizens of the wasteland. Of course, you can abuse the innocent just as much - if you decide to be opportunistic or corrupt rangers rather than upright members of the law.
Fights are turn-based, using the standard action point system. Different weapons and skills will require different points to use. You can hold the remaining points for another turn or use them to go into overwatch or defensive modes. There are also nifty combos in the game now. You could shred an enemy's armor with a precision shot, then follow up with a shotgun skill that deals double damage vs. armor broken targets. A variety of these is available across all the different skill systems, encouraging teamwork and party diversity.
On normal difficulty, you won't have to think too hard about combat. Still, on higher modes, you'll definitely have to dig into those synergies for nasty combos.
It wouldn't be a post-apocalypse without some bugs
The game is primarily bug-free, but there are two key ones I encountered. One is that, semi-regularly during combat, I would be unable to use a character's skills or actions. This would force me to just end the turn instead of using their action points. Not game-breaking, but very annoying.
Secondly, is that on an M1/Silicon machine, you will experience black visual artifacts and glitches on the screen. I don't know whether this is a driver issue with the M1 or because the game is running through Rosetta 2.
At some point, you just start wondering - "Is this the greatest game ever made?"
By default, the game auto-detects your settings. And the game runs *horribly.* Like 1FPS stutter slideshow horrible. Fortunately, there is an easy fix in the settings. The main culprit is Decal Quality which you will want to turn to Lowest. Almost singlehandedly, this fixes the fps spikes, but some smaller ones still occur. Next, you can target Decal Coverage and also set this to Low/Medium.
After that, the performance should be outstanding. On my iMac, I was able to play at 1440p and Ultra settings aside from the decals, and it ran at 100fps or so consistently.
The devs have promised two expansion packs for the game, one of which is recently released called “The battle of Steeltown.” Another will be coming later this year. These integrate into the main game, rather than being standalone. They also level scale, so you can play them at most any time.
Wasteland 3 is a phenomenal game that succeeds broadly in many areas. A reactive world and engaging gameplay. Top-notch visuals and audio. Gratifying combat. Compelling companions and villains. There are a few shortcomings I didn't mention around the crafting system and a few late-game elements that aren't as smooth as the rest of the journey. But these are minor bumps in the road of Wasteland 3's remarkable journey. Deciding what kind of rangers to be and determining the fate of Colorado is an experience that will stick in my mind for a while.
- Graphics & UI.
- Banging soundtrack.
- Meaningful choices & reactivity.
- Combat depth & feel.
- Crafting system.
- Mac performance without adjustments.
- Zoomed-in conversations are underused.
- Combat UI bugs that prevent actions.
- Finite weapon mods in the late game.