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Sunday, August 30, 2020

[Review] ‘Wasteland 3’ Brings a Wickedly Weird, Violent, and Puerile Post-Apocalyptic RPG World to Life

The return of Wasteland in 2014 was a welcome, and increasingly necessary, thing. There was no longer a post-apocalyptic RPG quite like the original isometric Fallout games. In the years since Wasteland 2 was released, the world of RPGs has changed significantly, with the likes of Divinity: Original Sin II taking the cRPG style of old into deeper, fresher territory, and Fallout becoming something else entirely. To succeed, Wasteland 3 needs to do a lot more than ring the nostalgia bell. It needs to be a far more concrete reminder of how great that irradiated American landscape of old can be, but find fresh relevance and accessibility in order to stand out from its inspirations.

Wasteland 3 does indeed achieve this. Developer inXile has delivered a post-apocalyptic RPG that’s not shy about being seedy, violent, and somewhat distasteful, whilst also offering substantially in-depth player choice and customization.

After the desert wastes of Wasteland 2, inXile has taken the Rangers to the nuclear winter wonderland of Colorado, where, surprise, surprise, a power struggle is occurring (this time between a war-hungry family) that your team of battle-hardened bastards will have a hand in sorting out however you see fit.

The Rangers will deal with deranged cults, power-hungry mobsters, bitter and broken soldiers, movie monster-obsessed clans, and tetchy synthetics as they plow their way through blizzards, mountain ranges, and deadly radiation both on foot and in their hulking armored snowmobile.

While the story has to head in certain directions, there’s an incredible depth of choice to how you approach it that’s made stronger by the variance your character’s abilities bring to the table. You take a squad of up to six Rangers out into action, and customize them as you see fit. From skills, abilities, and equipment to look, personality, and perks, there’s a real effort to make these characters engaging, and fluid in terms of how they handle.

As they gain XP, you can further upgrade skills to make a character a specialist in a particular field, thus helping to balance the squad for all kinds of situations.  Want to have an animal tamer? A snarling, intimidating hardass? A sniveling ass kisser? A master of the blade? Or maybe someone that just enjoys fixing toasters? Wasteland 3 can give you a Ranger for every season, and skills benefit characters on multiple levels.

Say your specialty is as a mechanic. Not only are you better at fixing things, you also do more damage to certain enemy types. By having several benefits to each skill, there’s genuinely viable variety. The game provides plenty of opportunities to test out your specialized skills too, with lots of conversation options, doors, equipment, and abilities that are only open to certain skill sets and levels.

This is what adds a richness to Wasteland 3’s world beyond the storytelling. Your squad may be relative strangers to the Colorado wastes, but you feel much more involved with the people and places in it. 

While the world of Wasteland 3 may be one ruined by the aftermath of nuclear war, it’s not exactly a grey, bleak place to inhabit. Instead it’s filled with wackadoodle places to go and a varied mixture of eccentric and downright ridiculous people to meet. Colorado has its stony-faced soldiers, spirited resistance fighters, and grim political warfare, but it also has exploding pigs, a gang of clowns, antique porn collectors, abusive parrots, and an entire colony devoted to a dress code of classic movie monsters. Throw in giant worms, death robots, and various other nasties and you have a wonderfully pulpy concoction that has the ability to surprise at every turn.

That isn’t to say it all hits. The humor is obviously subjective, and your tolerance for/acceptance of crude satire is definitely tested with some subplots, but overall the balance of the puerile and the satirical is pretty well handled.

When time is not spent chatting with the locals and exploring the wintry wastes, it’s generally spent fighting anyone or anything that doesn’t want resolution. As per-Wasteland 2, the real-time movement of exploration switches to turn-based action once a fight is initiated. Things such as distance, elevation, and cover come into play as you maneuver your squad into position for battle with only a limited amount of actions per turn. It pays to scope out the situation ahead of time where possible in order to give yourself the tactical edge. Often you can take out multiple enemies at once by hitting explosive objects before even starting the fight proper. In many cases, the enemy outnumber the squad, so finding any advantage ahead of time becomes imperative as the threats become deadlier.

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On console, the management of combat is fiddly. There’s only so much that can be onscreen at once, and as such, it’s easy to forget special abilities in the heat of the moment, and it’s not always easy to understand exactly what chance you have to hit or be hit. It understandably gets easier to grasp as you get deeper into the game, but the early going is often a sloppy, chaotic, and frustrating struggle to keep the Rangers on their feet. 

It has to be said though that Wasteland 3 adapts to a controller fairly well overall. Sure it can be a tad finickity getting through menus and finding what should be easily accessible information, but it handles in a largely comfortable manner otherwise. There are better attempts at condensing a PC-centric title’s interface into more console-friendly form (see XCOM 2 or Divinity: Original Sin), Wasteland 3 still does the job to a satisfactory, if unremarkable level.

Wasteland 3’s biggest stumbling block currently is its technical hiccups. Though there have been some improvements made since launch, there’s still an inordinate amount of times where menus freeze, textures don’t load, and actions suddenly become impossible to perform with a reload. It’s a real shame because there are times where I was so drawn into the game, losing hours to it, and having a great time, only for it to be soured by one of those problems. The previous game was certainly a rougher experience, but then you could excuse it a bit more. Now, with a more comfortable development, it’s disappointing.

The negatives are not enough to really affect how I ended up feeling about Wasteland 3. It’s a far superior game to its predecessor, and I really liked that too despite its many issues. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in exploring, fighting, tinkering, and more in this world. It’s not afraid to let you figure things out for yourself and do things your way, but it isn’t impenetrable for newcomers either. Throw in a co-op mode that doesn’t overly dilute what makes playing solo so enjoyable, but actually enhances the experience, and you have a highly engrossing dose of silly, violent RPG goodness.

Wasteland 3 review code for PS4 Pro provided by the publisher.

Wasteland 3 is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/video-games/3629643/wasteland-3-review/

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