Wasteland 3 has been out for a few years, and I was a Kickstarter backer so I had access at launch. However, I only really played it the last month. Wanna know why?
Blast from the future
In 1988, a video game came out called Wasteland. A role-playing game, set in a future after the world was destroyed by a nuclear war in 1998. The heroes of the game are a team of Desert Rangers, descendants of a group of survivors from the US military. The first two games are set in Arizona, where the Rangers battle various gangs, mutants, and robots.
This third installment takes you to Colorado, to post-apocalyptic winter. The Rangers have fallen on rough times, and they send a team to Colorado to help the local leader, the Patriarch, to keep order. In exchange, the Patriarch will send supplies back south. Unfortunately, a gang ambushed the Ranger convoy as they cross a frozen lake at the foot of a high dam in Colorado. Only a few survive the attack. Your team, team November, are the only ones to arrive at the Patriarch’s doorstep.
I reviewed the second game briefly, back in 2015, and I found that to be tedious at the end. Wasteland 3 was never tedious. I played it start-to-finish and was never bored. I even found it to be a bit short, making the ending feel somewhat rushed.
Wasteland is a role playing game, and it combines turn-based combat and role-playing elements with twisted often dark humor.
One of the factions in Wasteland 3, for example, are the Gippers, a cult who worship an AI re-incarnation of Ronald Reagan. Others worship nuclear detonation, and seek to transcend by being irradiated. The future of Wasteland is a combination of throw-back eighties tech, broken societies, and futuristic robots and AI. So cassette tapes and cyber-scorpions. All of it creates a dystopian game with a dark humorous undertone.
Interestingly, the far more popular Fallout game series were based on the ideas from Wasteland. But Wasteland only got a sequel from a Kickstarter a few years back, and now a second Kickstarter.
The gameplay itself is a ‘throw back’ to the eighties. Well no, not really. The game utilizes turn-based combat, which has its own charm. Turn-based combat has really grown on me over the years.
Speaking of gameplay, Wasteland is a role playing game. Each character has 7 attributes that determine their strengths and weakness (how strong are they, how aware, and how lucky, for example). It has a whopping 22 skills — 6 for combat, and 16 other skills. And then your character can also gain some ‘perks’, special abilities based on the skills they’ve mastered.
So, that’s a lot to manage. You need high values for each skill to pass checks, but each character can only max out about four skills. You need specialized characters in your party to make this work.
On the combat side, there are 6 combat skills, with several weapon choices per combat skill. For example, the automatic weapons skill allows you to use both assault rifles and submachine guns. You tend to pick up a limited amount of ammo, but a lot of different ammo types. So it works best to use different combat skills for different party members.
You have to create four characters, then mix them with two NPC companions. Basically, it requires you to plan out a party where you spread all the skills across the party, making each specialize in three or four.
My initial experience
I’m bad at planning. I started playing the game when it came out, during the first year of the pandemic, and I got stuck. My head wasn’t up to managing a complicated skill set. I didn’t plan properly, and so my party didn’t work.
I created broad characters, that had five or six skills each, with overlap. That was a mistake. So a different game distracted me and I stopped playing.
Then, a month ago, I decided I wanted to play an RPG. I remembered I still had this one. I decided to do some Googling, and read some guides for creating characters. Then, I did what I normally hate: make an Excel sheet to create my characters.
Armed with my Excel sheet, I began again, and this time the game really sucked me in. One of the things that made it daunting to me in the beginning, made it fun a little further down the line. You get six characters and a bunch of hangers-on. Take a look at my party late-game.
That’s the group of people and animals I walk around with. 17 characters and companions, and one big car — you often have to leave the car behind, though, but if present, it can assist in combat. And yes, those are a bison, badger, and cat in my party. The disco ball on threads and guy in a bear suit are exactly what they look like. And ‘Flesh Prince’ really is the name of that weird meat glob.
I have to mention I only control six of the characters. The rest of them just does their thing, also in combat. Which is often useful, until you want to keep a certain character alive and they kill him anyway. Still, I love my team of weird characters.
Wasteland 3 is hard to get into, but once it gets going, it’s highly addictive. I love it. That is, if you like roleplaying games with a lot of stats, and you can enjoy turn-based combat. If you hate post-apocalyptic games or do not get dark humor, then this game might not be for you.
Now I’m going to go back to my second playthrough.