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Picture this. You’re in post-apocalyptic Colorado as a member of the elite Ranger team, November. There’s danger and intrigue around every corner. All that stands between you and certain doom is your five elite squad mates, a backpack full of different weapons, and your wits. Also a ten-point buck you befriended known only as Stag and a golden toaster named Courageous. Two members of your squad are incapacitated, struck down by giant poisonous toads. Things are looking bleak. Out of nowhere, a loud grinding noise erupts, freezing your team in fear. I search the battlefield for the source, only to realize that it’s actually my Xbox console doing what can only be described as a death rattle. My dashboard appears as the game shuts down. This, in a nutshell, was my experience with Wasteland 3.
Now, I could just skip the rest and throw my score beneath the prior paragraph, but I thought that wouldn’t make it past the editor’s desk. (Editor’s Note: It would not have. – Ains) In reality, it probably wouldn’t do the game justice either. InXile has done a pretty decent job expanding on its previous entries into the Wasteland series. I say this having dabbled in the last two games. Sampled might be a better term. I played about 30 minutes of the first game. Hard pass. Made it an hour until I threw in the towel on the second. So not much at all. I have limited patience and to be fair, the mechanics were dated when I started. For me, this was more like going from The Witcher 2 (a game I struggled to connect with) to the masterpiece that is The Witcher 3. There is an immediate feeling of improvement right off the bat. It was so much better, from graphics to mechanics, you could really tell the extra care (and Microsoft money) that went into the finished product. And while I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, I was reminded at every turn that with a game of this scope, you’re going to have your share of bugs. Let’s start off with the good stuff first so I can build up your expectations and then rip them away from you later like a dad taking away a Snickers bar (actually an in game item) from his child and devouring it in front of him. If you could only see the smile on my face, but I digress.
First and foremost, this is a CRPG. I had to look up what that was and discovered the “C” was for “computer”. Who knew? Probably several of you. I’m going with “tactical” RPG or TRPG. If you want to break it down to its most basic form, think X-Com RPG with fewer aliens and more mutated animals and people. The game is played from a top down, 3D perspective, not unlike other games in the genre. Battles utilize cover and a crap ton of different weapons and items. From a standard assault rifle to a rocket launcher that uses frozen ferrets as ammo (sorry PETA), there’s something for everyone. That’s important. You begin the game with two squad members, either a pre-made set or your own creation. After a short tutorial, you gain access to four more slots for your team. Those are filled with a mesh of recruitable members, pre-created members or your own created members. There are limitations like having at least one player created character at all times. I would have loved to play with a squad completely created by me, but it’s pretty forgiving. Having those people with a variety of skills and weapons is paramount to making your way through the game. However, you can have a group of six members with all sniper rifles, assuming you hate yourself and want an incredible challenge. That’s part of the game’s charm, you can tackle it however you see fit. Speaking of skills, there’s well over a dozen different ones to trick out your crew. From your standards like lock picking or computer hacking, all the way to toaster repair. Ah, toaster repair. The point is, there are so many options for your characters, you can play this game dozens of different ways. There’s also a co-op option that let’s you play through the game with a friend. I wasn’t able to try this part out unfortunately. I’m not sure I would enjoy it just based on the sheer number of choices that come into play. And that’s not even accounting for the story points.
Games these days, especially RPGs, like to tout choice and repercussions of said choices. They’re all liars. However, after just a few hours in Wasteland 3, I had lost count of the amount of different dialog choices I had made let alone what they were. That is, until they started to rear their heads later on. In the moment, they were seemingly minor choices. I had so many “Oh crap” moments, some good, some horrendous. I reloaded several saves just to see how certain events played out differently, for review research of course (wink-wink). The game constantly puts the player at odds with the many different factions of the wasteland. Help one, the other hates you. I don’t know if it’s possible to placate everyone. On the other side of the coin, making them all hate you is no problem at all. The replayability is off the charts on this game. It makes me want to play through again just to see what I missed. As long as they squash the laundry list of bugs.
I’m not on the “all games this size are going to have bugs” train. I’m ok with a few here and there. As of this writing, InXile is releasing a patch for some of the major issues. I played the game on the Xbox One X before these issues were addressed so I feel like I need to write the review based on the state I played it in. That state was rough at times. Graphically, the game looks great. One issue I had was with the frame rate. Zoomed in, it stays pretty steady. Once you zoom out, the game begins to stutter. Not game breaking, but for a game that doesn’t seem super demanding from a graphical standpoint, it’s really annoying. I had several menu issues as well which were mostly comprised of getting frozen while selecting perks. There were a handful of other issues including hanging audio, freezing load screens, and not being able to access certain in world items. Most of these can be fixed though rebooting the game. This isn’t an issue because the biggest offender was the constant dashboard crashing. By time I finished the game, I ended up with about 60 to 70 hours invested. In that time, I crashed to the dashboard at least 30 times. Maybe it was my console but I doubt it considering it’s only a few months old and haven’t seen the issue in other games. My advice is to save often. You can set the autosave to whatever time you want but still, save manually often. I’ve started another playthrough on PC and haven’t run into many issues so far. What I do know is that these issues marred what was otherwise a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
I could go into far greater detail about the ins and outs of the game but part of the fun with the game is finding all of the different solutions to the situations it presents. Discovering all of the small details in the game is probably impossible on a single playthrough. There are multiple endings as well. I’m not sure how many but the way they’re presented is pretty unique. I think a lot of people will sleep on this game due to the genre. I’m going to go ahead and say that’s a good call, for now. Under normal circumstances, I would say step out of your comfort zone and at least give this a shot. If you have Game Pass, it wouldn’t hurt. Just give it a little time. Once those bigger issues are taken care of, this game should be added to your playlist. Even in its current state, the game is still fantastic. It has great combat and a solid story mixed with humor and a super high replay value that will keep you coming back for more. I’m not trying to justify the game’s shortcomings, that’s not my style. Wasteland 3 is like an amazing meal that about halfway through, you find a hair in. You power through it because it’s still delicious and your wife worked super hard making it. You just can’t stop thinking about the hair.