Posted on 27 Aug 2020 by Jay Shaw

Wasteland 3

The Defence

Developer: InXile
Publisher: InXile
Genre: Adventure, Indie, Role Playing, Turn-Based
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 28 Aug 2020

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3.3 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 760
AMD equivalent
HDD: 52 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 3.9 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 1060
AMD Radeon RX 480
HDD: 52 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Wasteland 3 from inXile is their second attempt at a 3D Wasteland game that breaks away from the original formula a little and breaks out into regions outside of a mutant and machine infested Arizona. The new setting, Colorado, breathes some new life into the series but is it enough to be engrossing for the duration? Keep reading to find out.

Disclaimer: We normally complete a game before reviewing it but Wasteland 3 is huge. We have played about a dozen hours and explored both main story and side content to get an all-round feel for the game. Please bare that in mind when reading the review. We also only had access to a single key and could not try the cooperative portion of the game, as such we will not be commenting on that at all beyond letting you know it exists. In the interests of avoiding major spoilers, we’ve also chosen images from the first half-dozen hours of the game to fill out the gallery.

The Trial

As mentioned previously, Wasteland 3 abandons the Arizona setting of the first two games and shifts the adventure to snowy Colorado. It also skips forward in time by a chunk of time and the events of Angela Deth and the other raiders are now tales of legendary heroes. Compared to inXile’s previous worlds, Colorado feels like it has the most character – it’s still a bleak grey hellscape but it has more character than the previous brown hellscapes.

As the game starts, you’re part of a Ranger convoy heading from Arizona to Colorado to meet the leader of a settlement and gain supplies for rebuilding efforts. Because it’s law that nothing can go right in the first five minutes of a video game, the convoy is ambushed by bandits and everything goes wrong. The tutorial area does a decent job of providing some light strategy opportunities and chances to use various exploration skills so your characters feel useful right from the beginning. A recruitable character is in the tutorial too but easily missed by both inexperienced players and well-versed players choosing the wrong dialogue choices or using a specific item.

Once the tutorial is over you’re basically fast-forwarded to the game’s hub town where you meet the Patriarch, a large man with a large hammer who rules the settlement and wins every award for worst father of the year. As the Patriarch himself explains, his three kids want him dead and he’d just love to give the Rangers free stuff but first you’re going to have to deal with the three MacGuffin children. There is more to their personalities and motivations but none of them really got me interested beyond what loot I could have from their corpses. By the time I got around to actually fighting the first of them I’d forgotten their name.

MacTavish has some good early game jokes.

As is CRPG du jour Wasteland 3 has you acquire a base of operations early on and begin building it up into a home with various benefits. An early quest chain has you gathering basic staff members (more three MacGuffins structure!) but many side quests also present opportunities to gain staff you might not have otherwise considered like Irv, a sub-par clone of Wasteland 1 cyborg nutjob Irwin Finster. Speaking of returning characters, Faran Brygo pops up as the owner of a casino too and if you have characters from Arizona in your party it can lead to some unique interactions.

While we’re on the topic of the casino, let’s take a look at a side quest that highlights the worst moments of Wasteland 3: The Rangers are tasked with acquiring a man who you track down to Brygo’s casino, he’s being held in the back room, and not feeling like a fight with a casino full of quite dangerous goons we had a chat with Brygo to trigger a quest where he’d give us our objective if we prove his innocence in a recent attack on the settlement. So far so good, the quest goes well for the duration of its content but once it’s over we reported back to Brygo and a bunch of town Marshals (local police, basically) stop my team and tell me it’s a fight with them or Brygo’s goons. So all that questing we did to avoid fighting was immediately turned into a huge waste of time. Perhaps if there had been worthwhile loot throughout the mission it would have still felt worthwhile but it felt like a slap in the face to be told we could’ve just gone in shooting from the start and probably come out better off.

So, naturally, we re-loaded our save and went in guns blazing – or rather, gun blazing. That’s because the combat system doesn’t feel particularly balanced. Our custom characters were a melee specialist with a large pipe and an LMG wielder meant to back them up but we also recruited a bunch of other characters to fill out our squad and promptly ignored their starting builds to focus them into melee combat because charging down targets results in a couple of very special effects: firstly, some guns are more accurate at medium range so the enemy’s accuracy is immediately reduced by 50-70%. Secondly, the enemy AI is as dumb as a box of rocks and will sit there while you beat it to death with a pipe so they stop manoeuvring.

Cyborg chicken hiding behind some solar panels? Why not!

Other flaws in the combat system make guns a less appealing prospect too. There’s no fire rate selection for automatic weapons so you can’t fire a single shot or smaller burst. This wouldn’t be a problem but ammunition is scarce and moderately expensive. This is especially frustrating if you like to not waste supplies or want to optimize your attacks. Having to fire 3, 5, or even 10 shots into an enemy that doesn’t need them straight-up sucks and makes melee weapons feel even more dominant; why waste your bullets when you can sell them instead?

New to Wasteland 3 is your vehicle, which can be customized and equipped with new gear. The vehicle can be an absolute beast when you get a chance to use it but a LOT of content takes place in areas where the vehicle can’t access so it again feels like a waste of time and resources to equip it well. It did save our team’s bacon on multiple occasions but we never really felt the need to equip it with anything more than basic, cheap weaponry. Perhaps it becomes more useful in the late game but early-mid campaign the vehicle can be pretty much ignored without hurting your chances at survival.

Also surprisingly for a CRPG there’s no stealing mechanics. Just like that Nintendo kid in the green pyjamas you can wander into every building and fill your pockets with everything you can find and no one will even acknowledge it. You can rummage through a shop’s boxes right in front of the owner, stuffing your pockets with anything not nailed down, and nothing will ever come of it. While we’re on the topic of items in the world, we’d also like to mention that it feels very sterile and game-like: everything is in a container of some kind and nothing can be moved.

If ever an RPG character were voted most likely to die of gout it'd by Brygo.

Conversations suffer from a couple of missteps too: The UI only shows the current line of dialogue with no way to check previously spoken lines so if you’re like us and tend to read faster than the characters speak you’re going to want to be very careful about skipping through dialogue. Clicking to progress dialogue is also finicky, sometimes clicking in the upper half of the screen is fine and sometimes it isn’t, there is a sweet spot that works 80-ish percent of the time but it’s still rough. Dialogue choices are similarly an issue because the game’s UI only shows two or three (depending on text length) but there may be as many as six or seven choices available and no scroll bar or indication these options exist. We were five hours into the game before we realised we could scroll to see more options, which prompted a restart to see what we’d missed.

Sometimes characters will try to shake you down for a cash payment too, but it’s almost always a gigantic bluff and we found zero instances were just refusing to pay would result in a negative outcome. It always either resulted in a significantly lower payment or no payment at all. It’s difficult to feel like you’re interacting with people when all of them act like automatons acquiescing to your demands with only a little coaxing. To be fair, we wouldn’t argue with a group of men with pipes and a machine gun either but it’s not like you need intimidation skills to get these results most of the time.

Skills vary wildly in usefulness. Weapon skills quickly prove themselves useful if you actually use the weapon type they’re intended for but you only need a single point in a skill to become proficient with a type and remove the negative effects from equipping it. Other skills like First Aid, Lockpicking, and Nerd Stuff prove themselves useful fairly often but many are less useful. Barter doesn’t result in large enough discounts to be worth investing the points (especially if you’re all packing melee weapons and selling your other stuff). Hard Ass and Kiss Ass similarly suffer from not always being useful, they have bursts of usefulness but you can go large stretches of quests without ever even seeing a chance to use them. In true Wasteland style, the Toaster Repair skill can help you gain access to some nice goodies but, again, melee trumps all and you’re better off spending your points in that.

Major Tomcat is the best. He's also a melee fighter so he does great in combat.

Quirks and perks provide a bit more customization to your characters. Quirks are chosen at creation and usually come with some kind of trade off for a small but permanent boost to a stat or skill. We took some on our original characters (which were abandoned after the dialogue fiasco) and didn’t take any on the second team. There was no appreciable difference but it is only a small buff and penalty so it’d be unfair to expect a game-changing experience. Perks on the other hand are all positive; as you pump up your skills you’ll unlock the ability to buy perks associated with them that will open new attack types and buffs. We’d like to say they’re worth it but given that we abandoned most of the game’s weapon types in favour of the optimal strategy we can only say that they were mostly useless to us. Some of the basic perks that any character can get, such as increased health and evasion, were usually the better choice to spend points in as they directly improved our combat ability by a decent chunk each point spent.

The writing occasionally managed to have us crack a smile, some of the dark humour is particularly delicious, but the game largely stays serious. This is mostly a boon to the tone of the game; humour and weirdness providing a respite from the bleak apocalypse in carefully measured doses that really do help keep things from feeling like too much of a slog. We didn’t encounter a single quest where we became bored of what was being said and never felt the urge to skip dialogue before we’d finished reading.

Graphically the game isn’t too impressive but boasts a comprehensive options menu to tune the game to your system. We managed to run it on ultra with everything maxed out on an i7 8086K, GeForce 1060 6GB, and 16GB of RAM with a solid frame rate and no sudden drops even when plenty of effects were on-screen. Similarly, we never noticed any graphical glitches or bad textures. No one graphical effect seemed to have a major impact on performance either, which shouldn’t be too impressive but given the amount of games that can drop a framerate into single digits with a handful of shadows, it’s nice to see it handled so well at the very least.

The Verdict

Larian have set the gold standard for CRPG interactivity, systems, and combat with the Divinity: Original Sin games and Obsidian have repeatedly smashed CRPG storytelling and depth into new and interesting shapes for over two decades now. Maybe inXile weren’t out to be trendsetters or reinvent the wheel, Wasteland 3 is perfectly serviceable, but it’s design is firmly rooted in a previous generation of games that we would have found stunning in 2005 but not so much fifteen years on. Fans of the series have a decent enough game here but if you’re just coming in to the series you’d be better off sinking two dozen hours into something else.

Case Review

  • Classic: If you’ve got a hankering for an old-school RPG this fits the bill.

  • Writing: Dialogue is well written, even if structure and presentation aren’t the best.

  • Presentation: The UI is abysmal in places and lacks basic features like a chat log.

  • Balance: Overpowered melee and dumb AI conspire to suck the depth and fun out of combat.

  • Tropes: Strict adherence to the rule of threes and terrible trio trope don’t do the structure any favours.

3 Score: 3/5
A decade ago, Wasteland 3 would've been a good game. Today it is, at best, average.


  • Gameplay: Language selection, input mode selection, autosave interval selection, difficulty selection, camera mode, and sliders for edge scroll speed and controller cursor speed. Toggles for: autosaves, tutorials, retain group on selection, simultaneous enemy movement, auto-reload after combat, auto switch character, auto end turn, friendly fire, follow look ahead, camera follows on move, look-at camera, edge scrolling, and restrict mouse to window.
  • Interface: Text size, highlight nearby objects, highlight fill, multiplayer partner indicator, conversation response delay, multiplayer response delay, subtitles, colourblind combat icons, mission notifications, multiplayer chat, minimap, overhead health bars, combat grid.
  • Display: Screen mode, resolution, brightness, contrast, saturation, vertical sync, quality presets, anisotropic filtering, pixel lights, reflections, realtime reflection probes, texture pool size, decal quality, shadow quality, shadow resolution, shadow distance, shadow cascades, bloom, vignette, motion blur, motion blur sample count, screen space reflections, screen space reflections mode, ambient occlusion, depth of field, chromatic aberration, and anti-aliasing.
  • Controls: Fully re-bindable keyboard. Controller support.
  • Sound: Sliders for master volume, music volume, sound effects volume, interface volume, and voice volume. Toggles for UI narration, voice chat text to speech, and voice chat speech to text.

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