Have you ever heard of the tabletop role-playing game Neuroshima? It's Polish, it's quite popular, and very similar to the computer game Wasteland. You know, post-apocalyptic America, desert, Mad Max craze, sheriffs in the outback, and the threat of artificial intelligence lurking somewhere on the edge of the map. Lawlessness, sand and zones of increased radioactivity everywhere. Occasionally, a dilapidated city skyline rises above a plateau. Just like Fallouts. An atomic wasteland, to be precise. Close your eyes, think "post-apo," and these images will likely spontaneously appear in your mind. That was Wasteland 2, but the follow-up, Wasteland 3, is a completely different pair of shoes... and unfortunately, there's absolutely nothing to it.
It starts with an earthquake...
The Dorseys massacre a convoy of Desert Rangers headed to a man named Patriarch a man claiming to be the boss of all bosses in the state of Colorado, where his palace and estates are located across several towns, including the neighboring Colorado Springs. The patriarch and his sheriffs are the law: judges and enforcers all in one. Lately, however, they have not fared so well. There is no shortage of armed gangs, shady business people, lunatics, fanatics, crazy clowns, synthetics and feuding families ready to throw themselves down each other's throats at any moment. And then, there are the patriarch's children. Rebellious, ruthless and hoping to take power away from him. It's intense.
The Rangers were to come to aid the patriarch, in return for which he was to send his men and supplies to Arizona, their native state. It's not honky-dory over there either. Even after defeating Cochise, an artificial intelligence trying to take control of the region years before. Everything goes to hell from the onset, though. Those damn Dorseys!
And then the tension only rises
- the plot isn't very original, but it's pleasantly familiar;
- there are multiple ways to achieve objectives;
- fighting mechanics;
- a good dose of humor;
- interesting side characters;
- really good soundtrack.
- painfully long loading times;
- purely cosmetic snow and frost;
- uncomfortable menu navigation on console;
- numerous glitches and bugs;
- poor AI.
Wasteland 3's plot is just a gimmick, but everything else that comes with it makes you completely forget it, and I wasn't really disappointed by anything. This absolutely generic RPG formula, in which the main goal is preceded by a host of minor side quests, has been used in a masterful way, and the devs managed to extract the sexiest aspects of it. The host of original characters absolutely captured all of my attention. Not just that: the dialogs are fantastically written, the humor is sparking, and the writers often nod to us from behind the screen. I like it when the game shows it's about more than just killing pixels.
Wasteland 3 does it brilliantly. After all, Brian Fargo is famous for creating multi-layered games, often playing with the convention, and, more importantly, they're very organic. And it's not about Faran Brygo the virtual alter ego of the developer. To wax a bit poetic, I'd say that his spirit of creative freedom is completely unrestrained. It's a rare skill that many famous figures in the industry lost a long time ago; one that people like Fargo and Ιric Chahi fortunately haven't forgotten. In the era of InXile Entertainment, it's also a spirit of glitches, but there will still be place to complain.
One of the great things Wasteland 3 offers is the multitude of solutions for almost every encountered problem and commissioned task. Literally every quest can be completed in several ways it's only up to us. Most of the time, the consequences are felt in the near future, but there are also decisions whose effects are delayed. All that also adds to this game's huge replayability. You'd almost want to call it perfect... but it's not true.
A pinch of mechanics
For the first time in the history of the Wasteland series, the creators spared the chaos of character creation that had occurred in the previous part. The character wizard is clearer, and the descriptions of skills are better structured. They are similar or even identical to the previous ones, but when I recall trying to grasp the system behind character development in the second installment of the series, I still roll my eyes. And while the team of creators have done their homework, accessing the map or filtering the equipment on a gamepad requires some patience.
At the beginning of the game, two characters are chosen or created. It's worth taking some time to reflect on our way of playing force, wits, silver tongue, or simply hacking or mechanical skills. It's already worth diversifying the skills of the team right at this point, although soon after the beginning, we get access to a panel of mercenaries who will form the core of the team. In addition, two other characters may accompany us in exploration but these, unlike the rest, have their own stories, personalities and goals. So, in this respect, too, nothing changes in relation to the last game.
What's undergone serious changes is combat mechanics. Now, clashes resemble modern tactical games, although we still use movement points rather than actions during our turns (turns alternate between sides of the fight, which is also new). I'll be honest with you, I enjoyed the skirmishes with my opponents in the previous installment of the series and if I had any hopes for Wasteland 3, it certainly wasn't about that element of gameplay. But I was apparently in a minority, since the developers decided to make changes. Which is... quite excellent news, actually. The fight is still engaging and exhilarating. If anything doesn't seem to work, it would be the AI if the enemies, who constantly fall into the most banal traps and lures. If you can find a vehicle with a cannon mounted on it, it will be even simpler.
Baby, it's cold outside
Noticed the word "snow" anywhere? That's right. In Wasteland 3, we're greeted by the omnipresent snow and frost, slowly killing the unlucky criminals unfortunate enough to be chained and left to die of exposure. This cruel way of dealing with criminals, shown almost at the very beginning, doesn't translate to mechanics in any way. Our characters aren't affected by the cold. Even if they're standing in crackling frost in just underwear. They're completely resistant to cold, but it's enough to get a tad too close to a fire, and they're instantly set aflame it's kinda funny.
Too bad cold doesn't impact the game world in any way. This would probably require far more extensive modifications than just a cosmetic overhaul of the decor, which they may not have had the time for. Or maybe they just didn't want it.
Oil stains on the snow
I played Wasteland 3 on Xbox One X and at first, it was tough. The game ran at just a few frames per second, with numerous glitches and many less serious errors. Characters getting stuck, looping animations, bizarre behavior of AI. Many of these issues happened during combat. There were also some glitches in the stats, which required restarting the game.
Fortunately, a four-gigabyte patch came out on the day of release, which addressed many of these issues. Loadings are still pretty legendary, though. Close to a minute. To make matters worse, some tasks have been designed so that in order to get somewhere, we have to break through, for example, three small, adjacent areas. With the absence of fast travel, it takes ages. Or at least it seems so.
The patient should wait for the "definitive edition." It'll probably be released sometime, as was the case with Wasteland 2 and The Bard's Tale IV.
Joker (play it and you'll get it)
Overall, however, Wasteland 3 is a very successful production. Brian Fargo's great RPG eulogy to the old generation and... independence, perhaps, after joining Microsoft's ranks. For now, however, let's enjoy the game that offers a wide range of possibilities in shaping the virtual world, making choices and bearing consequences. The game was successful in revamping the combat mechanics, making it an interesting tactical challenge at a higher level of difficulty than normal. It's not flawless, mostly the AI is flagrant, but it's still a pleasing play. It's a bit of a shame that the coldness of that world is only apparent, rather than tangible, and has no impact on anything, but it's still cool to leave the beige colors of the desert and enter a different environment, covered in snow. And remember, respect the goats.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I like Brian Fargo's exploits and had a great time with Wasteland 2 a few years ago. I liked the vibe and the ability to keep me entertained in spite of the bland storyline. I absolutely love The Bard's Tale and I was quite impressed with what inXile managed to achieve in the fourth part. It took me about 45 hours to complete Wasteland 3, and I'm sure I'll come back to Colorado one day to experience this adventure again.
Przemyslaw Zamecki | Gamepressure.com