Video Game Reviews

Wasteland 3: Cold Justice

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Wasteland 3 is a post-apocalyptic turn-based tactical RPG developed by InXile Entertainment and published by Deep Silver. It takes place sometime after the canonical end to Wasteland 2.

You play as Team November, a squad of Arizona Rangers that has been tasked with garnering aid and supplies from the Patriarch of Colorado. Unfortunately, in exchange for his help, the Patriarch wants Team November to reign in his three traitorous children. They are:

  • Victory, a technical genius who has fallen in with a cult that worships God President Reagan
  • Valor, a psychopath who was exiled and later returned with an army of chemically-dependent road warriors. 
  • Liberty, the greatest threat of all, who has more ruthlessness, cunning, and drive than her brothers combined.

I’m going to be honest, I haven’t played either of the first two Wasteland games. 

I don’t usually start with the third installment of a game. If I see a sequel that looks promising, I almost always go back and play the original so that I can get the most out of both experiences.

Well, after watching the trailer for Wasteland 3, I took leave of my senses and decided that I would ignore my usual policy and play the third installment first. 

Now, after playing through Wasteland 3, I can say that it was a pretty good decision. I mean, there are clearly a lot of references from the previous games that I won’t get until I’ve played them, but I’m cool with memento-ing my way back through the series to see what I’m missing out on. 

Hopefully it works out better for me

Anyway, if you played either, or both, of the first two games, great. I hope that I can give you enough information so that you can decide if you want to try Wasteland 3. If you didn’t play the previous games, I’ll let you know what it’s like to start on the third installment.

No I in Team

Team November is exactly what it sounds like: a team. So there is literally no main character in this game. You might say that the first two characters you choose—or create—are “the protagonists” ; this isn’t exactly true.

Eventually, you can create a number of characters, if you want, and trade them out as you see fit. The only caveat is that you can only have four of these “Ranger” characters at a time. The other two spaces in your squad are occupied by companions, which are basically the only characters on your team with an actual personality. 

And by personality, I mostly mean they have voiced dialog.

And you wasted it on this

You can also get some tertiary team members (I’ll call them followers), including but not limited to:

  • Any neutral animal you can find (if you have enough points into “Animal Whisperer”)
  • Various robots
  • A underdeveloped clone of one of your characters
  • A guy who speaks only speaks Latin
  • A small voltron-style robot made out of cyborg chickens

These followers are a little harder to keep track of, because—as far as I could find—there were no menus where I could view their information. At least the animal followers had health bars that were visible, but it wasn’t always the case with the other followers.

This led to the majority of my followers dying without me realizing it, which kinda sucks because some of them were really helpful.

Hymn of Battle

This section isn’t going to be huge. I just wanted to draw some attention to the specific musical choices. 

There are some battles that, for whatever reason, have actual songs playing over them. These songs are generally ones you probably know. However, they are not the versions of those songs you’re used to. The first, and therefore most memorable for me, was “Blood of the Lamb.” It’s still stuck in my head, and I beat that game weeks ago.

Here is a quick list of the other songs that struck a chord with me:

  • “Down in the Valley to Pray”
  • “America the Beautiful” (two different versions)
  • “Glory Glory Hallelujah”
  • “Onward Christian Soldier” 
  • “Monster Mash”

You can look these up on YouTube to get a general idea of what I’m talking about, but if you have any plans to play this game, you should let yourself be surprised.

Brass Tacks

As you would expect from a tactical turn-based RPG, combat makes up a large portion of this game. 

Sure, you get to run around and open boxes and talk people into not shooting you, but a good portion of your time will be spent deciding if you want to move your sniper forward for that hail mary shot or keep them back and heal up.

You should heal, by the way

Anyway, the combat is about what you would expect from this type of game. You move your team along a grid-based battlefield and try to move them into the most advantageous positions, not unlike a chess piece… 

You know, if chess pieces had mini-guns and chainsaw swords. 

I will say that while the combat was solid, the interface was very hard to get used to. It’d been a while since I’d played a tactical RPG, but even then, the controls were, initially, very hard for me to get used to. I felt like there were too many menus and too many buttons, and too many menus for all the buttons. 

After a while, though, it did get easier, but I can confidently say that I was still messing up which button did what even near the end of the game. 

All that said, combat was always fun. I attribute this, largely, to the fact that you could have six primary squad members. Having so many meant that you could experiment with different weapon and item combos. 

This is even more true since each character can carry two different weapons, meaning you could have a sniper that also specializes in explosives, or someone who carries a mini-gun and a flamethrower at the same time. 

There were some technical issues with combat, and the game in general, but we’ll get to those later. 

Later

Oh my god, this game is soooo buggy.

I’m not sure what it is about tactical RPGs, but they always seem to be about 80% buggier than most other games, and unfortunately, Wasteland 3 leaned into this real hard.

For starters, it had a tendency to completely crash during loading screens, and this got worse the longer I played. Fortunately, it also saved before starting those loading screens, so at most I had to reload and try again.

For brevity’s sake, I’m going to list the most egregious errors because if I were to put them in paragraph form, well…

  • Music cutting in and out
  • Items not registering as being able to be picked up
  • Combat freezing for intensely long periods of time between turns
  • Pathing errors that resulted in my characters getting stuck 
  • Attacks that used templates would go completely wild and fire in the wrong direction
  • Voice lines not playing
  • Voice lines playing at weird times

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

These bugs and glitches weren’t game-breaking, but they did diminish my overall enjoyment of the game as a whole.

The Final Deluge

Overall, Wasteland 3 is a fairly good game with some outlandishly fun moments in a grim post-apocalyptic setting. The dialog is well-written, and you’ll need an ethics degree to figure out if you’re making the right choices. The combat is solid, and the character creation and leveling systems will keep you engaged with your characters throughout your playthrough. 

Unfortunately, the laundry list of bugs and glitches throughout the game will certainly put a damper on said playthrough. 

I’m giving Wasteland 3 a dynamic rating of 9/10 for initial enjoyment and story, and a 7.5/10 once you’ve gotten tired of dealing with all the technical difficulties.

Despite the glitchiness of this title, I can honestly say that I’m hoping that there are other Wasteland games coming down the pipeline. Hopefully, between now and then, some wizard will come along and fix whatever the hell is wrong with tactical RPGs. 

Until then I’ll pretend that the crashes don’t bother me. 

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