Wasteland, released in 1988, launched the post-apocalyptic role-playing game (RPG) genre that spawned spiritual successors such as Fallout and Last of Us.
Its sequel, Wasteland 2, took 27 years to arrive. Thankfully, we only have to wait five years for Wasteland 3.
Picking up from the events of Wasteland 2, Wasteland 3 continues the story of the Desert Rangers - a group of survivalists who helps survivors and maintains order in post-nuclear-fallout United States.
After an ambush, you are the sole survivor in a team of Desert Rangers dispatched to make contact with the Patriarch, ruler of Colorado.
The Patriarch has offered the Desert Rangers plenty of resources and supplies to rebuild its Arizona base, in return for help to deal with some family problems.
Basically, the Patriarch wants you to capture his three children - each of whom has his or her own agenda but are all looking to usurp the Patriarch as the regional leader.
Sounds simple? As it turns out, the Desert Rangers find themselves entangled in a web of deceit, betrayal and twists, with many factions to engage in the freezing Colorado wastelands.
But first, you need to build up your base by recruiting non-player characters (NPCs), such as a doctor to take care of the medical bay, a quartermaster to stock the armoury and other personnel to manage the mess hall, garage and brig.
Thus, you start by doing the easier quests to get you up to speed to the gameplay. As you get stronger, you can recruit more members to your squad.
You can have up to six members (including yourself) in your squad at any one time. And I highly recommend mixing characters with different skill sets such as medic, barter, charisma and computer hacking into your active squad.
This is because you have a higher chance of finishing your quests through charm or force, and coming out on top of battles through ranged or melee attacks. I was happy to have animal whisperer as a skill as it allowed me to recruit a cat named Major Tomcat, which turns out to be amazingly powerful during combat.
There are plenty of armour and weapons to collect, either by looting your downed enemies or buying from shops in all the towns that you will visit in Colorado.
Like its predecessor, Wasteland 3 is played via a third-person isometric view with turn-based combat gameplay. Each squad member have a certain number of action points, which are needed for actions such as moving and firing a weapon. You have to plan properly during battle.
To move between major cities, you have to travel in a heavy armoured vehicle called Kodiak. Remember to upgrade it, as the upgrades might come in handy during battles with random encounters as you traverse the wastelands.
All of the locations in Colorado are beautifully crafted and unique - you will find yourself taking time to explore each town and city. Expect to also talk to NPCs to get information and new quests, something which I enjoyed as the voiceover actors have done a great job in breathing life into their characters.
Furthermore, it is through these dialogues that you are able to move the gripping story forward and affect its final outcome. There were times when I actually stopped the game and pondered what I should say and do next.
For instance, I mulled over if I should tip off the folks in a town about an impending attack, or join the attack - a choice that will yield much better returns in terms of resources. Such dilemmas are aplenty.
One quibble I have with the game is the long loading times, at least on my PC, when entering new areas - up to 30 seconds. But maybe, it is for you to think about your choices.
Another issue I have is that while the storyline is engaging, it packs cliches such as cannibals and crazy clowns, which are found in the usual post-apocalyptic literature.
However, the game easily provides at least 40 hours of gameplay. And if you are the kind who like to finish every side-quest, you might be looking at 60 hours or more of fun. Not to mention, you can always replay the game with different choices to see what the final outcome will be.
In short, Wasteland 3 is the best RPG of the year so far.
- Wonderful writing and gripping story
- Plenty of moral choices to make
- Intuitive turn-based combat
- Addictive gameplay
- Tried-and-tested formula
- Slow loading times
Price: From $49 (PC, version tested; PS4, Xbox One)
Genre: Role-playing game
Rating: 9.5/10 [ST Tech Editor's Choice]