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Wasteland 3 Review

Editor’s Note: We have no reason to believe the reviewer’s Xbox One was faulty during this review. The issues appear to be present in only a minority Xbox One versions of the game. As such, we have incorporated the contents of a PC version Port Report into this review.

The score at the end reflects the PC version of the game, with the score in brackets for the Xbox One version we experienced. Should future updates to the Xbox One version resolve the issues we encountered, we will update this review.

After putting in close to 300 hours into Wasteland 2 Directors Cut when it arrived on Xbox Game Pass awhile back, I went ahead and purchased it out of respect for it. I loved everything about Wasteland 2, minus the clunky and slow paced battles in some spots.

I was very excited for Wasteland 3, but sadly that excitement quickly soured and turned into disappointment due to numerous game-breaking crashes.

Wasteland 3
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: Windows PC (reviewed), Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (reviewed)
Release Date: August 28, 2020
Players: 1-2
Price: $59.99 

Battle imagery

Editor’s Note: The following applies to the Xbox One version of the game we experienced.

So far it’s crashed almost 50 times, making it just a hot mess. I’m hoping a good bulk of these issues are officially addressed and fixed before official Xbox One launch, or any goodwill garnered from Wasteland 2 Directors Cut will be eviscerated and ruined with shoddy performance.

I tried my best to weather it as much as I could, but I had to put it down after doing all the side missions available prior to hitting Denver. I’ve played the game and finished the Denver arc, but I can safely say that the game, in its current state on Xbox One, is an unplayable and broken mess.

It needs to be fixed prior to launch and updated with hotfixes afterward, especially once more people get their hands on the console version. The crashes are unbearable for me to deal with at this juncture.

It crashes so much, that it’s unplayable the further I progress and the higher levels I go into. The sound in my headphones makes a loud buzzing noise, and then crashes immediately.

So far I have experienced crashes anytime I visit a medic to get patched up for serious injuries and exit out of their menu, anytime I am in literally any merchant menu (with barely enough time to sell my junk and exit out before the game crashes), anytime I am healing up after a big fight, and anytime a major and sometimes minor story development happens.

The autosave seems to be triggering crashes too. It varies on that one, but the game has crashed a few times immediately after an autosave. It crashes anytime I try to customize the Kodiak vehicle, anytime there are more than 5 enemies on screen at a time (crawling to stop before crashing), and during any “in depth action” in the ui such as modifying weapons and armor causes a crash.

I also get crashes any time I use the Animal Whisperer perk on a critter, or when I’m in the skill and perk trees. One of the issues that isn’t a crash is when characters go into cover during battle, they get stuck in the “going into cover” animation over and over.

The same happens when moving a crouching character; stuck in the crouch animation over and over and won’t stop moving in the animation until the battle ends. I want to like the game, but these issues at the forefront made me a bit frustrated and annoyed by the time I dealt with Valor in Denver.

I’m aware of the old bad blood the developers have with Bethesda from years ago regarding grievances on controlling the fate of the Fallout IP itself and it’s universe and direction.

The ironically sad but also amusing thing about this game is that on Xbox One, Bethesda’s Fallout 76 outperforms Wasteland 3 in its current state. Fallout 76 tends to crash on extended game sessions, but not nearly as much as Wasteland 3.

wasteland 3

Editor’s Note: The following applies to the Windows PC version of the game we experienced, written by Brandon Lyttle.

A lot of things can change between ports of games, and there’s something to be said for optimization and bugfixing between platforms. Wasteland 3 is no exception. The issues we found on Xbox One are practically non-existent here.

Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that very few issues were present in the PC version despite their presence on the Xbox One port. We encountered no crashes while navigating menus, or at all.

On the topic of graphics, none of the texture issues or crashes existed during our gameplay of the PC version. The game was run on Ultra quality with all settings turned up, and everything ran smoothly and rendered quickly.

At its core the graphics look great, although it would be helpful for objects that can be interacted with to be highlighted from a further distance. It’s frustrating to have to scan every box used as cover to see if it holds loot, or to check every barrel to make sure the innocuous barrel next to a pillar isn’t secretly full of explosives waiting to be shot.

wasteland 3

However, we did encounter framerate drops during conversations. About a tenth of the conversations in the game would be accompanied by the game hanging up for three to eight seconds when selecting a choice. This might not sound like much, but in true RPG fashion there is a lot of talking in this game.

These hangups also happened during graphically intensive moments, so I believe my computer is the issue (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 and 32GB of RAM). However, when sadistic clowns can sic exploding pigs on us and the giblets and fire don’t create any lag, but a calm conversation does? It feels like there’s more to it.

The sound design was on point, and musical changes were seamless. Boss music is great, a dark country rock song accompanies the first major fight, and the trend continues onward. Some sound effects do end prematurely though, and gunfire can sound glitchy with automatic rifles (as each shot cuts off the next).

wasteland 3

Another issue is NPCs reacting like they’ve been struck by a frag grenade, even when they’re just being concealed by a self-inflected smoke grenade. Enemies will toss a smoke grenade at their own feet, and then scream and grunt in pain as it explodes into harmless and concealing smoke.

Audio cues aren’t accompanied by visual cues in menus, and this can be confusing as the mouse and keyboard works faster when navigating them than a controller. It took me a few minutes to realize the dramatic sound I was hearing was caused by mousing over a conversation action I didn’t have the proper skill for, and not something dangerous happening just off screen.

The most glaring audio flaw, is that the “Menu Narration” setting for accessibility used the wrong audio output for my computer. The narration would play through my speakers instead of my headset with no way to change it.

wasteland 3

The constant sounds just outside of your characters’ visions lead to another issue. There’s no real way to pause in Wasteland 3. Opening the menu to check inventory and level up leaves you exposed to wandering mobs, of which there aren’t many admittedly.

When exploring with your cumbersome crew however, it’s easy to accidentally walk into a wandering enemy and frantically right clicking to get out of their vision before you get spotted.

It’d be nice to be able to pause and position units as a matter of usability. Instead it’s like your squad acts with one brain, and only one person can do one thing at a time. This is especially noticeable when doing simple actions like using a key to open a door.

When your whole crew is selected, the person with the highest lockpicking will walk all the way around your other crew members to the front of the party to open a locked door. Even if you have a key.

The game doesn’t hold your hand when trying to suss out what options to please factions with, and the fact that choices matter isn’t just lip service. Early on, your choices will determine what kind of people set up shop to staff your Ranger Headquarters.

Wasteland 3

Editor’s Note: The following is the original review.

Now that I’ve got that part off my chest, we can get into what the game does well and shines at doing, which is a lot. The gameplay (when its not crashing) is easy to understand and pick up.

The tutorial section at the start primes you for the rest of the game’s scenery and ambiance. It doesn’t hold your hand with “press x to not die” dumbed-down mechanics. It instead takes a more of a hands off approach.

There was even a part where the game displays a message to the player “We cannot stress how bad that robot will fuck you up” while learning the stealth feature. The mechanic itself is called “sneaky shit,” which is a nice touch.

The game is an isometric turn based RPG with tabletop elements, like rolling for initiative. It’s an interesting aspect. Where the gameplay suffered in Wasteland 2 with the cumbersome nature and dreadfully slow speed of the fights, has been polished here; and it flows better.

Wasteland 3

The battle speed is workable and not as boring. This is due to being able to move multiple characters at once if you choose to, or you can go with the natural turn based flow. The ball’s in your court.

While I was in character creation, I felt like I had less options for customization this time around, and the designs seem a bit boring and uninspired. In and out of cutscenes, the overall visual quality of the characters and oddly jarring animations just don’t seem to fit with the stellar voice acting.

One feature I definitely will not miss is having to manage the carrying capacity of items. I like being a packrat in these kinds of games via exploring and finding trinkets. I can pile up all the junk I want without fear of being overburdened.

The game rewards the ardent explorer with lots of random encounters, merchants, shrines, caves, and more; with all kinds of useful and sometimes not useful goodies in most instances. Don’t be afraid to check out the map and see the world.

Dictator Dad

The story kicks off with a Ranger expedition of dozens of your brothers in arms being ambushed by a family of crazed, blood obsessed raiders called the Dorseys, in the snowy mountain-scape of Colorado.

It’s 200 years after nuclear disaster takes the world out, and all that’s left are the dregs of society. The Patriarch, the self proclaimed leader of the state of Colorado, has requested the help of the Arizona desert rangers with dealing with his kids- Valor, Victory, and Liberty. They’ve flown the coop on him, and are trying to usurp his rule.

The Patriarch has promised help to the Arizona Desert Rangers in the form of supplies, food, guns, and ammo; due to the Rangers being almost destroyed by a rogue synthetic human army dead set on eliminating all of humankind. The Rangers thought their old enemy was defeated, but ended up having to blow up their base to put an end to them in the previous game.

Wasteland 3

The overarching narrative in Wasteland 3 is what can be best described as “misguided patriotism,” due to there being so much worse going on with bands of raiders, scorpion robots, and poison spewing monsters to be fussed with such things.

The Patriarch rules his lands with an iron fist, while raiders and other weirdos terrorize people outside of his territories- thus making things worse for everyone. There are harsh sacrifices that have to be made to survive in the landscape by all.

There is even a giant metal statue of Ronald Reagan with laser eyes used to fry communists, which was absurdly hilarious when I first ran across it. He’s operated by a group called The Gippers, who worship Ronald Reagan like a God. They are one of the many factions of various residents in the game.

Wasteland 3

This is only scratching the surface of depth of said various cast of characters. The eclectic cast are as various as they are fleshed out as well.

They even brought back one of my favorite factions from the previous game too, The Mannerites. They return via a certain merchant, and he’s hard to miss with his dapper suit and hospitality.

There’s plenty of cannibals to shoot this time around, which is to be expected in a dystopian future. You’ll be presented with a lot of choices that will leave you scratching your head too wondering if it was the right one.

The game’s influences are said to be from shows like Deadwood, Ozark, and Peaky Blinders to name a few. You can tell too, with a lot of the story direction and “ahh so that’s why that had to go that way” type of developments; where your actions influence outcomes later and character interactions too.

Wasteland 3

The musical score captures the feel of said dystopia, due to the studio bringing on people who have lent their talents to the Quentin Tarantino movies. You can definitely tell too, with the wild covers that are scattered all over the game. Two of my personal favorites so far are the cover of The Monster Mash and Washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

The audio mixing is a bit of a garbled mess at times when there’s a lot of NPCs on screen and they all talk at once and over each other. That part makes it a bit overwhelming, and I have to briskly jog away to gather my bearings.

A lot of these issues I’m outlining (especially the aforementioned crashes) should be easily caught by game testers. I’m torn on liking it due to the irreverent background NPCs, and being annoyed with the people talking over each other.

The radio chatter while roaming around the map adds to the atmosphere in a way that can’t be understated. With periodic updates from The Patriarch, the warring factions, and a crazy cat lady, it makes the ride bearable. I only hope that SAL the DJ plays more than one song however. One can hope.

Wasteland 3

The graphics have improved from the previous game quite a bit, but the textures while roaming the areas just seem to look a bit plain on Xbox One. Wasteland 2 just looked better. The game looks like it’s still in an alpha build state, and isn’t finished or optimized for console.

Editor’s Note: This is the conclusion for the Xbox One version.

So far, after all I’ve experienced of what Wasteland 3 has to offer, I feel I’ve only scratched the surface. I want to like the game, I really do, but the crashing in almost every aspect of the UI makes it hard. It depends on if it’s fixed, and how fast it’s fixed, as to whether to recommend people spend 60 bucks for this mess of a game.

From what I was able to play and enjoy, it definitely scratches my “decently put together RPG that’s not too much of a grindy slog” itch, and I’m looking forward to updates on the game’s condition as time progresses.

We’ll update this review if the game is fixed, and the issues outlined are fixed or at least addressed; and then I’ll pick it back up. As it stands now, I’ll be playing something else that isn’t as apt to crash. Buyer beware.

Editor’s Note: This is the conclusion for the Windows PC version.

Overall, Wasteland 3 is a perfectly fun and enjoyable RPG, and is able to run smoothly on PC. Fans of the original Fallout games will find a lot to enjoy with the mix of turn-based combat and classic CRPG exploration. With it’s voice-acting cast, musical score, visceral combat, and engaging plot and dialogue, there’s not much to complain about.

Wasteland 3 was reviewed on Windows PC and Xbox One using a review copies provided by Deep Silver. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

Some Images: Review Press Kit (via email), Steam

Editor’s Note: The score below reflects the PC version of the game, with the score in brackets for the Xbox One version we experienced. Should future updates to the Xbox One version resolve the issues we encountered, we will update this review.

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The Verdict: 8.5 (3.5)

The Good

  • Great musical score
  • Good cast of fleshed out characters
  • Expansive universe to explore
  • Polished battle system compared to previous game
  • A talking car. Seriously.

The Bad

  • Game breaking bugs (On some versions of Xbox One)
  • Unplayability due to crashes (On some versions of Xbox One)
  • Game textures look cheap and unfinished (On some versions of Xbox One)
  • The inability to pause can make stealthy navigation treacherous (On Windows PC)
  • The game hangs up during a small minority of conversations (On Windows PC)
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