Wasteland 3 review: One hell of a nuclear payload

Wasteland 3 promises a huge expansion on reactivity to player's choices and the massive worlds that inXile has become known for. But does the latest entry in the iconic RPG series deliver? Our review.


When Brian Fargo and the team at inXile brought Wasteland back with Wasteland 2 in 2014, they revived one of the most iconic RPG series to ever touch our computers. The result was modern day masterpiece. It left the studio with some massive shoes to fill when it came to a sequel, and with Wasteland 3 the team has done just that – building off all of the great things from the first two games and adding to it even more with loads of additional content, story, and unique characters.

I’ve spent a good forty hours or more exploring the wasteland of Colorado in Wasteland 3, and so far nothing about the game has let me down. It takes everything the studio learned with Wasteland 2 and expands on it even more, creating a believable, wacky, and just out of this world experience. If you’ve been looking for another great RPG to sink your teeth into, then you’re in for one hell of a ride with inXile’s latest chapter in the Wasteland series.

To greener pastures

Right from the start, Wasteland 3 wastes no time throwing punches at the players. The character creation system adds a lot from Wasteland 2 and, like much of the rest of the game, builds on it in greater detail. Players begin with a party of two – perfect for the built-in co-op system – and grants players the options of multiple different premade duos, or the ability to craft their own unique characters with all their own skills, abilities, and quirks.

There’s a lot to dig into when it comes to the character creation system, and I have no earthly idea how long I spent putting together my main characters, Killer and King – a duo focused heavily on explosives, hacking, and shooting heads off with some of the game’s powerful sniper rifles. Probably not the best group to try to tackle the wastelands with, but it has turned out to be a very fun journey so far.

From here, the game expands greatly, introducing you to the cold and frigid wastes of Colorado. While the Rangers traveled to this new state to find help for their brothers and sisters back in Arizona, it turns out that Colorado is actually worse off than Arizona was. You’re quickly introduced to some of the best parts of the game – the reactive world – and you’ll find yourself making decisions with rippling effects very early on, some of which can completely lock you out of dialogue and mission options later down the line.

The Patriarch, an almost god-like king in Colorado needs your help to find his and bring his three kids home. They’re “lost” as he says and making bad decisions. From the start it seems like he might not be that bad of a guy, but of course, you quickly start to learn that not everything is as it seems, and while the grass might look greener on the other side, it’s really just as rotted and dead as the pasture that you left behind.

Telling your own story

While there is a very intriguing and cohesive story that flows throughout Wasteland 3’s campaign, a lot of how that story plays out will vary from person to person. Part of what makes the game so good is the reactiveness of the various people and factions to the things that you do. You have the ability to kill pretty much everyone you come across – including the Patriarch himself. This means that important characters like quest givers are open season right from the start and depending on how you play things, you might end up missing out on some options.

Going back to what I said earlier about nothing being as it seems – the Patriarch and his people do a really good job of making it look like you don’t have any choice but to go along with their plans. Fortunately, inXile has done a great job with the dialogue and choices that players face, and just about every decision I’ve come across has offered multiple ways of dealing with things. Nothing is set in stone and this is truly your story to tell despite inXile having a cohesive narrative that runs in the background.

It’s truly great to see so much emphasis put on the player’s choices and actions. This level of immersion and reactiveness is what has always set the Wasteland series apart from other RPG franchises, and it’s fantastic to see inXile putting so much power in the player’s hands. I’d love to talk more about these features in-depth, but the story is one of the best parts of Wasteland 3 and I don’t want to spoil it for those looking forward to diving in.

I will say that inXile has done well at bringing the same dark humor that was noticeable in the past two entries, though this time they've upped it to 11. Several groups and people that you meet have taken their own approaches to the world, like Payasos, a group of criminals who all dress up like clowns and do some outrageous things like strapping bombs to the back of pigs and then lighting them on fire. There are, of course, other instances of characters and groups like this, and it really helps to give the game's darker story a bit of lightheartedness throughout.

Choosing your team

There is a lot to unpack in Wasteland 3, and a lot of new features and changes to take in. The World Map from Wasteland 2 has changed a bit. Instead of needing water and other supplies to get around, players can actually move around in a vehicle, exploring various parts of the Colorado landscape. On top of the map, there are plenty of intriguing locations and characters to meet along the way, and players will have plenty of people to choose from when it comes to filling their six-man squad.

That’s another important part of the gameplay in Wasteland 3. Much like your main characters, the squad that you run with throughout the campaign can change depending on which characters you’d like to roam around with. There are plenty of unique companions that you can find and recruit (and even ostracize depending on your decisions). If you’re not a big fan of running the studio-created companions, though, you can also create your own, just like you did at the beginning of the game.

Of course, inXile recommends running with at least two of the game’s unique companions, as they often offer some different insight into the world around you and can help you choose where you want to go with the story. This is exceptionally important when making big decisions, as you can end up completely changing what a faction thinks of you with a single action. I found myself listening to the warnings and things that my companions had to say quite a lot when deciding on things, and it often led to my opinion swinging one way or the other.

Your squad make-up is also extremely important in combat. Like previous entries in the series, Wasteland 3 relies upon the turn-based system that helped make old-school RPGs so iconic. Making sure that your squad is versatile in different types of weapons and skills is important, as having a bad setup can lead to your squad being completely wiped out. Cover and placement is also more important than ever, as enemies will take any advantage that you give them and run with it. I once found myself struggling to overcome a specific combat encounter because I couldn't get my squad set up in the right locations, and it led to a bit of frustration as I worked hard to turn the tide of the battle in my favor.

Living it up after the end of the world

Wasteland 3 is one of those games that I could go on and on about, but the truth is, you really need to experience it yourself. The vast amount of content on display here is admirable, and inXile has once again proven why the community surrounding it's titles is so passionate about what they do. The reactiveness and immersion that players can experience in the game is almost unparalleled in current video games, and throughout my entire time with it, every second has felt like I was experiencing a living breathing world – one that I’ve been happy to get lost in over the past week or so.

I really don't have any complaints about Wasteland 3, if I'm honest. Every bit of the game has been fantastic and exciting to explore. The dialogue is witty and fun, and it helps bring the game to life quite well. I did run into a few issues during my time with the game, including some audio bugs and a few times where combat would hang up on turns. These issues usually fixed themselves after a few moments and it never detracted from the experience all that much as it didn't happen very often.

If you’re a big fan of the original Wasteland games, or just an RPG fan in general, then I highly recommend picking up Wasteland 3 and giving it a try. There really isn’t any excuse not to. The open-ended nature of the world and the choices that you have put you in full control of what happens throughout the story and it really sets a high bar for any future titles looking to offer the same kind of immersion and storytelling.

This review is based on a review code provided by the publisher. Wasteland 3 will release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on August 28, 2020.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

Review for
Wasteland 3
  • Almost unparalleled immersion and reaction to player choice
  • Brilliant dialogue and storytelling
  • Open-ended world design that puts the story in the player's hands
  • Fantastic old-school RPG look and feel
  • Diverse roster of characters
  • Living breathing world that changes based on your actions
  • Some audio bugs
  • Turns would hang up in combat
From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 26, 2020 6:01 AM

    Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Wasteland 3 review: One hell of a nuclear payload

    • reply
      August 26, 2020 6:17 AM

      Any idea if this is going to launch on game pass?

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      August 26, 2020 6:31 AM

      God damn another game to buy...

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      August 26, 2020 2:21 PM

      Looking forward to this, gamepass showing good value right now with Grounded update, this and Flight Sim.

      • reply
        August 26, 2020 4:36 PM

        And Sea of Thieves - a game I didn't feel right buying but enjoy being able to play a bit when pals are around. (and CK3 next weeeeek)

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          August 26, 2020 10:07 PM

          preordered ck3 when it showed up on steam then saw it was on gamepass the same day smh

          • reply
            August 26, 2020 11:55 PM

            I preordered a day before it showed up on gamepass… now I try to preach the good word of CK3 on gamepass so others may learn from my pain.

    • reply
      August 26, 2020 3:30 PM

      Anyone know if this is going to do cross-save between Xbox and PC?

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        August 26, 2020 3:50 PM

        I don't believe so. I don't think it will even sync between 2 pcs.

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          August 26, 2020 7:01 PM

          currently its store limited, for both co-op and saves. they plan to fix that between steam and gog and the ms store in the first patch I believe. they want to have co-op between xbox and pc by end of year. I believe all other platforms will have no cross-save or co-op but I don't know if that is set in stone.

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            August 26, 2020 7:33 PM

            Does that mean that you can't load a save from gamepass into the steam version?

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              August 26, 2020 7:36 PM

              I think you can between steam and gog at launch. The man stuff for game pass is different so I think they tabled that for a patch or two, just as they did Mac and Linux.

              Expect a bunch of patches between now and the end of the year on functionality and content next year.

    • reply
      August 26, 2020 4:18 PM

      Curious how the co-op works? Divinity style?

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      August 26, 2020 4:31 PM

      Nice! Can you comment on whether or not knowledge of the prior Wasteland games is necessary? Or does this standalone nicely if I've never played the others?

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        August 26, 2020 4:37 PM

        Heard the game's intro movie covers anything. They know this is likely most people's jumping on point.

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        August 26, 2020 7:03 PM

        you can totally play without having played 1 or 2 (or Fallout 1 or 2 or Tactics). You will miss out on a bunch of cool things with returning characters and locations and inside jokes, but it won't ruin you experience.

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        August 27, 2020 9:49 AM

        There are mentions to things like characters and events from the original two, but for the most part everything works perfectly well as a standalone for new fans to the series. So nothing to worry about if you haven't played the others.

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      August 26, 2020 4:45 PM

      Def a must buy

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      August 26, 2020 7:29 PM

      I really really enjoyed this one more than Wasteland 2, like a ton more. The UI and overall interface seems much cleaner.

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        August 26, 2020 7:31 PM

        MS money helps smooth those rough edges man ;)

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        August 26, 2020 11:02 PM

        I kept meaning to go back to WL2 but I think the rough edges made it harder to get into that game. Us gamer's have been spoiled with things like that over the years.

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