Wasteland 3 has been an incredible journey. From its uncertain start in crowdfunding to launching to this final DLC, it has been amazing seeing Brian Fargo and the rest of inXile’s incredible vision of post-apocalyptic strategy role-play come to pass. Now we’ve arrived at the last chapter in Cult of the Holy Detonation: a chapter with big implications of finality for this era’s Desert Rangers. Is it a worthy ending? Well, it’s a bit abnormally typical in its story. That said, the new characters, enemies, objective-based encounters, and massive repercussions at the end make this a DLC that those who have come this far on the ride really out to see through to its destination.
The brightest god & the beaten path
Cult of the Holy Detonation’s story sees the Desert Rangers taking another side trek to investigate strange occurrences in their most irradiated adventure yet. Up in the Cheyenne Mountain Range, deep within a military complex waits contending cults of irradiated, yet conversable mutants (some of them anyways). Both cults worship a similar god: a nuclear explosion that was somehow caught in stasis just as it was beginning to fully release its destructive force. One cult believes the explosion could be a gift, utilizing its absurd energy to power the entire Colorado area. The other believes that the destructive force of the explosion must be freed, leveling Colorado. Your squad gets to step in and move the needle as you see fit.
This might be my least favorite scenario inXile has come up with yet. It’s a little too cliche for my tastes, especially considering the grand journey and side quests we got out of the main campaign and even the Steeltown DLC. Don’t get me wrong, inXile still takes this concept and runs with it in some really fun ways. The characters here are interesting to engage. There’s a mutant nuke pope (of sorts) called Proteus, for instance, that is just equal parts delightful and grotesque as it talks through another cultist known as Polyp. The same could be said of a lot of interactions in this DLC. The dark comedy that got me to this place is still quite fun. I just also wish Wasteland 3 was ending on something a little more inspired than deciding whether a bomb destroys the land as we know it or not and the often-presented faceoff between more rational mutants and senselessly violent ones. Still, it’s hard not to appreciate some of the ways inXile explores these often-treaded grounds.
Adjust your strategy to survive
A big part of Cult of the Holy Detonation are the different quirky mechanics and challenges it presents your team with. Most notable is the distinct type of radiation in this area that both buffs and debuffs your characters. It is, after all, a holy nuke. And so instead of just wrecking you outright, the Holy Detonation can imbue your characters with bonuses like increased healing and Constitution, but at the cost of combat speed and strength. It’s an interesting give-and-take unique to this area and I like the environmental quirk of it.
Also notable is the introduction of objective-based encounters in this DLC. Where Steeltown introduced non-lethal weapons that allowed you to play a whole new way if you chose, Cult of the Holy Detonation features strategic battles that force you to consider your tactics more carefully. These fights aren’t incredibly common, but they do challenge you to do more than kill your foes. Often, they require interacting with target areas like computers or controls or destroying key targets like vents or machines. Failing to do so will see you chipped away by an endless wave of enemies.
Cult of the Holy Detonation requires your characters to be Level 16 and higher to be there and the objective-based encounters feel like a good reason for it. These battles are tough and can get out of hand quickly if you don’t approach them right. I feel like your acceptance or frustration with these battles will depend on your squad build. I had a melee tank that could handle explosives like EMP and regular grenades and run a mile, making him well-suited to run for objectives and defend himself along the way. The rest of my squad supported his progress by killing off weaklings and hacking robots to turn them against their allies. I felt satisfied with how Wasteland 3 challenged me to use my squad in ways that the rest of the game never really asked me to, but I can see where other players might not enjoy it as much if they don’t have a squad spec that can meet this challenge.
I also like the weapons. They’re mostly mutated variants of weapons similar to those found in the rest of the world, but I was quite delighted when my aforementioned tank found a sledgehammer that causes small nuclear explosions to all enemies and the character swining it. It feels like a weapon built specifically for a melee heavy hitter with a Pyromaniac trait: my type of weapon. There’s plenty of other fun gear like it to find, though I will admit that much of it is themed around radiation and mutation. If you’re not into that, the gear in Cult of the Holy Detonation may leave you wanting.
Gone in a flash of brilliance
I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey with Wasteland 3. Getting here was a long road, but it was worth it for the most part. Cult of the Holy Detonation doesn’t feel like the most inspired ending they could have written, but it does do more of the good work I’d expected from Brian Fargo and the rest of inXile. Plus, the DLC is only $7 USD and offers up around three to five hours of additional content. For that price, it also does a decent job of putting a bookend on Wasteland 3. All that’s left is just to tend to the fireworks show.
These impressions are based on a PS4 copy of the game supplied by the publisher and played on PS5. Wasteland 3: Cult of the Holy Detonation is available now, either standalone for $6.99 or as part of the Wasteland 3 Colorado Collection bundle for $49.99 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and PC.