It’s while I’m attacking the Gippers that I’m reminded of that Mitchell and Webb sketch about the self-aware Nazis. You know, the one where they ask, “are we the baddies?”, after realising that they’re very much on the wrong side of history. The reason it springs to mind, as I cover the floor with zealot blood and guts, is because what started out with the best of intentions has become a massacre. And while the Gippers are as mad as a sackful of rats – worshipping the memory of pre-apocalypse president Ronald Reagan and calling everyone “commies” – I’m not sure that they deserve this fate. When I exit the front doors of the Western White House, now spattered red, the Godfishers are waiting for me. I made a deal with them, you see. Told the lunatics I’d let them kill the Gippers in exchange for access to their territory, a promise I have very clearly broken. So, as my six strong squad of rangers readies itself for another battle, I can’t help but wonder: are we the baddies?
Welcome to Wasteland 3, the long-awaited post-apocalyptic RPG from inXile Entertainment, that puts the emphasis on tough choices, decisions that have genuine consequences and moral ambiguity that will haunt your non-playing hours.
Wasteland 3 puts you in the boots of two rangers, pre-made or user generated, the only survivors of an ill-advised journey to the frozen hell of Colorado. Once you’ve checked in with local leader The Patriarch, you’ll need to add to your team, take on missions, upgrade your HQ and – most importantly – decide where you stand, morally-speaking. Will you side with the Patriarch’s authoritarian rule or do you think that there are worthier leaders waiting in the wings? Will you bring peace and prosperity to Colorado or would you just rather shoot and loot your way through the various communities. Do you want a better world, or would you prefer to just watch it burn? All of these disparate concepts are viable options and the range of choices you can make is genuinely dizzying. Most RPGs, even the very good ones, deliver nothing more than the illusion of choice, but Wasteland 3 raises the bar, making the game one of the best pure RPG experiences currently available.
Played from an isometric point of view, Wasteland 3 certainly isn’t the prettiest game around. The backgrounds are often drab, the character models a little stiff and while the many turn-based battles that you’ll take part in look perfectly fine, this won’t be a game that knocks your socks off in terms of presentation. The voice acting, however, is very decent, with most of the dialogue voiced and the writing is stellar, with none of the bloat you usually find in this type of game. Performance-wise, it has to be said, the game does have a few bugs at launch. Animation glitches, some audio dropouts and even a few hard crashes to desktop (playing on a PS4 Pro), however, they’re likely to be patched soon. Pleasingly, load times are quite tolerable, particularly compared to the likes of Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin 2.
Ultimately, however, Wasteland 3 is all about the choices you make and the paths you take. Before you know it, you’ll be part of a civil war, unearthing conspiracies or, you know, accidentally wiping out two entire communities of religious fanatics because you prioritised mission success over human lives. Despite the game’s often lunatic sense of humour (with toey robot prostitutes and suicide bomber pigs), these decisions will weigh on you, have you thinking about them and probably inform a second or third playthrough. It’s rough around the edges, and needs a little patience at the beginning, but Wasteland 3 is one of the best RPGs in years and an absolute must-play title during these bizarre, dystopian times.