Story-wise, Wasteland 3 takes place over a hundred years after the earth’s destruction. You start the game with two characters in your party, the only two survivors of a Ranger Squad named the November Team. After losing your squadmates, you’ll meet with the patriarch, the self-titled ruler of Colorado. He strikes a deal with you: find his three children and bring them back alive. In return, he will provide you with a base for your team to live on and plenty of new squad members to get your team back on their feet. There’s only one catch: some of his children may not come with you willingly once you track them down. I enjoyed how Wasteland 3 immediately raised the stakes in the first hour of playtime; by creating a beautiful and incredibly harsh environment, it’s immediately clear that survival is key in the game’s unforgiving landscape, and your characters won’t survive for long without forming alliances and making strategic decisions about their survival.
Similar to previous Wasteland games in the series, the game focusses on assembling a party of allies with different skillsets to progress through the story, and you have the option of customising your two starting characters’ looks, attributes, and skillsets from the ground up. The depth of the character customisation system is impressive; you can select each character’s specific skills, character quirks, weapons, facial features, trinkets, and more. The combinations of skills and attributes are endless, and my first hours in Wasteland 3 were mostly spent creating my starting characters. However, if that’s not your thing, don’t fret. The game offers up to four different pre-made character sets, all with different perks and interesting backstories.
Out of all these character specifications, choosing and upgrading different skills will be by far the most important decisions you’ll make before and during a playthrough, whether you’re playing with a template character with certain quirks or creating your own. There’s a wide array of skills to choose from (and upgrade along the way) and, depending on how you combine them, each combination can completely change the course of the narrative. Depending on a character’s skill set, you might unlock more options in dialogue, be more persuasive or aggressive, or start or evade a combat encounter. The sheer amount of variety Wasteland 3’s skill system injected into the game’s story was one of the most enjoyable things about it for me. The characters’ skillset system intermeshes seamlessly with the narrative and you never know what plot twists are just around the corner.