It's been 32 years since the post-apocalyptic adventure Wasteland debuted in 1988. InXile Entertainment just released the hilarious and bizarre Wasteland 3, which returns to the original's form through the ashes of a United States destroyed by nuclear holocaust.
Both Fallout and Wasteland originally came from the same studio: Interplay Entertainment.
In 1989, after releasing Wasteland, Interplay started on a similar RPG called Meantime for the Apple II and Commodore 64.
Although that project ended up being scrapped, it became the basis for Fallout in 1997.
After a few more iterations of Fallout, the series was acquired by Bethesda (known also for making The Elder Scrolls) and dropped its turn-based combat style for a first-person shooter approach.
This departure set the two series down wildly different paths.
wasteland 1 and 2
Fallout grew into the more "serious," hardened open-world adventure game. The most recent Fallout 76 (2018) is now a far cry from its former partner in Wasteland, as well as the 2012 crowdfunded Wasteland 2.
For anyone looking for a modern take on a classic turn-based RPG, Wasteland 3 is a worthy revival.
It throws players into a meaty system that offers character creation, recruitable characters, and a wide variety of weapons, skills, and branching dialogue choices.
You explore the frozen wastes of Colorado, following a group called the Ranger Squad as they work to bring the king-like figure, the Patriarch, his three lost children.
The choice is yours along the way: walk the straight and narrow or fire off lie after lie?
Across an adventure rife with pigs wearing makeup, giant robotic Ronald Reagan statues, robots with speech impediments, and singing noodle vendors (all fully-voiced) you can shoot, sneak, or talk your way out of every situation you come across.
Humor is king and there's always a laugh right around the corner, be it from a prisoner who's gone mad describing how bugs taste or an acolyte who follows the Gipper himself.
You can shoot first and ask questions later, but you won't want to when the dialogue in Wasteland 3 is so twisted.
You never know what you're going to see or hear next, from rockabilly renditions of the "Green Acres" theme to the national anthem with a country twang.
The Fallout series is no stranger to humor, but it's vastly different from the game it originally spun off from.
As Fallout moved away from isometric, point-and-click gameplay to a more first-person vibe, it's also opted for more dramatic storytelling and grotesque combat with horror elements. It's flashier and offers bigger worlds, but it doesn't make you laugh the way Wasteland does.
Under Bethesda, Fallout has edged closer to the “blockbuster wannabe” category, even opting to explore MMO-like mechanics with Fallout 76. Wasteland 3, however, has had more freedom to explore its creativity and humor.
Where Fallout 76 has been little better than middling, Wasteland 3 is an excellent game.
While you still have a choice when it comes to how you experience the apocalypse, the winner right now should absolutely be Wasteland 3.
(Wasteland 3 is available on PC, PS4, and XBox One.)