10 things you should know before you play Wasteland 3

Wasteland 3 guide
(Image credit: inExile)

It's understandable if you're in need a Wasteland 3 guide: It's a more modern-feeling RPG than Wasteland 2, but it's still the kind of game with so many skills and weapons to choose from you'll end up flicking between menus trying to decide which of your melee-specialized characters should take the chainsword with the bladed-weapon subtype and who should have the big concrete hammer with the blunt subtype instead. It's got a lot going on, is what I'm saying.

There's value in going in blind and figuring things out for yourself across your 50 or 60 hours with Wasteland 3, but if you'd rather have a few Wasteland 3 tips before you set out on on your journey to post-apocalyptic Colorado, here you go.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

You can create your own PCs after the tutorial 

At the start of Wasteland 3 you're given the option to either make your own PCs or choose one of the pre-generated pairs—like the grim survivalist father and his jolly sniper daughter, or the star-crossed punk lovers excellently named Bronco and Kickboy. Though the pre-gens don't have as much backstory as their equivalents in Divinity: Original Sin 2, it's a convenient way to get started fast.

Don't worry about missing out on Wasteland 3's character creation system if you take one of these pairs. After you gain access to your HQ you'll be able to get new squadmates either by choosing from a pool of basic recruits or crafting your own from scratch using the full suite of character creation options. It's a great way to fill skill gaps, too, if you get a couple of hours in and realize you're missing someone with the Mechanics skill to patch up your truck, for example.

Save your skill books 

You'll find several skill books among the loot in Colorado, rare educational treasures that can raise your score in Assault Rifles or Kiss Ass by a single point. Sometimes a shopkeeper will carry one, and they're a worthwhile purchase. Don't read that book straight away, though. Each skill increase costs more points than the one before it, so the most effective time to read that book is when you're almost at max. If you've got nine points in Hard Ass, read the book that somehow makes you better at tough talk. Otherwise it's worth hanging on to.

It's a useful strategy in the event you come across a door that can only be opened with Lockpicking 5 and here you are with Lockpicking 4 and a skill book, but there's usually another way around if you look hard enough.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Make 'em quirky 

Though it's actually the last submenu you'll see in character creation, the first you should look at is quirks. These optional traits are so character-defining you may want to design entire builds around them. For instance, the Circus Freak quirk gives bonuses to both combat speed and crit resistance, as well as unlocking a new appearance—that of a clown, complete with red nose and greasepaint. Being such a colorful target hampers your evasion stat and means you'll be detected sooner by enemies. But, if you're making someone who isn't sneaky, a 25 percent bonus to crit resistance is worth it. 

Meanwhile, a 25 percent bonus to fire and explosive damage makes the Pyromaniac quirk a tempting choice for a build focused on Demolitions. Sure, it comes at the cost of a 15 percent chance to catch fire when using explosives, but everything has its price. Quirks like these, and Mime, and Way of the Squeezins, mean there are good reasons to get weird in Wasteland 3.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Start fights from stealth as often as you can 

Enemies are surrounded by red circles that highlight their detection radius, and as long as you don't wander into those circles, they won't turn hostile. If you spot enemies ahead of them spotting you, it's worth getting everyone into position before attacking. Set your sniper up a distance away, get everyone behind cover, and if they don't have cover, set them to crouch for a bonus to evasion and aim. (Note: If you have multiple characters selected when you hit the crouch button only the one in the lead will actually do it.)

When you're ready for things to kick off, select your character with the highest score in Sneaky Shit and pick a target. They'll get a free attack with a bonus to damage and you'll get the first turn when combat begins.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Don't double up on skills, except sometimes do 

As the loading screens remind you, if two squad members are using the same ammunition, you'll run out of it fast. That's why it's worth diversifying, trying to ensure each squadmate has a different weapon skill. It's also worth giving them different utility skills—if one PC has Kiss Ass then the relevant conversation options will be unlocked no matter who is doing the talking, and you only need one PC with Demolitions to go around defusing landmines.

But sometimes doubling up isn't so bad. The Small Arms skill covers both pistols and shotguns, for instance, which use different ammunition. And it's fine to have two characters who are good at First Aid, because if you only have one dedicated doctor, who heals the healer when they drop? Plus, a companion may ditch you over a decision you made, perhaps because you backed a faction they have a moral objection to, and suddenly you've lost a specialist.

If you can afford to, it's worth hanging onto some skill points after leveling. If Scotchmo the drinky hillbilly has 20 unspent skill points, he can respec and suddenly become an expert in Nerd Stuff whenever you need one.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Upgrade your vehicle ASAP 

The Kodiak is an armored car with its own AI that not only gets you around the Colorado world map, it can sometimes join you in battle. Whether ramming or shooting, it's a devastating weapon even before you outfit it, but it's still worth spending the money on upgrades. 

Improve its chassis at your garage to give it more hit points and radiation resistance, which allows you to explore more of the map. An armor-plating upgrade will make it even more damage resistant, and its weapons can be swapped as well. Plus you can personalize it with a snazzy hood ornament and a horn of your choosing. La Cucaracha is a classic, but when I roll into combat blasting a horn that sounds like a circus clown's nose everyone knows to be afraid.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Keep an eye out for creepy dolls 

The local Wasteland equivalent of Fallout's stat-boosting bobbleheads are creepy dolls, which look like Cabbage Patch Kids who've seen some shit. These red-eyed babygoths are hidden among the regular loot items you'll find in Colorado, like Snake Squeezins and cigarettes, and they're worth keeping an eye out for. One called Maneater Maury gives a bonus of +15 to everyone's constitution, and Keen Karen gives +1 to Perception so you'll spot landmines sooner. Thanks, Keen Karen.

The creepy dolls won't show up in your regular inventory, however, appearing only in the Archive menu. Because they're just spooky like that, I guess.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Toaster Repair is less useful than it used to be 

In Wasteland 2, Toaster Repair was an essential skill, though it sounded like a joke. Not because those busted toasters needed fixing, but because you could crack them open for loot that could be exchanged for unique rewards if you tracked down the right NPC. In Wasteland 3, the Toaster Repair skill mostly just gave me golden electronic equipment to sell and also toast—which admittedly is a powerful healing item. Still, I wouldn't rank it up there with First Aid as far as essential skills go. 

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Animal followers are a double-edged sword 

Yes, you can pet the cat. And with the Animal Whisperer skill you can also recruit the cat—plus the razorback boar, mountain goat, and cyborg chicken. As you level up you'll unlock perks that make your pets more damaging and resilient, but you'll never be able to take direct control of them. They'll charge into battle on their own initiative after the enemy turn, and while a stunning headbutt from a goat saved my hide a couple of times, I also spent a lot of time chasing that goat around using up suture kits, medic packs, and healing darts because the dopey creature charged someone it shouldn't have.

It's callous, but if you're going to go the Animal Whisperer route, the best way to play is to let your more fragile animals die rather than reloading a save every single time one kicks the bucket. There are plenty of opportunities to recruit more, and you can only have two critters per Animal Whisperer anyway. If you're too soft-hearted to play this way, Animal Whisperer probably isn't for you.

(Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Fire can be unfriendly 

Though you can toggle it as you like, friendly fire is turned off by default in the regular faithful second-from-the-bottom normal difficulty. That's great for shotgun shooters, who can blast out cones of damage without having to worry about the rest of the party. 

If you start a fire it's still going to burn your nearby buddies, however, so be careful with explosives, Molotov cocktails, barrels that happen to be red, flamethrowers, bullets aimed at fuel tanks on the back of bad guys who also have flamethrowers, pigs with dynamite strapped to them, and all of the many other ways you start fires in this extremely flammable post-apocalypse. It may be tempting since—like all elemental damage—fire damage ignores armor, but that also counts for the friends you're cooking. 

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.