Factory Reset

HIGH It’s more Wasteland 3. That’s great!

LOW Most of the new additions and ideas sound interesting but don’t really work out.

WTF There’s no way to stop companions from slaughtering factory workers?

My verdict on Wasteland 3‘s base game was that it’s pretty incredible. It offers a great story set in a bizarre world with lots of memorable characters, and the solidly engaging battle system on top of it made it one of 2020’s best. When I learned about its first DLC, The Battle of Steeltown, it seemed like a great excuse to hop back in to see how inXile have shaped the game since launch.

Coming back to it after all this time, I found that the various bugs and performance issues I previously experienced were all but eliminated. It was a great experience then, and it’s in much better shape technically now. Wasteland 3 remains one hell of a game, and any role-playing fan who hasn’t jumped yet in should get on it, pronto.

The central location of the Steeltown DLC is a factory which produces the vast majority of Colorado’s weapons and technology — or at least it used to, since it’s recently come to a screeching halt in production. This isn’t a good thing in a world infested with bandits and raiders, so the Rangers get an urgent request from the Patriarch of Colorado to go and see what the hell’s going on.

Upon arriving at their destination, the Rangers are greeted with a chaotic scene. The gates of Steeltown are closed, gunfire and alarms can be heard within the walls, and a large group of angry refugees are demanding the release of relatives who’ve been trapped in the factory for weeks, contradicting the company employee telling everyone that their loved ones are just been doing some very extended overtime.

New to The Battle of Steeltown is a class of less-than-lethal weaponry designed to overload the cybernetic augmentations of workers the player will encounter without killing them. Since the factory workers may be getting a teensy bit exploited, it ‘d be bad form to slaughter them all on the spot. These weapons are a little harder to use than simply shooting someone in the skull, so weighing the additional risk of their use is a consideration during the strategic turn-based battles.

There’s a very strange problem with this non-lethal approach, however — early in the campaign, it’s mentioned that the party’s animal companions will rip innocent factory workers limb from limb if the team gets into combat with them nearby. It’s therefore a good idea to dismiss them back to Ranger HQ’s comfy kennel before things kick off. That’s a great option for any pets on team, but the human, robotic and/or synthetic companions are just as indiscriminately murderous as the animals.

As someone who always strives for the optimal ‘nice guy’ outcome, it’s a little dispiriting to have the Rangers aim to use non-lethal weaponry to bust up a riot, only to see the companion toaster launch flaming toast at a factory worker, or the robot chicken ripping their eyes out with his terrifying chrome-plated beak.

This unstoppable team aggro is a hell of an oversight. Encouraging nonlethal approaches, yet having no way to order squadmates to be dismissed or to stand down seems like a ridiculously obvious problem. I was almost sure I was missing something initially, but a cursory online search revealed other players were having the same issue and I’m sure as hell not killing any of them as a workaround.

Something else that’s questionable is the difficulty of the battles here in Steeltown. It’s been a while since I played through Wasteland 3, but this DLC seems a bit… well, brutal.

This new content features scalable difficulty, so the challenge should theoretically adjust to the team’s current strengths. I loaded an old save and came in at level 25, only to be absolutely steamrolled by the opposition despite having no issues with the main story quests. Some of the new battle mechanics are a little overdone for my taste too, such as the tar-thrower’s stacking movement debuff and the various shields that enemies now employ.

It’s also not the lengthiest DLC. Even after retrying some battles numerous times, I’d clocked it all in the region of four or five hours, and I wasn’t hurrying. Given that Wasteland 3‘s base content was so damn generous, Steeltown does feel a little bit inconsequential, rather than a significant undertaking for the Rangers to get stuck into.

The writing still remains excellent despite these issues. After undergoing a rigged medical to see if our Rangers were suitable job applicants clear to pass into Steeltown, we were given the highly important job of tightening any loose nuts that we might come across and given our own wrench. Sweet! Then there’s the toaster full of toasters, a talking toilet seat that can be used for its original purpose, and various zany moments that help spice things up.

So there are a lot of small, amusing moments scattered throughout, but the main quest doesn’t have much nuance to it — the workers are getting screwed over in Steeltown by the people in charge, and it’d be hard to find anyone who’d seriously argue otherwise. As a result, it’s a very one-sided situation as to who the Rangers should be helping out from an ethical standpoint. That said, this doesn’t mean the Rangers have to be particularly ethical when tidying up this mess. It’s just a bit more cut and dried than usual.

The Battle of Steeltown is a well-written piece of additional content for Wasteland 3 that doesn’t quite live up to expectations due to its experimental approach to combat and short running time. It’s a pleasant enough playthrough for a few hours despite the difficulty spikes, but it’s ultimately a compelling enough reason to come back to Colorado.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by inXile Entertainment. It is currently available on XBO, XBX/S, PS4, PS5 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 0 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language and Use of Drugs.

Colorblind Modes: There are no global colorblind modes available, but there is an option to apply colorblind settings to icons during battle.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles and the subtitles can be altered and/ or resized

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Darren Forman
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