Wasteland 3 Ultimate Beginner's Guide: Tips, tricks, and mastering the apocalypse

Wasteland 3 Kodiak
Wasteland 3 Kodiak (Image credit: inXile Entertainment)

Wasteland 3 is a truly vast RPG experience brimming with options and content. Getting to grips with it early on can be tough, which is why we've prepared this Wasteland 3 Beginner's Guide to help you get to grips with its systems and mechanics.

Set in the snowy wastes of post-apocalyptic Colorado, Wasteland 3 follows the exploits of the Desert Rangers, descended from the remnants of the US Armed Forces of Arizona. The Rangers' goal is to bring some semblance of law and order to the United States, a couple of hundred years after nuclear war made the surface relatively inhospitable, filled with radioactive waste, mutant creatures, crazed robots, and insane raider militia.

As a CRPG, inspired by tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, Wasteland 3's aim is to give you as much playstyle and narrative freedom as possible. Your character progression can affect every aspect of the game, from dialogue choices to combat. Building a balanced squad is key to success, especially as a newcomer to the genre, which is why we've prepared our Wasteland 3 beginner's guide to help you get started.

If you're having bugs or other issues, we have a Wasteland 3 Known Issues List over here.

Building Wasteland 3 characters

Source: inXile (Image credit: Source: inXile)

In Wasteland 3, your squad is made up of six characters. Initially, you create two or are given a few presets to work with. Generally, I'd recommend you craft your own since that's the name of the game, but it's all good to start with one of the premade characters as well. Choosing a preset doesn't affect your story at all; it just gives you a quicker path into the game itself.

After the intro, you're given the ability to create two more squaddies or pick from more presets. There has to be at least one player-made character in the squad at any one time, and you can fill the rest with characters you meet during the story, or "recruits" you design yourself inside your Ranger HQ base, which you get at the start of the game.

We have a deeper Wasteland 3 Character Class Build Guide you should check out to learn more about stats and skills, but here are some general tips and tricks to get you started as well.

  • Wasteland 3 combat follows similar principles to Dungeons and Dragons for determining attacks. Still, the flow is more similar to XCOM, in that it takes place on a grid, with cover mechanics and turn-based attacks. More details below on how combat works.
  • Wasteland 3 has tons of different skills, stats, and perks from which to build a character. Some of the stats combine together more nicely than others. Open our full Wasteland 3 Character Class Build Guide in another tab for more details.
  • Essentially, you want to spread your skills across the entire squad. When you're interacting with objects, or dialogue that requires a certain skill check, whichever character in your squad with the highest appropriate skill is chosen automatically. There's no point in having two characters with high Lockpicking skill, for example.
  • It's ideal to have a squad that can complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. For example, a sniper with high intelligence and awareness will likely sacrifice strength and, therefore, survivability. Having characters that are strong enough to wear heavy armor and stand between your squishier medics and gunslingers and melee attackers are very important.
  • Snipers with high intelligence, sneaky skills, and high awareness can become utterly deadly and are a great way to start battles, since you can take down multiple enemies from stealth without alerting others with the tier 10 perks.
  • Melee attackers with heavy strength-based armor can take vast amounts of damage and should be a pillar of your squad.
  • You should also get someone who prioritizes first aid to keep your team revived and healed up. Your squishy characters can and will die very quickly.
  • Take a good spread of secondary stats too, like Lockpicking, Nerd Stuff (hacking), and a persuasion option that fits the playstyle you're going for.
  • Make sure you have a character with Weapon Modding and Armor Modding too, which are critical to upgrading your gear.
  • Mechanics and Animal Whisperers can be incredibly useful also since they can deploy turrets and animal companions, which serve as extra allies beyond your 6-man squad cap.
  • If you spec your characters incorrectly don't start over. Go back to Ranger HQ and speak to Sergei Greatski, he can let you create new characters. Just make ones that are identical visually to the broken ones with better stats.

Wasteland 3 combat guide

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Wasteland 3 combat is grid-based on a turn-by-turn basis. The game gives you a ton of playstyle options, but also a load of different ways you can gain an advantage over an enemy. Many times, you will get the choice to initiate combat, giving you the first turn.

Here are some tips and tricks for overcoming the game's battle system, which for newcomers, can be a bit daunting.

  • Sometimes dialogue will throw you straight into combat, but other times, you can initiate it yourself by avoiding the enemy's red circular agro radius.
  • During this ambush moment, a character with Sneaky Skill can survey the battlefield, to see if there are turrets you can disable, find explosive barrels you can take advantage of, or get your characters into cover or high ground.
  • On Xbox, you can switch between single character movement and group character movement by clicking in the left stick. Use this to get your characters into a good position before starting combat.
  • Cover boosts your evasion rating by a large amount; this completely negates attacks. Consider keeping your squishier characters like snipers and medics in the back, preferably in high cover, ending turns using defensive bonuses.
  • Each ability uses action points, which can be raised using the co-ordination stat. Some weapons use way more than others. Sniper rifles and heavy weapons use a lot, but handguns use a few. Usually, there's a damage-rating trade-off, but there are other benefits to using more rapid weapons like handguns.

Wasteland 3 Reagan

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  • Handguns and other weapons build-up "Strikes," which are basically Ultimate attacks. Make sure you read the tooltips on what each Strike does and choose to use them as appropriate. For example, Snipers and other precision weapons can shoot gas tanks on flamethrower units to insta-kill them, and shoot CPU units on robots to make them go berzerk. These abilities can totally change the outcome of a battle.
  • Upgrade your gear as frequently as possible. The loot available to you scales with your level. If you find one character doing particularly bad damage, they may need an upgrade or two, or some extra mods.
  • Armor rating can factor in heavily to your damage output. Energy weapons can bypass armor but often do less damage as a result. Sometimes it might be worth using a Strike attack, which can damage armor instead of using an energy weapon. That said, some energy weapons gain a specific bonus over enemy types, such as robots or mutants, making them worthwhile to use anyway. Use the right tools for the job!
  • You can press down on the d-pad or select an enemy with your mouse to get a readout of their current stats and weaknesses. Weaknesses or resistances to specific elements will appear next to their HP bar when you go in for an attack.
  • Some perks and status effects can combo together too. For example, there's a melee perk that gives you extra damage against stunned targets. Use these combos to overcome stronger enemies.
  • You can also crouch to gain an evasion and hit bonus if there's no cover available. I often open battles with my sniper crouching, then using a Strike precision shot on a high-value target to try and take them out instantly.

More Wasteland 3 tips and tricks

Source: inXile Entertainment (Image credit: Source: inXile Entertainment)

Here are a few additional miscellaneous tips and tricks for exploring the wastes, and getting the most out of this epic game.

  • Be sure to upgrade your Kodiak vehicle when you can, by following the early quests to recruit repair staff for your base. The Kodiak upgrades let you traverse the world map faster, and drive through clouds of radioactive smog.
  • Explore every nook and cranny and talk to every NPC if you have the time, you'll never know what side quests and loot you may uncover.
  • Keep an eye on your character's debuffs. Injuries sustained can seriously weaken your squad, and even lead to incapacitation. You can fully heal your squad at a doctor NPC, which you can also recruit into your base, or find in the wastes.
  • Consider looking into the bartering skill; it can help massively with keeping your ammo supplies topped off.
  • Save frequently. You can quicksave before difficult fights or conversations, to give you the opportunity to fix a mistake.
  • If you're an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate user, I recommend playing on PC if you can, the mouse controls are far better than the controller controls.
  • You can toggle equipment visuals on and off and even unlock cosmetic costumes, which you can change into via the Barracks in your base.

Wasteland 3 is a truly awesome game but can be overly complicated and daunting for newcomers. If you have any questions about the game, drop them in the comments below, and I shall try to answer them!

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Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!