It’s been 25 years since Wasteland first graced people’s PC’s and it seems Brian Fargo and associates have knocked it out of the park yet again with Wasteland 2. The sequel to the 1988 classic post apocalyptic roleplaying game dropped on September 19 much to fans appraise and approval. This time round, Brian was joined by some of the original team that helped develop the first nuclear powered role playing game. Thanks to the good folks over at inXile studios providing Techraptor with a review copy I was able to do my preview as well as this follow-up with a more in depth look at the world of Wasteland 2
Wasteland 2’s Gameplay will be somewhat familiar right off the bat, to any fans of both Fallout and Fallout 2. Players are immediately thrown into the barren wastes and told to survive. You will have to scrimp save, reload, strategise and conserve H20 to keep your party alive. Unlike the original game you are asked to create your own custom team made up of 4 starting members. You have opportunities to acquire extra party members later on in the game but to begin you can build your own. There are pre-generated ones but I personally recommend making your own.
From the ground up, in Wasteland 2 while creating your team you will come face to face with Wasteland’s somewhat borrowed attribute system called C.L.A.S.S.I.C. Drawing inspiration from Fallout’s “Special” system, the “Classic” system is what governs Coordination, Luck, Awareness, Strength, Speed, Intelligence and Charisma. These attributes are a deliberate funny footnote directly referencing the system from the spiritual successor of Wasteland.
The attributes aren’t actually used within the game world and instead passively affect skills your character has. Regarding the skills in Wasteland 2, the amount is insane with examples ranging from common skills like blade weapons, handguns, first aid and the usual fare all the way up to inane things like toaster repair, outdoorsman, animal whisperer and a plethora of unorthodox but worthwhile skills. Picking which ones you’ll use is daunting and you can easily end up gimping yourself. I myself was stuck in the Agricultural Centre for several hours due to my inability to scavenge for ammunition. Did I mention I hadn’t invested in any of the melee skills? It pays to research the different skills you have on offer. I do however personally recommend getting toaster repair though as you can get some pretty sweet stuff at the beginning of the game. Toasters are effectively another loot chest, and loot is always good.
A concept that has managed to carry over from the original into Wasteland 2 is the unique dialogue system. At certain points in the game you will be able to locate keywords. These words when used in conjunction with a non playable character, typing it in will often alter some of the options available to you in solving a problem. The person may give you important information that will advance you further or hell they might even give you a damn handy weapon that helps you keep your skin. It’s quite refreshing to see.
The core of the game’s meat, the combat is a pleasure to see revitalised. Unlike the incredibly fast paced text battles from Wasteland, Wasteland 2 incorporates that written element ingreater detail. Wasteland 2 also has animations and utilisesideas from Interplay’s Fallout. The combat system works off an action point system with powerful weapons requiring more to fire. Weaker guns can fire multiple times. Healing items cost more action points than melee weapons while heavy weapons cost far more than all. You aren’t given the option to aim for specific body parts, however you can aim for the head with a far diminished chance to hit as well as the ability to ambush enemies. You can start the fight from a long way away should you wish to engage long distance. The problem with that idea is enemies close the gap rather fast so it’s beneficial to have a mix of long range, mid range and melee fighters. I did not do this so at the start, I had most long and mid range distance combatants. This became a real issue when I was struggling to find ammunition. Having no points in any melee skills meant that any close combat weapons would only hit 15% of the time, making the game quite hard. The thing I especially liked was, much in the same way that Fallout presented combat, each battle can go a different way in every attempt. Sometimes you can have a sure thing, doing well until your character misfires. The bullet from the weapon can then fell 3 team members in the one hit. This unpredictability keeps the combat fresh, including critical hits, and misses. This keeps you wanting to reattempt failed battles on the basis that what happened last time will not be repeated.
The story of Wasteland 2, like the first one is told through the chat interface, however voice acting is present also. You start of f as four random rangers who are standing over the grave of a newly fallen comrade. The people who now run the Desert Rangers outpost are none other than the protagonists from the first game. You are asked by your commander to investigate sightings of a fearsome creature apparently causing havoc in the Desert. The creature is rumoured to have killed your comrade and your job is to track and hunt it. On your way you will encounter enemies both familiar and new with different ways to progress the plot. Like all the old classic role playing games of yore, there are usually a dozen different ways to accomplish a mission given to you. The game and story is non linear. You will be given a mission and told to complete it but at the same time you can ignore it and complete the game in any way you like. The only limit is pockets of radiation, watering holes and the denizens of the wasteland that will eat your face. Wasteland 2 seems to prefer a minimalist approach to the story, allowing you to weave your own narrative with the confines of the game. The writing that accompanies the scenery gives amazingly in-detail descriptions of the area you are in at any given time. Enemies are similarly described and it really adds to the experience. Like previous Fargo games, that trademark off-the-wall-humour is still present with several instances of the wacky and wonderful taking root in the player’s minds. An example of this would be the option to nuke your entire Desert Ranger outpost with a special item held in the museum. You’ll encounter a few settlements and towns from the original in Wasteland 2, as well as having to make decisions about which ones you help and which ones you inspect the aftermath of. It’s dark and really in depth.
The graphics of wasteland 2 are obviously a marked improvement from the days of the first Wasteland. Everything has animations and movement now, which gives the feeling of the Desert being both alive and dead simultaneously. Unlike Wasteland where some of the open world often looked lusciously green in areas, the world of Wasteland 2 is barren. The only respite from the desert are the occasional settlements, watering holes and random encounters. You truly feel like the world is dead. The actual detail in graphics while decent enough aren’t anything to write home about. I often had textures missing, as well some textures looking downright wrong as they clipped through another. It’s not to the point of immersion breaking but it can be a tad frustrating. While wasteland 2’s graphics don’t quite hold a candle to those of today, they are certainly far improved beyond Fallout 1, 2, Tactics and Brotherhood of steel’s. Wasteland 2 is a game that goes a long way to prove that you don’t have to have a top notch graphics card in order to enjoy some of the finer things in the diversity of videogames. What is presented for the most part works just fine, with small issues like the camera giving you some grief when in tight enclosed areas. You’ll often find yourself squinting or rolling over terrain randomly to make sure you’ve not missed an important loot chest. These small issues however for the most part are negligible.
Wasteland 2’s sound design is insane. From the squawking of the radio at the title screen all the way to exploding chests, booby trapped doors and safes, as well as the snarl of a wild mutated animal. This game is loud. The sound quality is excellent and really serves to help the gritty wretched feel of the entire game chug along smoothly. The voice acting is decent and you won’t be struggling to understand non playable characters or follow the game’s narrative. The sound-spoting in this game is tediously intricate. You will hear every single bump, grind, explosion, decapitation, crunch, snapping of bones and metal scrapes as you progress. I’ve never been this immersed in a game purely based on sound before. It really compliments the setting of Wasteland 2 and helps to pull you further into it. Likewise the game’s music, a mixture of dirty industrial for the battles, soft poignant music for the depressing scenes as well as the choice to have pure silence while plowing through a dungeon or cave really gives the game some extra edge to it’s animations and characters.
In closing, I have to say Wasteland 2 is a very solid game. It manages to take the best of old turn based role playing games and still stand aside from the rank and file. It doesn’t try to rewrite the book on in depth PC rpgs, nor does it ignore past lessons learned. The strategy of enemies will keep you entertained for hours even as you fight the same boss for the tenth time. No two battles are the same and depending on how you plan, the game can be really hard. Wasteland 2 shows gamers and developers alike that you don’t have to have intensely special or flashy graphics in order to succeed. The story is interesting, as is the setting, and will have any hardcore Fallout, Wasteland or Torment fan likely entertained for the duration of it’s 70+ hour campaign. Wasteland 2 is a love letter to an era long gone by and proves that they do still make games like they used to, albeit with a few bugs here and there. Here’s hoping it won’t take another 25 years til we see wasteland 3.
"Wasteland 2 is a love letter to an era long gone by."