In 1988, Interplay Productions developed what would come to be the spiritual successor to the now colossally successful Bethsoft game series “Fallout”. Wasteland was a turn based strategy RPG that compensated for the lack of graphical power the Commodore offered with detailed descriptions of the world around you, the player, a Desert Ranger, as you set out to foil an AI from building an army that will wipe out the rest of the world.
Almost 30 years later and we’re finally given the direct sequel that sets out to add everything the original lacked due to the technology at the time being foil another conspiracy against the Desert Rangers. As far as graphics go, I’m delighted with the art style the game has gone for, ridding itself of anything that tries to be gorgeous and impressive and instead relying on the most basic of Unity’s simple and heavily optimised engine, all the while still making every environment oddly charming.
First off, the soundtrack designed by Mark Morgan is something I’d easily put onto my iPod and happily listen to on my way to and from work. It’s stunning. It fits the game perfectly, and I heavily recommend downloading it if you’re a fan of orchestral composers.
The combat and passive scenarios which you’ll find yourself in as you explore the wastes and meet all sorts of different characters and factions, each of whom will react differently to your reputation, dialogue choices and even the way you approach them. You can choose to send out a singular member of your squad to investigate or approach someone, while you position your other three in concealed positions, ready to strike if the iron heats up. I once sent my scout character to check a particular part of the map, to find a group of bandits waiting for me on the other side, demanding I pay a fee to pass through.
Thinking I could probably take them on, I used my character’s intimidation skills to taunt the raiders, and they found my singular confidence to be so scary, they let me pass out of fear for their lives. It was at moments like that did I truly start to feel the same sort of character progression I felt when playing games like Fallout and Oblivion, and throughout my 20 or so hour play through of the game, I found myself with a profound emotional attachment to my characters, things that weren’t real. Such is a feeling only games like The Sims and Fable have ever really made me feel. If you’re completely remorseless and cold-hearted, however, the game does include perma-death for each of your characters if they die in a combat situation. Whether or not you can recruit a new member from the Ranger Citadel afterwards is completely unknown to me, as I kept reloading every time one of my members was so much as below 10HP.
Indeed, the combat scenarios in this game are very intense. Borrowing Fallout’s “Action Points” system, each character has a set amount of actions they can perform in every combat turn. What you choose to do in these turns is vital to your victory. Where you position your characters, what gun you equip and how you spend your skill points are what make the game’s combat system so intricate, because each and every encounter you have will never feel like the last. With enough strategic planning and preparation, I often managed to scrape out of even the most overwhelming battles with not a bit of HP lost. While at the same time, without said planning and preparation, I sometimes managed to get utterly destroyed by the most common and smallest groups of mobs, no matter what gear I was carrying.
Throughout your travels, you receive multiple objectives and places to go through the Ranger Citadel, which you can contact at any time for advice and support later on through your missions. The conversations you have with your commander are definitely worth listening to, as he will provide you with useful hints and tips about your location and missions as you go along.
Of course, the map isn’t entirely open. Asides from the wide variety of locations and instances you can explore, you’ll mainly be travelling throughout the wastes from a map screen, which feels a bit lacking to say the least. Getting from point A to point B requires a certain level of water, which can be replenished by finding oasis’ and other water supplies throughout this map screen, while also having random encounters with different NPC’s with their own agendas and targets. As nice as this feature is, as it stops the Dragon’s Dogma problem where the lack of fast travel literally meant trailing up and down for quest objectives, I also remember the fast travelling option in Fallout being completely optional.
Before you say that comparing the two is wrong, it truly isn’t. All throughout my play through, my main thoughts mainly revolved around “Wow, this reminds me of Fallout.” “Shoot, this sure does look like Fallout.” “Hey, isn’t that a Fallout reference?” Now, that’s probably because this game spawned the Fallout franchise in the first place, and has total right to steal the ideas it helped create, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same game. As a video game critic, I think it’s right to compare the two in contrast. After all, where would we be today if Wasteland hadn’t brought on the post-apocalyptic world to video games like it did? You could argue that maybe Bethsoft would have made Fallout regardless of Wasteland’s creation, but you’d also be wrong. Grossly wrong.
Back on point, Wasteland 2 offers a ridiculous number of ways to go about doing just about everything, with no lack or restrictions on the choices you can make. In fact, you can quite literally just rebel against the Desert Rangers and kill your fellow brethren. Why you’d want to do something as immersion breaking as that is beyond me, but hey, each to their own. It’s this variety of choices that make Wasteland the game it is; a tactical party based RPG. It requires you to think, no matter what difficulty setting you’re on. Even if the combat is a little easier, you can still die if you don’t stock up on water for your journeys, you can still run out of ammunition for your weapons if you don’t regularly make sure you’re well equipped for your missions, and you can still make the wrong choice of words and wind up getting yourself killed no matter how easy you think it’ll be to take them on.
Games like these make me happy to be a gamer. Where there are lines of the same old mindless “shooty bang bang” games that every video game critic seems to make cliché remark to nowadays (even though I don’t mind a good lot of them), Wasteland 2 is an absolute gem of a game that gives ridiculous levels of replayability and a chance to get lost in a delicately made world where literally everything you do will count. I had to rush this review so I could get back to playing more of it. <3
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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