Fans of the original Fallout series rejoice for Wasteland 2 is the game you’ve been waiting for
There are certain experiences in video gaming that only be enjoyed on PC—4X, RTS, (until recently) MMORPGs, and an old genre with a new name, the ‘classic’ role-playing game or CRPG. Wasteland 2 sits comfortably in one of two barstools at the CRPG inn (with Divinity: Original Sin occupying the other) and orders a stiff drink. You should probably get yourself one as well.
What started off as a “conservative” (asking for only $900,000) Kickstarter project, ended with a flourish amassing $2,933,252 and 61,290 backers (including our very own Big Daddy) in the process.
Not short on content
Set fifteen years after the original Wasteland, the game opens with General Vargas, leader of the Desert Rangers, talking about the incidents, mostly of a nuclear nature, and leading up to the present. Veteran Ranger Ace (a recruitable NPC in the original Wasteland) is no more, and it’s up to your party of new Ranger recruits to finish Ace’s mission. You create a party of four from several preset characters, but you can also create your own and if you so wish, even create their own back story.
As with any classic RPG, game content is still restricted to you based on your characters’ abilities. Having said that, the game does offer multiple paths to a potential problem (for instance, using brute force to bring down a gate as opposed to picking the lock). I went in with the stereotypical RPG party composition made up of a bruiser/tank, damage dealer (sniper), medic and a specialist class and found the going pretty good despite some areas being inaccessible. The tech tree offers considerable variety, which is to be expected, and it’s not hard to figure out what you need once you get into the game.
Exploration is a key aspect of Wasteland 2, and the game takes a familiar approach here, mimicking Fallout (which mimicked Wasteland), with your party represented by a ranger badge as you traverse the wilderness. You’ll need to replenish your water supplies at oases while avoiding radioactive danger zones. Random encounters are a feature as well, and you will have the option of avoiding conflict by running away in as graceful a manner as possible.
When you’re not exploring the wilderness, you’re in combat or conversing with NPCs within one of the game’s locations. The visuals are apt if underwhelming from a graphics standpoint, but there are no complaints about the interface, which manages to avoid being cumbersome despite the volume of information. One thing’s for certain, however: Wasteland 2 isn’t a looker. The art direction feels poor and a lot of the locales lack any kind of personality.
The environments might lack personality, but Wasteland 2’s characters most certainly don’t. Personality plus’ can’t be touted as a Wasteland 2 feature only because EA Sports owns the copyright—but it should. The writing makes all the difference here, sporting a combination of military-speak, cynical humour, mystery and feeling. The desert-dwellers, survivors and goats (I’m not kidding) all have a story to tell, made possible by the lack of big publisher constraints and voice acting.
There’s something interesting about Wasteland 2’s conversation system as well. In addition to picking predefined responses and special conversation skills (viz. Kiss Ass, Bad Ass and Smart ass), the game lets you type your own text, recognising keywords. Overall, however, Wasteland 2 doesn’t tinker too much with the old school formula, keeping it simple.
Skirmishes are commonplace in Wasteland 2, playing out in typical turn-based fashion. You will need Action Points to move, use abilities and skills, reload and perform action such as loot corpses or un-jam a weapon (since there’s a fair bit of sand flying, around this will happen a lot). The mechanics are simple, and the maths transparent, with floating text giving you information such as damage numbers, XP gained and probability of hitting a target. There’s a cover system in place as well, and party positioning, while not critical, can turn a fight in your favour. The only real problem with the combat is the inability to do any kind of recon—you’re often rushing into battle with no prior information regarding enemy numbers, type or positions. The inclusion of a stealth or recon mechanic would have made combat a better experience.
Brian Fargo and the team at inXile Entertainment have achieved almost precisely what they set out to do three years ago: create a role-playing game with classic mechanics for fans of old school RPGs with a modern twist.
In the process, they’ve made Wasteland 2 relatively accessible to new players with a detailed tutorial and flexible difficulty. The customisation options, skills and traits almost ensure that your Wasteland 2 experience is your own, and NPCs with personality breathe life into its world. If you’re a fan of the genre, chances are that due to renewed interest in it, you’ve had a crack at Divinity: Original Sin. Wasteland 2 is the perfect follow up game to play — it will give you your CRPG fix, and then some.
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