|In Wasteland 2 combat is resolved using good ol' turn-based tactics|
- Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: inXile Entertainment
- Publisher: inXile Entertainment
- Release Date: 19 Sep 2014
- Time played: 46 hours
What is itThe original Wasteland was released quite some time back… 1988 to be precise, so fans have been waiting 26 years for a sequel. Developed by Interplay and published by Electronic Arts, Wasteland is an RPG set in America after a nuclear war in 1998 has left the planet a post-apocalyptic, um… wasteland. You lead a team of Desert Rangers, the last remnants of the United States Army stationed in the Southwestern United States, in an attempt to keep law and order amongst the remnants of human civilization.
The game was a commercial and critical success and received many favourable reviews even being awarded an Adventure Game of the Year Award by gaming publication Computer Gaming World. Along with Wasteland, Interplay also released the The Bard's Tale trilogy in the late 80s, the retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout in 1997 and the Dungeons & Dragons RPG Baldur's Gate in 1998.
Despite releasing critically acclaimed games, Interplay was in a dire financial situation by 1998 and the company went public to raise funds. French software publisher Titus invested in Interplay and by 2001 owned a majority stake in the company. Brian Fargo eventually left Interplay to form his own studio called inXile Entertainment. Over the next few years, most of Interplay's studios and IP were sold off and they were eventually taken to bankruptcy court in 2006, resulting in the Fallout IP being sold to Bethesda in 2007.
Meanwhile, inXile Entertainment had developed a few console and mobile games during the 2000s including 2004's The Bard's Tale. It wasn't until they finally secured the rights to Wasteland again that they decided to go to Kickstarter to raise funds for a sequel. On the 13th March 2012, the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter project commenced and by its end (17th April 2012) 61,290 backers had raised $2,933,252 towards the project (probably unheard of with gaming Kickstarters nowadays, but this was back during the "Golden Age"). The game was originally slated for release in October 2013 but, as is the case with many gaming Kickstarter projects, development was delayed and the game was actually released 19th September 2014.
Wasteland 2 had many of the original Wasteland developers involved in its development including Brian Fargo, Alan Pavlish, Michael A. Stackpole, Ken St. Andre and Liz Danforth. The game is a party-based RPG set in the same universe as the original Wasteland except is set 15 years later. You're responsible for leading a squad to investigate what happened to a veteran Desert Ranger called Ace who mysteriously died after investigating a strange radio signal that threatens the destruction of the Desert Rangers and the merging of man with machine.
When Wasteland 2 was originally released it fared pretty well critically, currently holding a Metascore of 81 on Metacritic. Fargo also claimed in 2016 that inXile Entertainment had earned $12 million from sales of the game. Not too shabby.
In 2015, a Director's Cut was released for the game which happens to be the version that I own. The Director's Cut introduced visual upgrades (due to an upgrading of the Unity engine), 8,000 more lines of pre-recorded dialogue, new perks, as well as re-designed encounters and user interface.
The Director's Cut fared slightly better than the original release, achieving a Metascore of 87 on Metacritic.
How I got itI actually acquired a physical copy of Wasteland 2 (would you believe) and the box actually came with DVDs in them (yes, I know, it's unheard of in this day and age); this is also the reason I decided I just had to play this game soon since who knows if whether my next computer will even have an optical drive in order to play these DVDs I've got sitting around. Wasteland 2 is also 6 years old now so it was probably about time I tried the damn thing although despite installing the game from a disc, I still had to wait 3 hours for Steam to download a bunch of patches for the game… and that was only for the original version of the game… I had to wait several hours again to download the Director's Cut!
Anyway, after starting this game in May last year, I finally completed it a whole nine months later in January this year. So without further ado, here's my well overdue Wasteland 2 review.
|You're not imaging things... it's Duran Duran|
What I like:
Pop Culture ReferencesThe game is littered with pop culture references including 80s TV shows (e.g. The A-Team), 80s film (e.g. Rambo), 80s music (e.g. Duran Duran) and sci-fi in general… hmmm the developers must really love the 80s. Some of the homages are quite involved such as the one with Duran Duran where all the members of the "Fab Five" are present including a custom portrait in the likeness of Nick Rhodes for the one called Nick. They even manage to work in many of the band's song titles when they converse with you!
Real-life weapons and locationsWhat I often love about science fiction is that it usually extrapolates what Earth will be like in the future and this remains true for post-apocalyptic sci-fi. For example, a lot of the weapons you come across in the game are based on famous 20th century firearms such as the M16, AK-47, M1 Garand, SKS and Colt .45 (just to name a few).
You'll also get to visit a lot of real-life locations in the Southwestern United States such as Davis-Monathan Air Force Base (also known as the "Aircraft Boneyard"), The Watts Towers in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and even Hollywood. I actually learned a thing or two about American geography while playing this game, so who said you never learn anything from video games? ;).
Huge area to exploreYou get to see a lot of the Southwestern United States in this game and there are so many locations to explore. Let's just say that I thought the game didn't need to be any bigger in terms of the geographic area but was gobsmacked when I discovered there was still plenty more to explore before the game was over.
A Friend in NeedWasteland 2 is one of those games that goes "Hey, remember all those guys you helped out earlier on in the game? Well now they're going to repay the favour by helping you out in the final mission!" This means you have more guns to help you clear out any enemies at the end of the game, and is definitely a reward for the players who like playing the hero (as you should when you're working for the Desert Rangers, right?).
EpilogueWhile on the topic of endings, I love a good epilogue and Wasteland 2 delivers the goods (in a similar manner to the first Fallout). When you complete the game, the epilogue will describe how your actions affected each community in the Wasteland although I did notice that some of the descriptions seemed a bit contradictory.
SoundtrackThe soundtrack definitely has a Fallout 1 feel to it and there's a good reason for that as Mark Morgan (the original composer for Fallout, Fallout 2 and Planescape Torment) is the man behind the score. It's definitely got that desolate, post-apocalyptic, Western feel to it which suits the game perfectly.
I also love the track that plays at the end of the game called "Cries of a Dead World" by Gavin Dunne (Miracle of Sound). Check it out:
So many stats and perksI have a confession to make: I've never actually played the original Wasteland. I tried my best to give it a go but I found the interface very primitive and cumbersome which means I eventually gave up trying to complete it before playing the sequel. I have played the original Fallout though and I was pleased to see that just like Fallout, Wasteland 2 has more stats and perks than you can poke a radioactive stick at. In fact, there are so many stats to pick from that it sometimes feels like there's too many, but more on that later.
Decisions that have a major impactThe reason many of us play RPGs is that we want to be given tough choices and want the narrative to change depending on the choices we make: Wasteland 2 definitely gives you a lot of choices including which towns to save first, which people to recruit in your party and which factions to support in feuds. In fact, sometimes your choices have an effect on what you'll encounter once you enter a town: will the town be wiped out with most of its citizens dead or will you make it just in time to help the town fight off a horde of sentient plants? Anything's possible in this game.
Conversation optionsI'm quite impressed by the extra dialogue options you unlock depending on whether you've invested points in either Kiss-Ass (charisma), Hard-Ass (intimidation) or Smart-Ass (intelligence). For example, at one point there was a guy at Ranger Citadel that was desperate for the squad to buy something from him so he could raise funds for some unknown reason. Further probing with the Hard-Ass dialogue choice from one party member and then the Kiss-Ass dialogue choice from another resulted in the squad convincing him to build up the courage to leave the Citadel and reunite with his sister at the Rail Nomads Camp. I love it when RPGs offer non-violent solutions where using the gift of the gab is just as viable a tactic.
Computer Science!The game has Computer Science as a legitimate skill choice. You read that right: COMPUTER SCIENCE! My dreams of being a computer nerd hero in an RPG have finally been realised!
Steam Achievements and Trading CardsThe game has 46 Steam Achievements you can work towards and 12 Steam Trading Cards to collect.
|The follower pathfinding isn't that great at times|
What I dislike:
Limited character portraitsDespite being able to define different ethnicities for your characters, the number of options you have for portraits are fairly limited. In fact, you'll notice that the NPC portraits are recycled fairly often. It would've been nice if they potentially had some more diversity with respect to the character portraits pool.
Combat difficultyRPGs generally take a long time to complete and since I didn't want to find myself half-way through a campaign finding the game so difficult I needed to start again, I decided to go with the easiest difficulty setting called "Rookie". In retrospect, I'm relieved I picked this difficulty setting: although the game is very easy at the start, the difficulty definitely ramps up during boss battles and in the late-game where I found my squad members often unconscious needing to be revived by medics or the squad being wiped out entirely.
Often the reason for the extra challenge is due to my squad being outgunned (there are different tiers of guns in this game and quite a difference in damage potential between them) or my squad being not experienced enough in the skills that count (e.g. skills that would allow me to take an easier route or skills that can amplify damage output).
The lack of experience in certain skills brings me to my next point...
Too many skills?I did mention earlier one aspect I liked about the games is that you have a lot of choices and that applies to where you invest your experience points towards various stats, skills and perks. However, sometimes I think this game has too many skills since while trying to ensure each of my squad members had a bit of everything, they end up being a jack of all trades, master of none, which becomes a real pain later on in the game when every lock cannot be picked, every trap cannot be disarmed and every toaster cannot be repaired (I'm serious, there's a Toaster Repair skill in this game).
Then you have skills which you'd think would cover certain abilities but in fact don't. For example, I thought that someone who had invested points in Demolitions would not only know how to disarm explosives but also how to spot them. Unfortunately, I was mistaken and you needed Perception to spot mines, not Demolitions, meaning my squad spent most of the game tripping on mines and wasting health.
Inventory management when Followers leaveThis happened rarely (I believe it only occurred once in my playthrough) but when one of your Followers leave it can really suck for the rest of the squad if they were already close to being overburdened with gear: with one Ranger down, it means trying to distribute items that were normally carried by six rangers down to only five.
BugsThe game has a few bugs but one of the most noticeable is when audio is played at the wrong time. Many times I've gone and visited a location only to have a follower warn me about the place after I've left it!
Another annoying bug seems to be a follower pathing issue where they sometimes block doorways during combat. This results in the squad being split in two making some encounters extra difficult, especially since you're unable to flee and restart the encounter because the only way to resolve combat is to kill all enemies.
Score – 8/10 (Recommended)Wasteland 2 hearkens back to the great Interplay CRPGs of the late 1990s such as Fallout and Baldur's Gate while serving its purpose as a bona fide sequel to the original Wasteland released decades ago. Like the CRPGs of yesteryear, Wasteland 2 benefits from having many locations to explore, lots of weapons to experiment with and offering the player decisions that have a major impact on the storyline. The game also has a whole bunch of silly, yet entertaining pop culture references and a very fitting soundtrack thanks to the talents of Fallout composer Mark Morgan. The game does have flaws such as its lack of character portraits, unforgiving combat, questionable skill trees, as well a few bugs, but they don't detract from what is a solid and enjoyable post-apocalyptic romp through the Southwestern United States. Recommended.
Is the game worth $42.95 AUD?: Yes. I probably only explored maybe 80% of the game and still managed to clock almost 50 hours of gameplay. Also, since you can have different endings depending on which factions you choose to aid, this means the game (like all good CRPGs from the 90s) has good replay value too.
If you like this game, you might like…
[ LINK: inXile Entertainment - Wasteland 2: Director's Cut ]