Isentropic reviews Wasteland 2, the sequel to the 1988 RPG classic that inspired the Fallout series and kicked off the post-apocalyptic game genre.
G'Day Glitchlanders, I am Isentropic and today we join the Desert Raiders, in their struggle to protect the people of post-apocalyptic Arizona, in Wasteland 2.
Wasteland 2 is the official sequel to the much loved 1988 classic Wasteland, and aims to fuse old school storytelling with modern visuals and combat. Funded through an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign , Wasteland 2 was developed and published by Inxile Entertainment, an indie studio boasting some incredible RPG design talent.
Inxile was founded in late 2002, by video gaming titan Brian Fargo. Fargo is a developer credited with the creation of many world famous gaming franchises like Fallout and Baldur's Gate. With Fargo as team lead, Wasteland 1 designers, Alan Pavlish and Mike Stackpole onboard, and the musical talents of Mark Morgan of Fallout 1 and 2 fame, does Wasteland 2 stay true to the original, while still offering something new for gamers? Let's find out.
Set 15 years after the events of Wasteland the original, you are in charge of the newest team of recruits in the Desert Rangers. The Desert Rangers trace their heritage back to a small company of U.S. Army Engineers, who while building bridges in the Arizona desert became cut off from the rest of America after a nuclear holocaust.
General Vargas, the leader of Desert Rangers, is troubled by the recent death of the experienced ranger Ace. With no other resources available Vargas, must send your team on an operation to find the details of his death and complete his mission of investigating a strange radio signal. The story of Wasteland 2 is delivered mainly through dialogue, which is conveyed to the player through text discussions and some voice acted conversations.
I found the story of Wasteland 2 instantly engrossing and was hooked into piecing together the truth about Ace's death. The writing in Wasteland 2 is amazing and the regular radio calls from Ranger Citadel, and other Ranger units give the game world a feeling of being alive. I am really enjoying the difficult decision of Wasteland 2, as they come with consequences which influence later gameplay.
Wasteland 2 impressed me from the starting screen, with its deep character customisation, allowing players to build their four person team from the ground up. Being able to make your team look how you want, fight how you want, talk how you want and be as technically trained as you want, is an amazing feat and makes the player instantly more attached to the characters that they have created.
All of the standard RPG experience gaining, levelling up, looting and questing are here in Wasteland 2, and all feel realistic and tie in well with the main storyline. My only minor gripe with the character development and management is that some of the menus are a tad clunky, but with the correct use of hotkeys, the time spent navigating the menus can be minimised.
Problem solving and story unravelling in Wasteland 2, is a return to old school gaming styles and is perfectly delivered. Players can choose specific discussion points in conversations that reveal interesting background information and new missions, but can also completely avoid them if they wish. Skills like smart arse and hard arse offer another layer of conversation options for players, and keep things fresh in the more slow paced conversation sections.
Wasteland 2 also offers a less, "hand-holdy" approach to problem solving, with the player required to truly understand and think about what they do, before they do it. Unlocking a safe found when questing is not as easy a clicking on it and moving on. Players must assess the type of lock, whether the safe is alarmed or trapped, and their likelihood of overcoming its specific challenges before they choose to give it a crack. The level of a characters skill in each of the technical abilities, governs their chance of success, and as an added layer of risk and reward, each problem has a percentage chance of critical failure, meaning, if you fail badly at it, you won't get another shot.
This less, "hand-holdy" approach carries through into the combat of Wasteland 2. Combat is turn based and strategic in nature, with players required to know the strengths and weaknesses of each party member, to win combat. A standard battle involves the player manoeuvring their team into various forms of cover to give them the best probability to hit their enemies while not leaving them open to attack. Consequences of combat make battles extremely exciting, with players really having to plan their assaults or risk the death of one of their characters.
That's right you heard me correctly, if a character dies in battle they are gone for the rest of the game. This risk of losing one of your beloved Rangers, adds real weight to your choices and makes training some of your team members as surgeons and field medics essential.
The visuals of Wasteland 2 are great, and complement the old school style well, while paying homage to the original Wasteland. The top down view with a rotatable camera is a kick back to the original Fallout series and plays in well with the strategic combat. The music and sounds fit perfectly with Wasteland 2 and every radio transmission and voice acted conversation are a pleasure to listen to.
Overall, Wasteland 2 is a game defined by its deep storytelling, difficult decision making and engaging problem solving. I am having a great time with this title and am completely invested in the characters I have created and the story I am uncovering. The clunky menus are a small blemish on what is a remarkable game, and while I am still getting used to the combat style, the depth it offers is truly amazing. Wasteland 2 is an incredible achievement for a crowd funded title and has earned 9.5 out of 10 from me.
Available on PC, Mac and Linux.