Wow, can it really be almost thirty years since the first Wasteland came out? 1988 is a large milestone for me; it is the year that I was exactly half the age I am now. What a difference in the world and games from then to now. I haven't replayed the original Wasteland. It just wouldn't be the same. I just want to be left with the memories of wandering the first Wasteland and losing a large chunk of my life to the incredible story and game play.
Oh well, back to the present. It seems strange, but it almost seems that despite the years as I fire up Wasteland 2, I am back in the wasteland without any amount of time passing in between. Oh sure, the graphics are much better, but we expect that in games now. It is sort of remembering an old TV show in color in your mind when you know it was only in black and white.
I chose to go with a preset party instead of using all of the different options to choose your parties looks and abilities. It being my first of probably many run-throughs I have no idea how important each skill is or might be.
The second thing I do is something so stupid and newbie-like that the game should just shut down in disgust. Your party starts at a funeral for Ace, who is another ranger, and general Vargas gives you a quest to complete what Ace was working on before he bought it. I then choose to do the idiotic. Instead of searching every inch of the ranger station for anything and anyone, I gleefully traipse out into the wasteland with my party. I then decide to make mistake number two. Instead of following the quest and starting my adventure where the general told me to go, I branch out. You get two distress calls on the radio one from Highpool and the other from the Ag Center (agriculture). I choose to go the the Ag Center. I'll not bore you with my constant death and the fact that my all of my party is now poisoned by monstrous spores. Suffice to say my party staggers out of the Ag Center and then I finally come to my senses and return to the Ranger Center. After picking it clean and adding a new member to my party, I head back to the Ag Center.
The funny thing is, I know how to play RPGs, whether first person or top down like Wasteland 2. I have thousands of hours in them and know that you should search every area with a fine toothed comb, looking for that last tin can. I really think I had temporary insanity because of all of those hours I played in the original Wasteland. It was so much like going home that the ever-present dangers of the wasteland seemed insignificant compared to being out in the desert with my party again. I waited so long to play Wasteland 2 that I just wanted to be out in the new areas etc.
So, is the game different? Of course; what or who wouldn't be different after almost thirty years? Is it hard? You betcha. Will you lose yourself in the game play? Again, a resounding yes. The hours of play will shoot by as you try to open one last door or decipher another clue.
I promise the reminiscing is over. At the start of the game, as mentioned, you have the ability to hand pick every aspect of your parties characters. The other route is to pick a pre-made party. it is your normal RPG character creation setup. You can choose to start making a character into an armored anchor for the rest of the group, or create a stealthy more 'brainy' character. As far as the game goes, again like all RPGs, save and then save some more. You never know what or who is lurking over the next ridge. On your way to your quest objectives there can also be chance encounters. You can choose to fight every time and build up your points to level up your part members or try to avoid them. In your wanderings, you will also uncover different oases. Use them. The small deviation from your route and the chance of an encounter is worth the risk. Wandering about the wasteland without a full canteen of water is hazardous.
The UI in the game is functional, and you have all the info you need at your fingertips. I'm one of those gamers whose motto is "manuals be damned". So I know that the UI is pretty intuitive and easy to catch onto. The maps and routes to your different quests are well done and easy to follow. You can decide to pick an easier route through irradiated territory or take the scenic route. The whole game can be played from the stealth or 'bull in a china shop' angle, or any sort of in between. In the beginning, as with any RPG, pick up every item you can. You have a stash at the Ranger Center to keep all of your items that might be needed at a later time. Hoarding in real life is very bad, but in RPGs it is essential. You'll never know when you need that artificial leg.
The different characters that can join your party are an interesting lot. If your leadership skill is too low they will go rogue on you during encounters. They do have different reasons for being with you or helping you on quests, so remember that they might not always be there.
The voice acting is good. I only had one problem and that was with a character that can join your party during one quest. The character in question sounds like either you or she are on quaaludes when she is talking. For the most part you will be reading most of the interactions between your party and others. The story line is pretty good with some very good moments of twists and turns. You are sometimes allowed to take whatever action you want, but like most RPGs, some actions cannot be taken, no matter what homicidal thought is running through your brain. Unlike other RPGs, I have not found a 'useless' skill yet. All seem to have some benefit to having or a hit for not having a particular skill. Alarms, lock picking, and your various weapon skills are self explanatory. You can also be a 'smart ass' or a 'hard ass' in some conversations which will open up whole new dialogs for you to explore.
So, to wrap it up, where does Wasteland 2 stand? Is it an also ran or the proud offspring of its grand old dad? In my eyes Wasteland 2 can hold its head up with the rest of the family. Indeed, it is much better than most of the originals off shoots.
AMD cards had a problem running Wasteland 2 when it was first released, and to be honest I was getting CTDs trying to play it. I am happy to announce after updating my video drivers I have not had any problems running the game since then.
After all of my death and near death experiences, I restarted the game and instead of using default characters, I chose to make all four of my own. Now that I have a feel for the game and how I want to play it, deciding to start over and build the characters the way I want was a no-brainer. A few other tips: make sure you reload after every encounter; also, throw some skill points into bladed or blunt weapons. Ammo is like gold, so it is best to conserve it at all times. One point about the game, a lot of it is in making choices. You will not be able to do everything and save everyone. Time is also your enemy; it is not like some RPGs where you can return to a quest line at anytime and everything has stayed still while you did a few others.
Here's to wandering another wasteland when Wasteland 3 gets released. I know I, and many others, will be happy to be out with new Ranger buddies.
Game: Wasteland 2 Director's Cut
Game Developer: inXile Entertainment
Date of Review: 11/11/2016