It’s been a while since I could write anything in the blog. Whenever you have a job that takes most of your day, playing long titles takes much longer than whenever you have a lot of free time. And apart from open world titles, most of which I tend to ignore nowadays anyway, RPGs tend to take most of your gaming time. Luckily, Wasteland 2 was that particular type of an RPG that was a joy to return to, no matter how long it took.
I’m quite late for this, I know. Wasteland 2 was released 3 years ago and Director’s Cut a year later and most people who were interested probably played it by now. But then again – there might be people like me who didn’t have time and are now pondering whenever Wasteland 2 is worth the time. While I’m not sure about the original release, I didn’t play it long enough, but I heard that after a lot of patches it did get much better and most people who want “difficulty” (read – minmaxing and hardcore strategic planning) seem to even prefer it. But Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut specifically is a fantastic RPG title and an interesting look at what direction Fallout might’ve taken if it wasn’t handled by Bethesda.
But don’t think Wasteland is Fallout. Fallout was a story-driven adventure with quite linear story, but extremely non-linear approach to it, where the variability came from the way you customize your character and their abilities. Wasteland 2, instead, feels like a more team-based effort, with a bit more focus on combat and a bit less on “fitting” and living in the post-apocalypse. Every character in your team needs to be an expert in something and will probably not know anything about something else, but as a team, including NPC recruits, you have far more options than a single Fallout character would have. In this, it actually feels more like XCOM or recent Shadowrun games.
It feels even more like that when you enter combat, since unlike the classic Fallout titles, there’s cover in play. And it feels so natural to the tactical nature of the turn-based combat, that it makes me wonder how well would it have fit Fallout, where you control only one character. Whenever it would there or not, it’s amazing here. I still have some reservations about the amount of skills available, due to the fact that, especially in a rebalanced Director’s Cut, some weapons feel quite ineffective in many situations. But having a game where team positioning, smart ammo management and skill allocation plays such an important role, without it ever feeling tedious is amazing.
What feels especially refreshing for the RPGs is the feeling of freedom that original Wasteland (I never gave it a proper go, FYI) and first Fallout games (New Vegas was also close) had in how you can deal with situations. Want to make the wasteland a better place by doing many quests, talking, running back and forth and trying to be peaceful where possible? Go for it. Feel offended at the city gate guard and think that it might be better to cleanse the city of scum with lead? Sure, go ahead. Whichever consequences make most sense to you, you can approach situations from so many different ways it’s amazing. See someone being a dick from far away and don’t even want to get closer, start a conversation, get into a fight and be in a position too close so the people in question will get free hits on you? Just snipe that ass from farther away and gain initiative. As a person who used to be bored with turn-based combat, I was loving every second of fighting in Wasteland 2.
As mentioned, though, you can take a much more peaceful route in your quest to make wasteland a better place and make Desert Rangers influential. And, surprisingly, there aren’t as many skill-based talk checks in those routes usually. While there are talk skills (3 different ones, in fact, which is again a bit of an overkill imo), in Wasteland 2 people often care more about what you do, rather than about what you say. Heal someone using your skills, disarm nearby mines, help calm the animals or even without using special skills do something before people even have a chance to ask and it all counts. It’s really an amazing game for choice-consequence elements, even when those aren’t introducing any major changes to the story.
Oh and since we’re on topic, the story is pretty good. It has some ups and downs, and your perception of some events will most likely change depending on how you deal with them (which is, again, quite a feat). But it has a very interesting world, which tend to feel real, if a bit over the top at times. The fact that there’s an overworld map is a topic of its own in how it makes the locations you visit and distance between them shape the world into something you don’t have to suspend disbelief as much as in an open world title like what Bethesda tend to build. In general, I’d say that the story isn’t what you will play the game for, but the characters, world and events will keep it interesting from start to finish.
There are little tiny things that will make the experience slightly worse, though. Apart from the overkill of skills that gets a bit frustrating, apart from a rougher start than I would’ve liked (game does get progressively easier as you level up), apart from the fact that the game often does look rather ugly for a modern title and the story-art-cards can be quite barren as well, there are minor bugs or overlooked little things even still in the newest Director’s Cut version. They’re quite rare, far from disrupting, but they can happen in rather unexpected ways. For example I had to reload one situation several times because I couldn’t figure out why one particular dialogue option wasn’t available even though story-wise it should’ve been. Turns out, it wasn’t just because the game intended me to have the dialogue I was having before other events, so it just couldn’t have some options until I exited and entered the dialogue again. This was a curiosity later on too – in case you did some things that might be related to a character you talk for the first time, you might not have an option to talk about that and will have to talk to them again. I also had camera suddenly lock until I move it slightly and other minor frustrating things happen occasionally. Which doesn’t really ruin the experience, but makes it less smooth than it could be, especially for a “definitive re-release”.
Wasteland 2 isn’t “real Fallout 3” not because it couldn’t, but because it didn’t want to. It’s it’s own thing, a wonderful RPG in a post-apocalyptic world, an adventure of a single squad of Desert Rangers trying to make wasteland a better place… or being assholes, since it’s your choice as a player. You should definitely give Wasteland 2 a go whenever you can. Just, remember that “your player” is your squad, not a single person in it, specialize them, try not to kill them and have fun in a post-apocalyptic world.