‘Wasteland 2′ Review

Platforms PC

Developer inXile Entertainment   Publisher inXile Entertainment

Genre RPG   Platform Played On PC

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my first impressions of Wasteland 2, inXile’s new RPG, but now that the full version has released and I have logged about 40 hours of play time, I can give you a bit more in-depth look at the full game. The original Wasteland served as the inspiration for the Fallout series, resulting in a ton of comparisons between the two, but Wasteland 2 makes a statement on its own. In addition to raiders and robots, I have encountered a group of people who value being polite over just about everything else, suicidal nuke-worshipping monks with radioactive sludge grenades, and a Romeo and Juliet-esque romance (seriously, their names were Ralphy and Jessie).

When you start a new game, you will begin at a squad creation screen that allows you to create your own characters, use pre-made characters, or both. Instead of using the available options, I spent the better part of two hours setting up a completely customized team that I hoped would be as close to well-rounded as the extensive skill system would allow. Even then, I realized pretty early on I had not given the personality skills (Hard Ass, Smart Ass, and Kiss Ass) which allow you to unlock certain dialogue choices as well as some quests, enough attention. The leader of my team has a pretty high level Smart Ass skill, but that does not help in situations that require a softer touch or a sharp rebuke, so I’ve already missed out on a few things there. As frustrating as it can be to give up skills that (often literally) open more doors, I have realized that that is the beauty of a game like Wasteland 2. Multiple playthroughs are not just encouraged, they are necessary to encounter all of the content in the game.

Your new squad starts off as a group of recent recruits to the Desert Rangers, a tough as nails organization headquartered in the wasteland that was once Arizona, sent on a mission to investigate the suspicious death of a veteran Ranger. Although you start out with just a four person team, you can recruit up to three extra NPCs. The extra help definitely comes in handy during combat.

When the turn based combat is triggered, there is no chance to save or run away. One of the best in-game mechanics is the ability to set your team up before the combat encounter actually triggers when your enemies notice your squad. If you are careful to stay out of line of sight, you can even take an enemy or two out before the encounter actually begins. The fighting itself reminded me of XCOM: Enemy Unknown; crouching, firing or reloading weapons, or even moving to cover costs action points, or AP. Unfortunately, cover is hard to come by, and the kind that can’t be destroyed is even rarer. Enemies occasionally duck for cover and offer a battle of wits as well as bullets, but encounters are often more straightforward shooting galleries than tactical matches.

My personal favorite part of Wasteland 2 is the game’s wry sense of humor. From flavor text in the environment to actual dialogue choices, the text based storytelling adds an interesting dimension to an already complex world. Item descriptions are not simply labels, they are all imaginative and unique. Triggered events are conveyed via text as well. At one point, I accidentally triggered a silent alarm and the game not only told me that I set it off but asked me–rather condescendingly–if I had even noticed the alarm to begin with. It was almost like the game itself was poking fun at me and I found it utterly delightful. Wasteland 2 is not worried about being offensive and it does not pull any punches.

My only complaint is that the actual gameplay seems a bit clunky. During a mission in which I was tasked to broker peace between two tribes, I ran back and forth between two maps several times. As my party moved back and forth I realized that I could actually go grab a snack while they were moving because it took them so long to get where they were heading. Using skills also felt a bit ham handed. Instead of clicking an item and having the character with the skill interact with it, you have to select the character, then the skill, and then the item. I know that Wasteland 2 is supposed to be reminiscent of older RPGs, but it seems like creating a more intuitive system would not have taken away from that.

Overall, Wasteland 2 definitely impressed me. The old school style RPG welcomes with open arms both old fans and new gamers. While the gameplay could stand to be a bit more intuitive, the intricate storytelling and dark wit more than make up for the slightly clumsy mechanics. Now if you will excuse me, I have more terrifying robots to destroy.

The Good

  • Engaging story that hinges largely upon player choice
  • In-depth squad/character creation
  • Well built environment and a ton of NPCs to meet and help… or ignore
  • Excellent use of dark humor throughout

The Bad

  • Using skills feels a little awkward
  • Pacing often feels a little slow

The Score: 8