Wasteland 2

Wasteland 2

Welcome back to the Citadel, Ranger.


Wasteland 2 is one of Kickstarter’s earliest success stories, originally asking $900,000 and destroying its own target ultimately netting InXile Entertainment a massive $2.9 million, and an immeasurable amount of encouragement.  If that doesn’t tell you that people missed it, little else will.  But 26 years is a long time, and the hype machine is a dangerous one.  Do the Rangers still have it in them to take care of the Wasteland, or has their hiatus made them too old and decrepit to be effective?

Wasteland 2 01

A lot of folk, though not all, are aware that it has been 26 years since the original Wasteland released.  That’s over 3/4 of my own lifetime.  I was 2.  In that time, people have desired a follow-up and the Fallout franchise, developed in part by the same company as Wasteland – the then named Interplay Productions – was a worthy successor.  Originally coming in a similar CRPG format with Fallout and Fallout 2, before going in a different direction with Fallout: Tactics and then Fallout: Brotherhood Of Steel for a brief stroll down a Diablo-style hack and slash alley using the same engine as Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions Of Norrath, only with an apocalyptic backdrop rather than a fantasy one.  Then came the first person Fallouts – 3 and New Vegas – and to many, myself included, these were great.  In fact, there are a lot of us eagerly anticipating another instalment… but there were those that felt a stronger bond to the roots of the end of the world.  Those that wanted to grab their provisions, their weapons, water and crew, and just hit the Wasteland the old fashioned way.  These are the people that felt somewhat underwhelmed by what had been offered in recent years.  After 26 long years of patience (because patience is every gamer’s middle name), their chance has finally arrived. 

Wasteland 2 02

You play as… well, whoever or whatever you want really.  As you load up the game, you’re taken to the character creation screen where you can choose from a prebuilt selection of all-purpose Rangers, or create your own from scratch.  While the option to play as a lone wolf is, technically, available, it’s also an extremely ill-advised move.  You create – or choose – a squad of four rangers.  Or you die alone. 

Wasteland 2 03

15 years after the events of Wasteland, the Rangers have fallen into bad habits.  Beaten and worn out by Cyborg Finster and Base Cochise AI, they committed to the idea of rebuilding and protecting the settlements within their close proximity.  It’s been too long, the Rangers have grown counterproductive… almost lazy, and then a mysterious radio signal is hailed speaking of man and machine becoming one, a threat the Desert Rangers are not willing to take lying down.  General Vargas – the leader – sends Ace, one of his best, to investigate.  It’s important for every ranger or squad to remain in constant radio contact with Citadel Communications and Ace, being a seasoned veteran, knows this.  It’s not long before reports of Ace’s death begin to come in, and soon after, that fact is confirmed.  Ace has been killed in the field, and that’s where you come in.  General Vargas sends a group of recruits out to determine Ace’s killer, their motive, and to continue his original mission to trace the “man and machine” radio broadcast.  Of course, nothing is quite that simple in the Wasteland. 

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The gameplay is exactly as you might expect it.  A CRPG, combining turn based, heavily stat oriented combat relying largely on the position of the team and effectiveness in various different skills across the board.  Not unlike a tabletop, it helps to have high proficiency in a great many areas to build experienced characters, less so than jacks of all trades.  Damage output, damage mitigation, perception, medical expertise, technical and technological knowledge, and knowing your way around mines and other explosives doesn’t hurt, either.  It would be recommended, as always, not to put all your eggs in one basket.  You can go ahead and create Corporal Badass – the ultimate champion of the Wastes on launch, then surround him with Cyphers who you plan to use a pack mules, but when Corporal Badass dies, he’s dead… and he ain’t coming back. 

Wasteland 2 05

That’s right, permadeath exists here.  An easy way to put this out of mind is, of course, the quicksave feature even if there’s always a chance that you’re going to miss out on an awesome piece of gear or weapon in doing so.  Combat is daunting, especially so for someone as unseasoned as myself in this genre.  Bones can break, diseases can be caught and a whole plethora of other medical maladies can strike at any moment.  Caution is advised.  Enemies can be a lot more powerful than you; your weapons can jam; your medic could be the focus of a coordinated enemy ambush, or an explosion could cause them to have more emergency aid requirement than their limited AP (Action Point) count can attend to.  A mutated pod person explodes killing your most experienced fighter, they’re down but not out, they can be saved and it has to be now!  They’re bleeding out on the ground and a quick glance at the combat order shows that there are still three more enemy turns before a member of your team gets a turn… and that member has no medical experience whatsoever.  In fact, there are FOUR enemy attacks to go before an ally with the requisite skills can take action.  Suffice to say that relaxation and passive thinking are the exact antithesis of what is required to play this game. 

Wasteland 2 06

Crikey though, is it all just so well put together!  Exploring the wastes uses an overworld map, distance travelled relies on your groups limited water supply, which can be refilled at wells on locations or at oases on the overworld.  Random attacks from feral mutants can occur on your travels, and the radio is hot with an endless stream updates of local villages, farms and homesteads being attacked by raiders, or other malevolent forces, for which it is your job as a Desert Ranger to attend to.  Hopefully there are no walls of radioactive clouds between you and your destination as slow reactions to events can, and often do, have an effect on the world at large.  The admiration of the Rangers is somewhat fleeting due to their closed off stance in recent years. 

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The unity engine holds up.  Very well, in fact.  I’ve not experienced a great many things with it, but what little I have played or seen has left much to the imagination.  Wasteland is a nice exception, naturally the game doesn’t have to be the most graphically demanding to be worthwhile, as the original – though admittedly from a massively different time – proves by still be largely entertaining.  InXile still didn’t simply half-ass it, the atmosphere is snagged very well.  All things combine: the constant ammo counting; the rustic design; the outfits; weapons that jam at the worst possible moment; the giant frogs and exploding pod people; the ambient winds; blood and sand right swirling outside the periphery of your hearing; and dreary, almost hopeless, songs that play over the static of another incoming radio signal that is undoubtedly planning to send you further into the barren and hostile landscape – all roll together to make you feel the threat.  The danger that awaits as you crawl hopelessly and ignorantly toward it, like a toddler attracted to the shiny glass shards of a dropped wine glass on the kitchen floor.  It’s just really good.  Exactly, I assume, what it’s fans have been waiting for from Wasteland 2, and something – although not being one of them, I was two years old after all – I have been looking for, for years.

A review copy of Wasteland 2 for PC was provided by the InXile Entertainment PR team.

The Verdict


The Good: Immensely atmospheric | Never a dull moment

The Bad: Definitely too slow paced for someone expecting fast and frenetic end of the world carnage

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When Cevyn isn’t writing for Codec Moments, he can be found either obsessively feasting on the many facets of geek culture or writing bad, unpublished fiction novels.

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