After launching one of the most successful gaming Kickstarter campaigns of the last couple of years, we finally get to see Brian Fargo’s dream of seeing a sequel to Wasteland, the game that later inspired the Fallout series. The final product shows that there is still life left in the old school RPGs first pioneered by Baldurs Gate back in 1998.
They certainly didn’t do things by halves here; the game weighs in at approximately ten gigabytes for the GOG.com installer. Of the completed Kickstarters I’ve backed so far this is certainly the biggest weighing with a hefty 10 gigabyte download. I’m sure that record will be smashed once Star Citizen launches but that’s a story for another day.
In addition to the game, if you were a backer of the game you get a few extra goodies including the soundtrack, art book, novella (in progress) and some small extras for the game itself in the form of additional character portraits and a unique item in-game. It’s a nice gesture that I’m glad has become standard with backed games.
The intro to the game sets up the premise in great fashion with an FMV sequence introducing the world and how you arrive at your situation with the Desert Rangers; a group of post apocalyptic peace keepers. As the sequence ends with a shot of a Ranger’s coffin, you find the game beginning right at that point as your characters stand watch. It’s an extremely effective way to get you into the game quickly.
And quickly is how the game operates in moving the plot forward. You are immediately tasked with investigating the death and completing their mission, a process that is both tutorial and initiation into the Desert Rangers.
First impressions are that mechanically, the game does not stray far from the classic CRPGs made famous at Interplay. Seeing as inXile has many developers from that company and its famous Black Isle studio it’s little wonder. The game feels like it is of the same family as Baldurs Gate and Planescape: Torment. Seeing as I loved those games to death, they’re already off to a positive start in my eyes.
For those mostly familiar with the abovementioned Infinity Engine based games, one major difference you will find will be in the combat which forgoes the real time (with pause) system defined in Baldurs Gate in favour of one very similar to what was used in Fallout, Fallout 2 and the recently released Shadowrun Returns.
These games use a points system to each character during combat; actions such as movement or fighting all cost a set number of points per turn which imposes limits what each character during a combat round. The result of this is that combat is a very focused experience requiring the player to be making decisions every step of the way. Having such fine grained control may be new to many people but it forces you to be fully aware of all the capabilities of your party. Soon enough you’ll be positioning your team and fighting off the hordes like a pro.
Not all of the game is this micromanaged; there are plenty of tweaks in place to speed up your game experience such as automatic collection of loot after combat, with an option to allocate items based on your party members capabilities. For example, your medic will automatically receive the items best suited to them healing the rest of your team. That is a real convenience to have between encounters and lets you get back into the game faster.
Not all of the game is about combat though. The various skills and abilities your characters have available to them will allow additional options throughout the campaign that can influence outcomes both in and out of fighting. Thought I’m not sure yet how “toaster repair” fits into the grand scale of things.
Visually, the game is great. The 3D models and landscapes serve the story well; they are not big in detail but it’s not really an issue with the game by default zoomed out to provide a view of your surroundings. Most PCs will happily be able to run this game at decent detail levels. In fact, I’ve been able to quite easily stream it to my Surface at 1080p if that’s any indication.
If you’re familiar with the art style of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas you’ll feel right at home. I did initially get caught out when I couldn’t find my way around an early section of the game only to realize that the landscape itself could be rotated. It looked good enough to be 2D artwork that I never thought it to be anything else. Unfortunately it can also obscure key features on maps, so be prepared to do a little bit of “looking around” in the midst of your travels.
Audio is excellent – there’s a huge amount of speech in the game and it is used well. For a game that has so much text in it you may be forgiving the developers if they would avoid it altogether but it’s inclusion adds a lot. Nothing is going to convince you more that you’re speaking to a grizzled veteran Ranger than hearing them talk.
In comparison to another recent release (and fellow Kickstarter success) in Shadowrun Returns, you can tell despite the games both being similar on the surface and in the combat mechanics they have very different ancestries. Wasteland 2‘s biggest inspiration in its design (beyond the original game) are the Interplay/Bioware/Black Isle games and I think you can almost see a natural progression there despite being more than a decade since those titles.
It should be noted that Shadowruns’s roots go even further back to twenty years with the Genesis/Megadrive and SNES RPGs of the franchise (which were direct inspirations). The intro to “Dead Man’s Switch” even opens in a similar way to the SNES game which is a nice callback. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, combat in both games is very similar but I found that the concept of cover becomes much more apparent earlier on in Shadowrun thanks to its urban setting.
Before this goes all Inception with a review within a review, it must be said there is a lot of great press for the follow up Shadowrun: Dragonfall and the recently released directors cut substantially ups the ante in content and features. Go check it out too. 🙂
Wasteland 2 is a great return to old school gaming roots and packs a style that will appeal to many. Production values are great and show a lot of care has gone into making the game worthy of its Kickstarter backers and then some. Post apocalyptic stories are very popular now thanks to tales such as The Walking Dead and with no sign of Fallout 4 being announced in the near future, this game has got a great opportunity to establish itself as a franchise in the long term.
For Western RPG players of old, this one’s for you.