“A great writer of the past and a great developer of the future have come together and created something memorable. Now that’s a legacy.”
The Waste Land is an 8-bit, open world, role-playing action adventure title from indie developer Fledermaus; aka the one-man team that is Mr Michele Caletti. The fantasy adventure is based around the story described in the T.S. Eliot poem from which the name of the game has been drawn. As King Zyron III, you find yourself venturing the land to undo the darkness which you have blindly created within it during your rule. When you are on a hunting trip and kill an unusual looking creature in the woods, the powers which have held your lands together become imbalanced, and evil creatures spread across them causing devastation. Your army is left in tatters with no survivors, and so you must wonder the land an unknown face to those who should worship you and seek to undo the damage which you have done.
A strong back-story scores points for The Waste Land straight off the mark then, but credit for this is due in part of course to the inspiration to the game as provided by T.S. Eliot’s work. To bring a poem to life in a game however is quite the task to set oneself, especially if you are developing such a thing on your train journeys and lunch breaks as Mr Caletti has done. It all starts out of course with a vision, and that vision is very clear in The Waste Land right from the word go. While the world is drawn in retro-style 8-bit graphics, the artistic thought which has gone into it appears equal to anything you might see in much larger and more defined titles. The scenery is not just random and aimed at being a backdrop, but is intended to be as much a part of the adventure and story as the action itself. Creatures, characters and the wilderness around them each speak to you, clearly stating the intent and nature of what each of these embodiments has in store for you. Alongside the game’s day-night cycle and frequent changes in weather, there is a strong atmosphere created; the perfect scene for the action to play out in.
And that brings us on to the action itself then! The Waste Land has a very Gameboy sort of feel to the way it looks and indeed plays. On Steam, one of the game’s current user-defined tags is Metroidvania, so if you were looking for a comparison to make between this title and others on the market, I believe this is probably your answer. Controlling your character is very easy, requiring only the arrow buttons to move, X to slash with your main weapon, C to jump, V to fire your second weapon (such as a bow), and P to pause. Other than this, all you need to know is that pressing up will interact with other people, and you are good to go! So it is very easy to learn to play and jump right into the game. A two-minute tutorial teaches you all of this quickly but clearly, and as a bonus it gives you a taste of the retro-style humour you can expect with this retro-style game. Even before the tutorial you get a feel for this element of The Waste Land though, with difficulties being set at different years based on gaming at those times. Naturally, the 2014 setting is aptly entitled Casual Scum, and makes the game far easier than the other two options.
The Waste Land throws a vast variety of different adversaries your way from the very beginning, tasking you with figuring out the best way to take each one down. Within the first thirty minutes you will come across everything from ravens and bats, to giant moths and slugs, to fire breathing werewolves. Truly, this game encompasses the style of classic RPG titles from the past in making up its basic nature, and it does so well. What is does which many classic titles did not however, and the factor which maybe makes it even more of a bridge between past and present than it may have appeared to already, is offer you, the player, and open world to travel in. Spreading over seven continents, The Waste Land forces you to face up against all manner of foes and challenges, including of course a little bit of parkour action as is customary in modern gaming so is seems. Most importantly in all of this however, there is a good strong level of variety in what you come across. The game never feels like it is too samey, and consistently challenges you in new and different ways.
Perhaps the only thing that this game is truly lacking is a progression system. Now for this type of game such a feature in not entirely necessary, and it would be unfair also to suggest that The Waste Land completely ignores your desire to improve your character’s abilities. The game does have a number of elements in place to make sure that this is in some ways possible. You can get health meter extensions, special items which improve your skills and of course all manner of crazy weapons in your arsenal such as lightning arrows and increasingly more dangerous swords. What isn’t in place is an experience based system however, which given the amount of combat and indeed ever more challenging combat you partake in seems a little bit disappointing. In some ways, it makes the game a little less role-playing and a little more hack-and-slash. It is not as though the game does not function without this, and in fact it plays very well without it, but if something were said to be missing this might well just be it.
The Waste Land brings a classic style of gaming alongside a classical literary work and creates what could well stand to be a classic indie title in the near future. Using its retro-style nature alongside modern gaming elements such as its open world and day-night cycles, a bridge is created between elements of what once and what now does make a popular gaming title. The combination is strong, but more importantly The Waste Land is great fun to play in its own right. It is easy to get to grips with, varied enough to keep you interested long into play, open enough to allow you the freedom of choice and the experience of adventure and gives you a clear enough objective to know that you have a clear aim in all of this. The Waste Land has a lot going for it, and has a good chance of being a highly popular title born from the endeavours of Michele Caletti and the work of T.S Eliot. A great writer of the past and a great developer of the future have come together and created something memorable. Now that’s a legacy.
- A classic work of literature and a classic style of gaming come together to create a fantastic modern gaming experience.
- A beautiful world which tells a story of its own, alongside the story inspired by the work of T.S Eliot which has been fantastically adapted for the game.
- The open-world of play fits comfortably amongst the game’s retro-style.
- Easy-to-learn controls make the game simple to jump into and fun from the very start.
- The game’s vast variety of adversaries and challenges keep things interesting and make the game consistently exciting to play.
- Numerous types of weapons and items vary your own character’s abilities and allow you to enhance your prospects in conquering your quest!
- There is no traditional progression system in the game, which makes your extensive combat efforts seem a little fruitless in the end.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.