Upon clicking on this article, if your first thoughts were “I don’t remember the first Wasteland game”, “Hold on just one second, a director’s cut?” or “JOHN CENA!!!” (you cannot escape the Cena-memes) then trust me, you’re not the only one. Releasing originally on Commodore 64 and DOS in 1988, Wasteland was a critically acclaimed and highly successful ‘post-apocalyptic’ RPG that was never given a sequel but sure did inspire one of the most successful franchises on the planet. After a 27 year long hiatus, the Desert Rangers are back in Wasteland 2, an adventure that promises to retain the qualities, themes, and lore of its predecessor, whilst giving it a well-deserved rejuvenation.
Welcome to the Wasteland Desert Rangers, let’s fallout!
For those unfamiliar with the original game (or those that can’t cast their minds back far enough), Wasteland followed a group of lawmen & lawwomen known as the Desert Rangers, who were traipsing through the ruins of post apocalyptic Las Vegas as they strive to overcome the threat of cybernetically modified humans and killing machines that threaten the USA; in Wasteland 2 things aren’t too dissimilar. This time round players take control of a new band of rookie Desert Rangers tasked with following a string of mysterious radio signals through the Arizona wastelands after one of your own, Ace, has seemingly been murdered. With an increasing population of mutated humans, giant insects, killer rabbits and downright dastardly bandits just killing for the craic, your task is not an easy one and it’s not too long before a conspiracy and evil plan surfaces making the Rangers humanity’s last hope. Maintaining the classic turn based RPG element from the original, Rangers must fight tactically if they want to survive as once your comrades are dead, they remain dead along with any hopes of the quest being an easy ride. Your choices dramatically affect the game with towns and townsfolk reacting to your deeds or your lack of urgency and priority, so just like real life then, great. At the time of development, Wasteland 2 was the biggest Kickstarter pledge to date, eventually asking for over $2 million, so was all that community funded cash worth the wait?
Playing a turn-based RPG these days for me is incredibly refreshing as it’s perhaps considered too old school these days, however in order to keep the charm that made the original so successful it’s great to see inXile Entertainment to stick to their guns. For RPG enthusiasts weary of trying something new, you’ll be pleased to know that elements you’ve come to expect in your typical RPG are all featured within Wasteland 2, including multiple brutal weapons both sharp and explosive, side quests, perks, skills and a shit ton of recorded dialogue for a totally immersive narrative. As for differences in this Director’s Cut edition of the game, expect to find much more perks and skills on your hands to completely shift how you tackle the wastelands, much more dialogue, new characters and the inclusion of the Vault –Tec Assisted Targeting System from Fallout 3, or ‘Precision Strike’ ability as it’s called to give you an advantage on the battlefield. As for the game’s mechanics, the Director’s Cut has been nicely upgraded, which brings improved visuals, environment textures, and better character models, so it’s good to know that it simply isn’t just a re-release but an actual improvement, which doesn’t happen often. As well as also making the game more balanced in regards to difficulty and combat encounters, the Director’s Cut is certainly an updated and thoroughly improved version from its initial release.
As good as the team has done to give new life to a cherished franchise, it doesn’t come without its issues that make the game very difficult to play, particularly on the Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. As with most RPGs, the narrative relies heavily on dialogue and on-screen text and sadly I couldn’t relax whilst playing Wasteland 2 as the text was just far too small. I like to sit on the edge of my seat for dramatic effect and tension, but I don’t like to do it if it’s because the text is unreadable from where I normally sit, which unfortunately made some key moments and discoveries completely go over my head. Wasteland 2 also suffers from far too many long loading screens that grind all the action and drama to an almost complete standstill. For a title which requires you to discover the country’s regions, extensive backtracking and exploring the ravaged land, it’s disappointing that I was made to stare at the game’s cover art more often than I would have liked to, which killed the momentum and drama that the game does so well at creating. On the flipside, what Wasteland 2 does so well at is genuinely affecting the game depending on your actions, which some games boast but don’t deliver. This isn’t just down to how you tackle a particular quest or which people you save, this also comes down to how efficient you do each objective and which town you set as your priority. Simply visiting each town that crops up in your main storyline will cause other towns to flag up their problems, and failing to reach them in sufficient time, or not at all, will cause the townsfolk to be killed or against the aid of the Desert Rangers and making a later quest a lot more difficult. With this in mind, Wasteland 2 eventually becomes a stressful yet enjoyable game to play as the longer you fanny around the more danger you are possibly inflicting upon yourself, which is an experience I hadn’t been exposed to prior.
Wasteland 2 is a terrific game that makes a triumphant return for the forgotten series and again so with the Directors Cut that improves almost everything from the original release. The game’s narrative is gritty, intricate and exhilarating and one that certainly reminisces of the critically acclaimed Fallout series, where without Wasteland wouldn’t be here today. The game frustratingly suffers from long pauses, no assistance and unreadable dialogue which doesn’t transition well onto a home console, however, either side of these niggles the game is challenging, very enjoyable and full to the brim. If you’ve finished the original Wasteland 2 then there really isn’t much reason to revisit this, however, for newcomers, this is the definitive version of a fantastic old-school RPG and the best place to start.