Wasteland 2 is the latest game by Brian Fargo, the creator of the original Fallout series and the game definitely borrows heavily from its spiritual successor. As with the original Fallout games, Wasteland 2 set in a post-apocalyptic world and plays as a isometric, turn based RPG.
Wasteland 2 puts you in command you of a squad of four fully customisable primary characters, with the ability to recruit a further three companions to join your party. You're encouraged to shape their backstories, craft their skills, and choose their religions, so that you might have a cohesive unit. While the squad seems big, it's necessary given the massive array of skills available and the need develop your party into specialists if you expect to bring justice to the wasteland.
Wasteland 2 stays true to the spirit of prior Fallout games, and if you’re familiar with the series you will see instant similarities with gameplay, graphics, text and story. However, rather than feeling like a reboot, Wasteland 2 innovates sufficiently (and sufficient time has passed since Fallout 2) to make for a genuinely good gaming experience.What I liked best about Wasteland 2 is that incorporates the best elements of old school gaming into a challenging turn based RPG. For me, there are a number of highlights:
1) You choices in Wasteland 2 have lasting consequences and you learn very early on that you can’t solve every problem. Some quests or outcomes are only available if you have built your character certain ways (i.e. a focus on intelligence or a focus on charisma or consistently being an asshole) and other choices are mutually exclusive.
2) Each battle in Wasteland 2 plays out like a game of chess. Different weapons have different effective ranges, and limited AP means moving characters strategically around the map to engage enemies where they have the upper hands becomes crucial. Cover is also surprisingly effective and ammo is both expensive to buy and limited in loot. If you find yourself engaged in prolonged trench warfare you will end up running out of ammo.
3) Enemies are also noticeably smarter than a lot of other games I’ve played recently. The standard approach to difficulty in a lot of games is to simply increase an enemy’s HP and damage i.e. the strategy to take them down always remains the same, you just end up having to do it more times. In contrast the enemies in Wasteland 2 definitely get smarter as difficulty increases; even in Normal you should expect to get flanked or rushed, and have enemies work strategically to run your ammo down.
4) Wasteland 2 also favours old fashioned text driven interaction over voice acting or cut scenes. The game rewards readings, exploring and interacting and the plot and world are heavily influenced by the dialogue choices you make.
While the game has been exceptionally fun, it wouldn't a fair review if I didn't note that the game has a few design flaws. As with any game made on a limited budget (being independently developed with Kick-starter funding) there are clearly some corners that have been cut to deliver the final product.
1) The camera is infuriatingly difficult to control, and the default angle shows more of what’s behind you than where you are going. While personally I had the patience to deal with this I can see this being a major turn off for some gamers. It is genuinely difficult to tell where you are going at times and this is not helped by a very basic map system and consistently vague quest objectives.
2) The conversion from PC screen to console has also been a bit shaky in respect of font and map sizing. While the sizing must have worked well on a PC when you are sitting up close to your screen, text and dialogues is very difficult to read on a TV screen and you find yourself wandering forward quite frequently to work out what's being said. Again, the camera doesn't help as the poor angles often cover up key sections of text.
Despite these few small flaws playing Wasteland 2 is easily one of the best games I’ve played this year and really captures the best elements of what made the original Fallout series so successful.