REVIEWS

WASTELAND 2

"In the beginning,there was Interplay. Interplay became Wasteland. In times past, Fallout was made in the image and likeness of Wasteland. All was well, and the Prophet Fargo was restored. But he rested too much, and the spirit of his creation was redeemed, and he strayed into paths unholy and very console and false. In the fullness of time, the Prophet was forced to act. So, after a brief reconciliation with the believers who never lost their devotion to the Faith and the Idea, despite the lures, empty promises and the corrosive influence of the Bethesda plague, in the year 2014 the Prophet married the two dynasties, and became Wasteland 2. And it was all GREAT. Amen."

~Excerpt from the prayer book of the Church of St. Purist of RPG~

 The above religious text perfectly and reverently sums up the whole atmosphere surrounding the recent release of Wasteland 2. The product of a highly successful kickstarter campaign (since, as Fargo himself explains in the masterful video that accompanied the kickstarter launch, no major publisher was willing to fund the creation of the title without ridiculously unreasonable demands and tweaks to the basic concept), it is theoretically "just" the direct sequel to the first Wasteland, 26 long years after its release. Yet it also manages to close a huge circle, essentially being a mash-up of Wasteland and Fallout (both "children" of Fargo, after all), with the world and setting of the former masterfully blended with the gameplay and ironically black humor of the latter.

So let's dig up the Desert Ranger hat and star out of the dustbin for the glorious return to the radioactive lands of Arizona so that we can finally judge if the result of the above coupling manages to justify the expectations.

wasteland-snap1Visually, however, this whole scene is reminiscent of something...

First, a brief history lesson for those who are completely unaware of the setting and story of the first Wasteland. We are set in desolate Arizona, USA, in a world that has been "purged" by purifying nuclear fire after a brief war in which Earth's nuclear powers simultaneously launched 90% of their arsenal. The focus is on the Desert Rangers, a group of men and women who survived the holocaust and have vowed to be a beacon of order and legitimacy in the inhospitable wasteland, helping in any way they can the scattered communities of survivors, countering the typical bandit attacks, but also collecting as many remnants of old technology as possible that can be salvaged (think something like Fallout's Brotherhood of Steel but with a decidedly more human face, without the isolationist and techno-fanatic background). As the story of the first Wasteland unfolded, the team of Rangers we controlled managed, after a hard fought battle, to successfully counter the threat of an out-of-control AI in the sanctuary of the Cochise base, which had caused nuclear war in order to wipe out humanity and colonize the planet with Cyborgs.

The events of Wasteland 2 take place 15 years after the conclusion of the above story, with the Desert Rangers having changed leadership, and the members of the team that faced the above threat now being the senior officers of the organization. Our story begins somewhere around here, in a not-so-happy atmosphere, as our team members, as new Desert Rangers recruits, attend the funeral of Ace, a much-loved officer of the organization (and known to oldtimers as a recruitable NPC in the first Wasteland) who was killed under mysterious circumstances while performing his last mission in the desert before retiring.

wasteland-snap2"Here lies Ace. Born a man, died a Desert Ranger". From the game's masterful and super cult live-action introduction video

After the typical tearful salutes to the dead, our team decides to take the baptism of fire by jumping right into the deep end: the first missions assigned to us are to go to the scene of the murder and find clues as to who Ace's killers are, but also to complete the mission he left in the middle. And so begins our journey into the Arizona wasteland, a journey that will bring us face to face with dangers both familiar and unfamiliar, a journey of violence and diplomacy, a journey of choices and consequences, a journey that above all has one common denominator: the status and reputation of the Desert Rangers as the sovereign law enforcement agency and the protectors of the Wasteland.

Already from the party creation screen (we can create 1 to 4 characters for our party from scratch or choose between the ready-made archetypes) the connection with Fallout is obvious, as Attributes is essentially a slightly modified version of the well-known S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. Clearly similar in philosophy is the Skills system, which provides our characters with abilities for all tastes: many separate skills for Melee or Ranged weaponry, skills for thieving (unfortunately the game does not have a Stealth system, as according to Fargo the implementation of it originally intended to be included in the game was quite unstable and created many complications in gameplay and visuals), for computer scientists, for doctors, for engineers, for diplomats (with the 3 "diplomatic" skills being succinctly named "Smart Ass", "Kiss Ass" and "Kick Ass" - you can guess the philosophy and usefulness of each skill from the name), but also skills for general living and survival in the wasteland.

wasteland-snap3There is of course the masterful "Toaster Repair" Skill, a truly underrated skill in a world without toast. Because, you never know what you'll find inside a broken toaster!

The same retro feelings arise after the first moments of our party's tour through the world of Wasteland 2. Moving our party through the maps is done exactly the way we would move in an Infinity Engine game, the UI is 95% the same as Fallout (even the beloved "DM/narrator" window makes its reappearance in one corner), while the same goes for the turn-based battle system, with those involved in battle waiting their turn based on their initiative and choosing to move around the battle "chessboard", attack or use a skill or item by spending their Action Points.

The dialogue system is a combination (count how many times this word will be mentioned in this review and win a random promo bag when the author is discharged from the army) of Fallout and Infinity Engine. Both in terms of appearance/UI, except of course that our dialogue choices and the use of diplomatic Skills are done by selecting Keywords instead of entire sentences (but despite this, the full depiction of questions from our in-game characters is still done normally - e.g. if we select the keyword "Help" as a dialogue choice then the dialogue UI will fully form the sentence "You mentioned that you needed help earlier. Anything we can do about it?" etc.), but also in terms of sheer volume of text. Wasteland 2 contains a LOT of written text, going head-to-head with Infinity Engine games. This might put off the more "casual" audience who are used to the "dialogue is just there to give you a break for half a minute between battles" mentality that characterizes 90% of modern games, but who said Wasteland 2 is by design a game aimed at casual users?

wasteland-snap4Indirect proof of the above: in-game reference to the forum names of the admins of the well-known hardcore site "No Mutants Allowed", as the (dead) members of the "Angry Men" gang!

In light of the above, it's not particularly surprising that the World Map travel in Wasteland 2 is of the same mindset as the corresponding mode in Fallout. Upon entering the World Map, our party appears as a star on the screen and we simply click to select the location we wish to move to. Known locations that we haven't visited yet appear with an "X" on the map, and if we hit another unexplored location such as an unknown town, hidden ammo cache or an oasis, the new location pops up in front of us once we get close to it. Keep the mention of the oases in mind, as they are the "twist" on the old-fashioned Fallout travel. Our Party carries a certain amount of water with it, which is consumed as we travel and can be replenished in wells/pumps found in various locations around the world, or in oases found on the World Map. If the water supply reaches zero as we travel, then our party will sustain damage steadily until we find a spring or until we die ingloriously from dehydration. Needless to say, the World Map also allows us to experience various random encounters, either hostile or friendly like a hawker, or other more...intriguing events.

wasteland-snap5The map of post-apocalyptic Arizona in all its glory. The second half of the game takes place in... another state, but let's not spoil the plot

"Well, dude, why are you sitting there writing all this instead of just throwing out a "WASTELAND 2 IS THE SAME AS FALLOUT" and getting it over with?", someone reading this could argue. And I answer: but precisely because the fact that Wasteland 2 is... Fallout! The setting may be different and the numerous hints and references to people, places and situations of the first game may make it obvious and clear that this is a sequel to Wasteland for the most part (that's what was missing), bringing the typical tear of sweet nostalgia to the face of the hard-headed RPG veteran who remembers his youth, but everything else is here: the isometric visuals, the UI, the character development, the turn-based combat system, the choices/implications in quests, the humor, the clever and lengthy dialogue, the size of the world. In 2014, with the rights to the Fallout license held by Bethesda, and since all of us angry purists can hope for is a New Vegas-style compromise, here comes Brian Fargo riding in on his white radioactive steed and offers us a redemption. He takes the game that Fallout was based on, and creates a sequel to it that is as FALLOUT as a game can be without Fallout in the name. Is it possible to capture this sublime circumstance with a simple "IT'S THE SAME AS FALLOUT"?

On the back of the first Fallout's box, the phrase "Remember Wasteland?" was written upside-down, just to emphasize the game's status as the spiritual successor to Wasteland. We're thankfully in the happy position of having found a title that can proudly carry the tagline "REMEMBER FALLOUT?". And how fitting indeed that that title is Wasteland 2, Brian Fargo's second child: As the first Fallout came into the world in the year 1997 to teach what it meant to be a "computer RPG with balls" to a market that had begun to associate the term RPG with the terms "hack-slash" and "Diablo Clone", and so in 2014 the cycle comes full circle with the crowd-funded Wasteland 2 coming into the AAA producer market with a budget of tens of millions and reminding us of the essence of things, that the soul of an RPG is not in the glossy graphics, flashy explosions and unending stream of DLC. Coming full circle, we come to the tagline of this review. It's true: Wasteland 2 is the Fallout 3 we deserved but never got.

"And wait till you see what's coming with the new Torment," a voice echoes in the background...

 

Wasteland 2 is available in Greece by Enarxis Dynamic Media.

Pros

  • Hardcore RPG aesthetic
  • Plenty of Skills for every kind of character
  • Different options even in the quests of the main story
  • Many references to the events of the first Wasteland, for the nostalgia factor
  • Smart and long dialogues with plenty of text
  • Kick in the face to those who still claim that a turn-based isometric RPG isn't viable in 2014
  • It's more FALLOUT than the recent Fallout!

Cons

  • We'll have to wait for future patches to implement some nice features
  • Some small glitches that escaped testing

RATING - 94%

94%

Kostas Kallianiotis

Archaeologist/Historian, RPG Player, Motörhead fan, Ewe Consumer.

15 Comments

  1. Δάκρυα χαράς και συγκίνησης, ωσάν αυτά του avatar μου, διατρέχουν το πρόσωπο μου. Γκουνέλι, με συγκίνησες ρε μπαγάσα :p.
    Το παιχνίδι μοιάζει να βγήκε μέσα από μια άλλη εποχή. Μια εποχή που η “ΑΑΑ” βιομηχανία και οι παρατρεχάμενοι σφουγγοκωλάριοι της προσπαθούν να μας πείσουν ότι τελείωσε, ότι τα φανταχτερά, αλλά άψυχα δημιουργήματα που ξερνάνε το ένα πίσω από το άλλο, είναι τέχνη.

  2. Γκουνελιόν με δάκρυα συγκίνησης γονατίζω πλάι στο κουτί του παιχνιδιού και αφήνω την ψυχή και την κοινωνική ζωή μου στο έλεος των 100 ωρών του 🙂

  3. Πολύ ωραίο review, μέσα από τις δυσκολίες της θητείας. Με βοήθησες να καταλάβω τι να περιμένω, τη στιγμή που δεν έχω παίξει fallout / wasteland. Με ανησύχησε λίγο το θέμα κειμένου, ελπίζω να μη μου πεταχτούν τα μάτια έξω, αλλά θα το τσιμπήσω το παιχνίδι. Φαίνεται ότι αξίζει!

  4. Μερακλιδικο ρηβιου Κώστα! Μερακλιδικο άλλωστε και το παιχνίδι. Είθε ο Άγιος Αρπιτζας -Μεγάλη η Χάρη του- να μας κόβει ημέρες λοιπών υποχρεώσεων και να μας δίνει ώρες γκεημινγκ για τέτοια διαμάντια!
    Η εισαγωγή σου τασπασε μπαηδεγουεη!!! Thumbs up!!!

  5. Ευχαριστούμε για την παρουσίαση Hellion (και σε τι συνθήκες, έ?), απολαυστική, μερακλίδικη και μου τρέχουν τα σάλια λέμε! Must play σίγουρα για τους cRPG φανς!

  6. Ακολουθεί βομβαρδισμός:
    1) Πως βρήκες τη δυσκολία; Από διάρκεια τι λέει;
    2) Οι χαρακτήρες που χρησιμοποιούν melee προσέγγιση μειονεκτούν πολύ σε σχέση με τους ranged;
    3) Είναι όλα τα skills όντως χρήσιμα ή καταλήγουμε σε 5-6 από αυτά με τα υπόλοιπα να είναι φιοριτούρες;
    4) Τα stats είναι ισορροπημένα ή έχουμε φαινόμενα τύπου fallout 1 (π.χ. int+dex build με sniper rifle που κάνει περίπατο);
    5) Ραδιενέργεια υπάρχει στον κόσμο του W2; 🙂

  7. 1) Έχει 4 επίπεδα δυσκολίας το γκεημ (ανέβασα και σχετικό screenshot). Τα ανώτερα είναι όντως παλούκια ως προς την ΑΙ και τα skill rolls. Αναφορικά με τη διάρκεια… ένα πρώτο playthrough θα σου πάρει άνετα 30-40 ώρες. Αλλά σηκώνεται και 2ο-3ο playthrough σίγουρα.

    2) στην αρχή ίσως ναι αν βάλεις πχ μονο 1 πόντο στο bladed weapons, αλλά στην πορεία γίνεται πλήρως βιώσιμο και σπέρνει πόνο και κριτικαλς.

    3) όλα χρησιμεύουν, ακόμα και τα φαινομενικά πιο άχρηστα. πχ υπάρχει σκιλλ που σου επιτρέπει να κάνεις τα ζωα npcs friendly προς εσένα.Φαινομενικά ειναι κλαην μαην, αλλά θα σε βοηθήσει να αποφύγεις πολλες άσκοπες μαχες, ενώ υπάρχουν μέχρι και quests που το χρειάζονται. Γενικά καλό είναι να μοιράσεις αν όχι όλα τοτε σίγουρα τσ περισσότερα skills ανάμεσα στα party members σου, σίγουρα θα χρησιμεύσουν.

    4) ναι υπάρχει μεγαλύτερη ισορροπία σε σχέση με το Fallout. Τα attributes δίνουν σαφώς μικρότερα bonuses εξ αρχής στα υψηλά levels, αλλά όλα τα builds είναι πλήρως λειτουργικά το καθένα με τον τρόπο του ανεξάρτητα με το που επιλέγεις να εστιάσεις.

    5) αν δεις στο screenshot του world map στο reel, εμφανίζονται κάτι σημάδια ραδιενέργειας. Αυτά έχουν πάνω τους ένα νούμερο, που υποδεικνύει την ισχύ τους και το τι λεβελ στολές προστασίας πρέπει να αγοράσεις για να τα διασχίζεις χωρίς να πεθάνεις. Οπότε πχ αναγκαστικά στην αρχή δεν μπορείς να σουλατσαρεις προς την high-level περιοχή της Αριζόνα επειδή έχει γύρω της πεδία ισχύος 4 ενώ η στολή που έχεις είναι λεβελ 1 ή 2 στις αρχές.

  8. Να σου πω την αλήθεια, έχω χαλαστεί λίγο. Όσα πιο πολλά διαβάζω σχετικά με το παιχνίδι, τόσο πιο πολύ μου φέρνει πιο κοντά στο Fallout Tactics παρά στα Fallout – μόνο μάχες, μάχες, μάχες.
    Στα του σεναρίου τι γίνεται; Ξεδιπλώνεται η ιστορία ενώ οι επιλογές που κάνεις έχουν επίπτωση στην ιστορία ή στο (στα) φινάλε;
    Διάβασα πάντως πως στο χάρτη δεν υπάρχουν special encounters, ισχύει; Εκτός και αν τα βάλουν και αυτό στο patch (το οποίο βγαίνει μάλλον σήμερα).

  9. Random encounters μια χαρά υπάρχουν ήδη από το τελευταίο build της early access. Πχ προχθές πέτυχα εναν πλανόδιο έμπορο που ήθελε να του δώσεις ένα αντικείμενο ρουχισμού για να εμπορευθει μαζί σου, και αν έφευγες απλά χωρίς να πάρεις τίποτα σου λέει “”you wasted my time”” και σου επιτίθεται, χαμός. Υπάρχουν και τα τυπικά εχθρικά encounters βέβαια, raiders, robots, σκυλιά κτλ.

    Ως προς τις επιλογές και το πως επηρεάζουν το φινάλε, αυτό γίνεται και με τον κλασικό τροπο του στυλ “””συμφιλιωσα τις δύο περιοχές αντί να τις αφήσω να πολεμήσουν μεταξύ τους””” αλλά και παίζοντας απλά το game με συγκεκριμένο τρόπο. Πχ επειδή οι πάντες στο game είναι killable, αν αρχίσεις να σκοτώνεις αθώους θα σε αποκυρήξουν οι Rangers και θα σε κυνηγάνε, με αποτέλεσμα να μην μπορείς να βιώσεις το “”καλό”” φινάλε.

    Την σύγκριση με το Tic-tacs δεν θα την έλεγα και τόσο ακριβή. Σίγουρα υπάρχουν αρκετές μάχες, αλλά αφενός δεν μονοπωλούν το gameplay (μπορεί και να περάσει καμιά ώρα παιχνιδιού χωρίς να πολεμήσεις καν πχ), αφετέρου κατα περιπτωσεις μπορουν και να αποφευχθουν με το καταλληλο skill. Παντως οπως και να το κάνουμε και το πρώτο Wasteland είχε αρκετές μάχες, οπότε δεν μπορούσαν να κάνουν ξαφνικά μια ένοπλη οργάνωση σαν τους desert rangers πασιφιστές.

  10. Βασικά, έλεγα για “special encounters” – αυτά τα κουλά των Fallout 1&2 όπως τα συντρίμια του UFO ή την πατημασιά του Τ-Rex. Αυτό που λες ότι οι μάχες δεν μονοπωλούν το gameplay μου ακούγεται πολύ ευχάριστο. Η δομή των φινάλε είναι όπως στα Fallout δλδ, σου λέει τι έγινε με την κάθε περιοχή που επισκέφτηκες κλπ;

  11. Ωραιο κειμενο.
    Εχω παιξει ενα 6ωρακι μεχρι τωρα και μου αρεσει πολυ (εκανα AGCenter, καθαρισα το νεκρο πλεον Highpool, πηρα εκδικηση και παω να βρω τον Red). Σε φρεσκαδα, παρουσιαση, δυσκολια, πρωτοτυπια και μηχανισμους ειναι μικρο μπροστα στο Divinity OS παντως.

  12. Πραγματικά, ευχαριστήθηκα πολύ το review, ελπίζω να κάνω το ίδιο και με το παιχνίδι κάποια στιγμή.

  13. Μόνο που κάποια bugs δεν είναι και τόσο μικρά 🙁 Όμορφο review και ναι..μας έρχεται και το Torment:D

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