Back in 2012 InXile Entertainment announced that Wasteland 2 would be a crowd funded project, and the Kickstarter campaign for it went live soon after. InXile aimed to raise $1 million to develop Wasteland 2, and within a mere 24 hours they had already raised $600,000. Evidentially a lot of people had shown interest in a game that was overshadowed by the Fallout series. Almost $3 million is the figure InXile has managed to raise for their ignition of a two decade old game, and so we have to look at what Wasteland 2 offers before its release in a few months time.
Wasteland 2 emerged as an early access title on Steam late last year and I recently had a chance to play this blast-from-the-past title. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world which has deviated from our familiar history where the US and the Soviet Union started throwing nukes at each other in a tale we are all very much familiar with by this point. The aftermath left a lot of the world uninhabitable or turned into an almost inhospitable wasteland. The Desert Rangers, a survivalist group who believe they must help those in need in the wasteland, trek around the south-western US wasteland.
As the player, you create a small band of Desert Rangers who are then thrown out into the wasteland. You can choose from a list of pre-made characters or create your own. Wasteland 2 does feature many western RPG elements, including the free form ability to create your own character (or set of characters) that you project a personality onto. Despite this freedom I personally went for a generic approach with a party of pre-made characters.
The game then drops you into the wasteland with your newly created squad and gives you a mission: find a missing ranger and recover some items of interest in the area. To anyone who is familiar with the original Wasteland, or the early Fallout games, Wasteland 2 will feel familiar in appearance and function. A lot of gameplay time will be spent zig-zagging your way across a world overview map, hoping to come across an oasis to stock up on precious water, or running into hostile raiding parties. This gameplay element has the feeling of a mini-game as getting from A to B on the map often involves taking huge detours due to hazardous zones that can’t be crossed by the party. You can choose the locations you visit, and you do get some freedom in your missions, however, the game does seem to put you on a very straightforward path throughout.
Combat is the central gameplay element in Wasteland 2. Micromanaging your squad and the equipment they carry will have you optimising their combat effectiveness, squeezing out slight stat improvements to give you that extra survival edge. The combat will seem familiar to those that have played the earlier Fallout games, or even those that have played turn-based strategy games such as X-COM, for that matter. Squad member placement on the combat grid is important and using the environment to your advantage can be essential, especially for melee squad members. Decisions and dialogue options are another large aspect of gameplay which will have players making tough choices, or smoothly talking their way out of fights. Dialogue wise, the game seems to be well written with a wide array of voice actors that really do bring the setting of Wasteland 2 alive.
The game does achieve a high level of atmosphere from the onset. Players will feel swept up in a harsh wasteland where brutality and death is around every corner. The soundtrack fits and the art design is simple yet gets the message across. The control layout, and the overall menu layout of the game does feel like a throwback to Wasteland 2’s predecessor games. ‘Archaic’ is the word that kept coming to mind whilst playing Wasteland 2 as the game overall feels like it’s holding on to the past just a little too much. The game is still a ‘beta build’ and $59.99 is the asking price on Steam, weather or not the game is worth the purchase now, or when it’s released sometime in August, I feel relies on weather or not you are a turn-based RPG fan that is craving for a taste of the past. 50+ hours of gameplay is what the final product hopes to achieve which is a sizable amount of game time. The early access version is available on Steam now and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
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