Recently, the folks over at inXile Entertainment were kind enough to provide us with a beta code for their upcoming game, Wasteland 2. inXile would like us to stress that the game is still an early access beta, and is therefore not completely finished. I ran into a few bugs, glitches, and rough edges, but what I saw looked promising. I can’t wait to see what the game looks like with a bit more polish on it.
The original Wasteland released for PC in 1988. The game also inspired one of the best franchises of the 90’s and their modern day follow-ups, Fallout. Anyone who has played a Fallout game, especially one created before Bethesda bought the series, will feel right at home here. The hyper-violence and dark humor of both series are fully intact.
Wasteland 2 feels like the Mad Max version of Oregon Trail. You start out by creating between one a four characters, using an old school party design system. It might look a little intimidating to some players, but I found it simpler than many RPG character creation systems, especially those from the era of games this one is based on. After making your team, the game then sets you up with some starting gear and off you go.
The game properly begins with a short cutscene that explains who you are and how the world got “jacked up”. You are then given your first quest along with some simple tutorials. While the dialogue was well written during these scenes I found the voice acting somewhat lacking. Since sound design comes very late in development I am hoping that this is just placeholder dialogue that will be replaced in the final version.
The game uses an updated, charming version of an old RPG chat system that has mostly fallen by the wayside. In order to talk to characters you have to select keywords from their dialogue to get more information. In older versions of this dialogue system you generally get hit with a wall of text and just had to guess what the important parts were. In this newer version, the keywords are highlighted, and if you somehow manage to miss them, they also appear on the bottom of the screen when talking to NPCs.
After leaving town you venture into the titular wasteland. This is where things get really interesting. All the traveling in the game takes up water, which serves as fuel. While traversing the wasteland you will experience many random encounters, not all of them combat related. When you do end up picking a fight (usually with bandits or local wildlife) the game enters its turn-based strategy mode. Fights are brutal and satisfying and leave you wanting more. The best comparison would be post-apocalyptic XCom. One of the most interesting things about fighting in Wasteland as opposed to other turn-based games is that not everyone on your team is built for combat. For example, I made a character named The Doctor who’s skills were focused in medicine and charisma. In combat, all he has is a knife and no chance of survival without the rest of the team. When in town however, he becomes my team MVP with his ability to charm the pants off anyone, getting me out of all kinds of tough situations. Having to protect certain members of your team or being very careful how you use them adds a layer of depth and complexity that should be a welcome change of pace for strategy fans. I can see how some new players might feel a bit overwhelmed. Luckily, the game has a solid range of difficulty options which will let you ease back into the saddle or learn how to play for the first time before taking on some of the higher difficulties.
Wasteland 2 is nostalgia at its best. All too often retro or retro-style titles just don’t hold up. They either seem dated or have too many cumbersome holdovers for the sake of authenticity. Wasteland 2 isn’t like that at all. I feel like I’m twelve years old again, sitting down at the ol’ Compaq with Windows 95 just discovering Diablo, Fallout, and Arvenum again. It feels the way I remember those classic strategy games feeling, which is the highest praise I can give a game aiming to revive an underappreciated genre.
Mike Bertrand is an Associate Writer for MONG. He spends most days plugging in ethernet cables for the technically challenged and hoping for a nuclear holocaust of his very own. Assuming his Twitter account is still active during the end of days you can follow him here.