Wasteland 2 review

wasteland 2 a

We’re conditioned to think in gaming that the longer you have to wait for something, the worse it will be. Wasteland 2 took 26 years to arrive, so it should be awful, right?

Well, it’s not. At all. In fact, Wasteland 2 is everything you’d want from a sequel to one of the most-loved cRPGs of the Eighties – faithful to the original, bringing back old elements that will bring a smile to any fan’s face, while at the same time modernising the experience to make it more palatable and easier to use than the less user friendly experience of the past.

But Wasteland 2 isn’t just a game for the old fans – this is a role-playing game that any newcomer can get involved with and enjoy. It’s an equal opportunities cRPG, designed with care and written with flair, rich in choice and consistent in tone (that being serious and dark, but also funny and satirical) – basically it’s the game fans wanted.

And not just Wasteland fans – any fan of games that aren’t beige and homogenised by the large publishers will find something to like in Wasteland 2. You take control of a team of Desert Rangers, tasked with (trying to) bring order and justice to a world that has, quite literally, been blown up. Dozens of missions with even more choices are laid out in front of you, and it’s up to the player to make their team, choose their approach and talk to others exactly how they want to. The game wastes little time before it throws you out… well, into the wastes.

From that moment, you’re free to do as you please. In fact, from before that you’re free to do as you please. Try digging up the grave of the recently-deceased Ranger you start the game next to – see what happens if you do it a couple of times. Yes folks, you can turn the Desert Rangers against you – thus shutting off the entire main questline for the whole game. That’s the kind of freedom of choice that’s been lost in major releases, and it’s great to be able to absolutely, almightily cock everything up. Just remember to save a lot and it’ll all be fine.

Anyway, once you’re out there Wasteland 2 is unforgiving – though not impossible. It’s certainly hard, and there’ll be more than enough times where a jammed rifle is the only reason you see the game over screen. But there are just as many times when your sniper losing his cool and shooting wildly does critical damage to an onrushing cannibal. Swings and roundabouts, and all that jazz. And it really does make each and every fight seem like it matters – this certainly isn’t a JRPG that spams you with random battles.

While you have the chance to avoid or otherwise evade these encounters, you’ll find yourself choosing to jump into them quite often. Why? Well, loot of course.

Wasteland 2 doesn’t drown the player in equipment, ammunition and medkits – you’ll have enough of all of them, but only if you actively go to liberate items from (often aggressive) wastelanders. There are hundreds of weapons and thousands of other items, from the hidden copy of something called ‘Wasteland’ you can find, through new pairs of trousers and scrap metal, on to amazing energy weapons that literally melt your enemies. There’s a lot to be found, and a surprising amount of it is useful.

Though admittedly a lot of it is instantly sold to any trader you can find, as in any other loot-heavy game. This typical drive for loot joins the aspects mentioned – the freedom of choice and exploration, the team you create, the way you approach obstacles (physical and metaphorical) – in making Wasteland 2 a captivating experience, and one that can easily chew through your free time if you let it. Sometimes even if you don’t let it. It has depth in abundance, a shining personality and an atmosphere so thick you can almost feel the sand in the back of your throat.

It is a throwback in so many ways to the cRPGs of old, but that was a winning formula then – and now it’s been updated to modern standards.

But you’re going to find issues with the game, much as we’re effusive in the praise. It doesn’t look amazing, and very much has the feel of being a game made in Unity. But then, it works, so looking great doesn’t matter – and there’s more than enough going on in the world, from the details and environmental elements to the music and excellent sound, to draw you in.

It doesn’t look fantastic, but with an environment as thick as this it simply doesn’t matter. There are also clunky UI elements – navigating your inventory is irritating, and swapping items between characters just isn’t fluid. When you’re doing it so much through the game, it needs to be fluid. But as with the looks, it just doesn’t really matter. It’s a minor inconvenience at most, and one that’s probably going to be ironed out with future updates.

Beyond these minor points, there’s really not much to complain about. Wasteland 2 is everything it was promised to be.

It’s a fantastic game; an echo of the past that simultaneously feels (in the most part) contemporary, and a game made with such a clear love, passion and vision behind it that you can’t help but feel its 26-year gestation period actually helped. If we only get one or two more Kickstarter-funded games of a similar quality to Wasteland 2, we’ll be spoilt.

Brilliant stuff.