Post-Apocalyptic looting that lives up to its legacy.
Starting it’s journey way back in the first quarter of 2012 as a KickStarter funding Wasteland 2 has finally released. Serving as a successor to the game that originally inspired the Fallout series, Wasteland 2 certainly has a lot to live up to. And not just in the eyes of its fans, but also to the legacy it belongs to. After getting a hands-on impressions of the game during its earlier stages through Steam Early Access. My initial feelings towards the game where kind of a mixed bag in what the game had to offer.
Needless to say nothing has changed since then, or swayed my feelings in either direction regarding my enjoyability within game, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. The earlier build of the game had already nailed certain gameplay mechanics and they worked well for what their purpose was to serve. On the other hand the games accessibility towards newcomers is something that’s largely off-putting, and doesn’t make any attempt to be user-friendly to say the least.
The game’s overall theme is directly tied in to it’s gameplay mechanics as well as its choice of user-selected character attributes. Playing as a top-down, turn-based RPG, the player must build a team of post-apocalyptic survivors, assign them attributes and skills that would be put to use within the game’s world, and fulfil a given set of quests tied to it’s storyline.
" The earlier build of the game had already nailed certain gameplay mechanics and they worked well for what their purpose was to serve."
While it’s safe to say the storyline is fairly absent itself, and at this point in time it’s practically a norm for top-down RPGs to fail in this aspect as a trade-off for a well-structured and focused set of gameplay mechanics. As solid as these mechanics are and actually function when playing the game, the way in which the player is taught via the use of hints and tips doesn’t seem to be well put together.
Hints and brief tutorials are displayed to the right portion of the screen and make themselves known upon discovery and requirement. And in any other game, one would agree this plays out well. However, as neat as this implementation is the game’s approach to the timing of such things seems to be a case of “I’ll help when I want to and repeat objectives as an alternative”. For skilled players within this genre of games this may work well, as it would to those who enjoy mind-numbing backtracking in the hopes they’ll stumble across something they may have missed.
But after spending the best part of twenty five minutes trying to find a solution to fix a slum-ridden radio tower located within the best part of the deserted nowhere, it was time to give the game a break. The game makes an attempt to hint players with objectives and solutions but ultimately comes of as annoying and repetitive. While I personally have no problem with difficult games and when given the preferred genre I’m an advocate of it.
" However, as neat as this implementation is the game's approach to the timing of such things seems to be a case of "I'll help when I want to and repeat objectives as an alternative". "
But when a game confuses difficulty with frustrating it becomes a real problem. Even on lower difficulty settings the game seems more adapt to skilled and familiar players, and this was certain given the randomness of enemy difficulty levels that had me slain within the first five minutes of my very first playthrough, while fairing better on my second attempt at the game.
One thing that did interest me about this state of failure however was the incorporation of Perma-death should you forget to save your progress. After spending a good duration of devoting twenty minutes of my life creating interesting back-stories for each of my four characters, and applying a visual theme that works well with the type of person they would be in the game.
My second playthrough had me safe-betting on random character creations should I face a miserable and untimely death the second time around. Regardless of my own personal gripes with the game and some non-friendly issues for newcomers this isn’t to say Wasteland 2 is a bad game, it just appears to have a niche audience. The progression in which the game has made from its earlier stages in to its final release doesn’t appeared to have changed much both on the surface and in terms of gameplay.
Much of what was already built has just been polished with the addition of missions as well as refinement, where the game proved to be buggy in certain instances. The game itself plays out as an RPG with turn-based actions within its many combat sequences. Taking turns through each of your four players via the use of Actions Points, these allow your characters to move around a preset grid in order to attack your opponents.
"The game itself plays out as an RPG with turn-based actions within its many combat sequences."
As the player is free to move in any direction and end that character’s turn at will, unused Action Points will be allocated towards the selected character’s next turn. Speed being one of the many skills in the game has a direct affect on how much movement can be accomplished within the given turn.
As your character’s Action Points are also a requirement for using attacks, thinking a step ahead in terms of movement and battling is a must, and should be kept balanced. Where the use of Action Points work out so well lies within the player working as a team with his or her characters. Seeing as the player is given up to four characters to work with, creating characters that are well adapt to a different number of situations in both combat and environment interaction is a case of thinking strategic, as well as common sense.
Different characters possessing different skills from the another will have the player overcoming obstacles and situations should they contain the right skills and attributes necessary for the situation. As the player is rewarded with skill points while they progress and accomplish certain things, customizing your characters as you make your way through the game to better equip them for new situations does prove to be handy.
This also means the game can feel like a real grind at times. More often than none. Skills and attributes that can be applied to the player’s characters consist of skills mapped to knowledge of the environment and survival, such as computer science and mechanical repair, general skills such as brute force and leadership. As well as skills that can be allocated to weapons and combat scenarios. Visual aspects of the game do well to match its level of customization. Characters appearances for example provide enough depth and options to give distinction between characters and NPCs in the world.
"Skills and attributes that can be applied include skills mapped to knowledge of the environment and survival such as computer science and mechanical repair, general skills such as brute force and leadership."
Although players are essentially mixing and matching preset choices of garments, skin colour, armour, and body markings, there’s enough to keep players interesting. On the other hand, the graphical fidelity of the Wasteland 2 isn’t going win any Oscars for the most visually stunning game of the year, and it doesn’t need to.
It’s visually pleasing enough and is just about on par with most games within the genre of top-down RPGs. Where the game’s visuals prove to be a mixed bag is within its actual world. Wasteland 2 certainly captures the post-apocalyptic theme of its world and the small details within its environment present a well crafted game.
Where this falls short however, primarily in the first section of the game is where certain environments just feel dull, empty and uninteresting, it makes the players time navigating this world feel like a choir. This small let-down goes hand-in-hand with the very first mission of the game, which essentially opens up as a mediocre fetch quest. Other missions within the game make up for this as they certainly find good ways of making use of your character’s skills. On the subject of character skills and the use of progression and upgrading, weapon selection and item usage is also something the player will be attending to often.
Traders are stationed throughout different sections in the game and most standard to RPGs the player is able to trade and buy equipment here, and different characters within your team will have different interaction scenarios with the game’s NPCs. This is something that can cause one of two things when deciding how to deal with a possible combat scenario. Some NPCs within the game may present themselves as a threat towards the player, and demand a fee to avoid a violent situation. While addressing the same group of people with a different team member can lead to different results.
"On the subject of character skills and the use of progression and upgrading, weapon selection and item usage is also something the player will be attending to often."
The game certainly succeeds on giving the player choice and really making them think in order to stay one step ahead and deliver the element and immersion of survival. Keeping track of each person within the player’s team is simplified through the game’s on-screen menu.
Team mates are placed as selectable icons located to the bottom of the screen and each ability, weapon, and item is available to use and switch whether the player is engaging in battle or not. The current mission objectives line up next to this character HUD screen just to the right, and make use of the game’s apocalyptic theme by displaying these objectives in the form of dusty and riddled type writer paper.
Lastly the player is able to use a radio should they need to contact other characters in the game in relation to the current goals and objectives. Wasteland 2 attempts to give the player as much screen real estate as possible and tries not to overwhelm the player with convoluted text and drama unrelated to the player’s missions. Keyboard bindings are re-mappable as expected and default game-settings prove to be fairly acceptable.
Wasteland 2 is a game well worthy of the legacy it was born from and as an RPG it’s certainly a good game. But given the traits, common nature, and similarities that all RPGs share it’s hard for the game to stand out as something spectacular amongst the large number of other games within this category. Good is as far as it goes for this game, and if the post-apocalyptic theme and love for the 26 year old original are the appeals that this game stands on, then it’s highly worth the experience.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Attention to detail within the game's world in reference to its theme and interesting choices in combat.
Grinding and repetition can be frustrating at times and varying instances of unbalanced difficulty situations contradict the game's choice for an overall difficulty setting
Wasteland 2 certainly knows its audience and I slightly get the feeling it's relying on this for its awareness. As an actual game however, it doesn't feel fresh or new and only seems to stand out due to its theme of being set in the post-apocalypse.