Cast your mind back to 1988 – if you can – and remember the delights of Wasteland. Released in the days before Windows even existed and the Apple II was one of the most desirable pieces of home computing hardware around. Wasteland garnered many fans, fans who went on to play Interplay’s delightfully dark spiritual sequel Fallout and Fallout 2. Since then, Brian Fargo’s original apocalyptic RPG epic has sat unloved. The limelight passed onto Fallout and then Bethesda changed the model into a lush open-world shooter instead of the isometric fare the classic utilised. Now though, 25 years on and 20 years of hard work pushing his idea, Fargo has finally managed to give Wasteland the sequel it deserves thanks to Kickstarter backers.
Brian’s fully aware that if it wasn’t for Kickstarter he, and his team from InXile, wouldn’t be sat in a small room with us at Gamescom showing off the latest build of Wasteland 2. It’s incredibly humbling to hear that the entire team want nothing more than to create a game that both lives up to the Wasteland legacy, but also delivers exactly what the fans want.
And that’s what the team has done. The HUD of your team stats, inventory, map, compass, notes, descriptions etc, is all fully customisable; you can put it wherever you want on screen – if you even want it at all. They’ve also painstakingly written novel-like descriptions for your environments and encounters, aping back to those text-adventure quests of the early days of PC RPGs and the style that the original Wasteland game was loved for. In essence, there’s just so much here that shows that InXile really care about what you as a player, customer and fan really want out of their game.
But lets not get bogged down in the fan service and loyalty that InXile has for Wasteland, instead lets talk about what you can expect from it. Any backer of the project on Kickstarter has probably been following its progress rather closely, but it’s wonderful to see that the soul of the original hasn’t been sullied despite being modernised. Not only is Wasteland a beautiful game to look at, with its modern veneer alongside the isometric view that the classic provided. The maps are also absolutely huge, providing plenty of space to explore and to experiment with combat, and hidden almost everywhere is a quest or side mission that you wouldn’t expect to come across.
Fans will also be pleased to know that these quests are still like that of the original. Their dark and morbidly funny lines of dialogue work even better than they did before thanks to the injection of some internet memes to ground this gritty adventure in a reality we’re all rather familiar with. One instance saw the need to clear a minefield for our band of Desert Rangers to pass through unharmed. Naturally, this meant tempting across a screaming goat from the other side, and yes, they’re voiced by the wonderful screaming goats of YouTube fame. Another instance saw us come across an ill bed-ridden woman who’s husband had disappeared when looking for medicine. In the playthrough we saw the decision was made to… euthanize… the lady – at which point her husband turned up from his expedition. And, there’s no karma bar or good-evil split anywhere here, it’s just completely down to you and how you want to play.
However, in both these instances there’s plenty of ways to approach the situation. Nobody made us kill the woman, or her husband upon his return. We could have just as easily left her, or if our medical/surgical skill was high enough, just healed her on the spot. Indeed, nobody actually made us partake in the quest at all. You can just as happily leave the quest and later on you may have run into the husband on his errands, or perhaps found that upon healing the woman she repaid you later in the game if you crossed paths. Killing merchants or other NPCs means they won’t appear anywhere else again, and that could mean you close off quests for yourself altogether. Essentially, InXile are aiming to craft an adventure where no two people will have the same experience, and you can go back and find that things have changed on a different playthrough. In essence, there’s just so much content to see here that you certainly won’t see it all in one playthrough.
One thing that’s really interesting is that the story of the Red Scorpion Nation, who are the primary desert antagonists, is told through radio transmissions that you pick up while wondering the desert. It’s also how quests are discovered while exploring too as people call out over the radio for help. It’s an incredibly interesting mechanic that adds some more realism to whole exploration of the desert.
Another nice touch is that your Rangers can be accompanied by up to 3 other CNPCs. You’ll encounter these on your journey and there are 20 of them to pick from, and each one has a unique personality and agendas that come through during your time with them. One example given was a drunk who keeps drinking alcohol supplies and generally brings down group morale, but the trade-off comes in having an extra man’s expertise and new missions to undertake as you help him in his agenda.
It’s not just characters that are deep either as the combat is an evolution of the classic system found in Wasteland. You’ll still be able to see dice rolls in the text description menu, so you’re never left in the dark about what you’re doing, but thanks to the immense amount of weapons and their individual levels of customisation, you could be going up against almost anything. Even the different type of ammunition you chose to use had an effect on the damage and accuracy of your attack. Some bullets can cause more impact damage, while others may cause bleed-out, others might be incendiary and some could even affect the drop rate of a sniper bullet or the amount of recoil from an individual weapon. It’s just mind boggling how InXile has managed to cram so much into one game. And don’t worry, you’ve still got your different weapon classes, character classes and skills to learn and level up as you see fit.
While Brian’s announced release date of October 2013 isn’t far away at all, it looks as if Wasteland 2 is shaping up to be everything and more than anyone could have expected. It’s a shame it’s taken this long for a sequel to one of the best PC games ever to actually arrive. But by god am I glad it’s finally coming. From what we’ve seen so far, if you loved the original, or even Brian’s similar works with Fallout, then you’ll love what Wasteland 2 has to offer. All you Kickstarter backers out there won’t be disappointed at all.