Set in post-apocalyptic Arizona, Wasteland 2 offers a fun, modern CRPG experience and the Director’s Cut for PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One features gameplay improvements and new voice overs and lighting effects. Playing as a fresh group of Desert Rangers, the game starts by tasking you with a murder to solve. From the beginning, you’re pretty much able to do whatever you want. You are free to explore (and probably die) anywhere you can reach.
The game quickly gives you two paths to take for the story in the form of two separate distress calls. Choosing one over the other has far reaching consequences and will change the experience you have at the one you didn’t choose. These effects help reinforce the fact that your decisions matter. The story changes based on every decision you make, good and bad. The world inXile has created for this game is terrible, in the best way possible. It’s a world that seems to have lost all hope. People try to cling to any semblance of life before the catastrophe while they deal with bandits, radiation, and scarce supplies. Everyone is trying to survive in their own way and your squad will have a major impact on the future of the Arizona wasteland.
The wasteland can be a dangerous place and as a Desert Ranger, you are prepared. You can start the game with a premade squad of Rangers or create your own. After playing for a few hours and learning the game with the premade squad, I quickly made my own and created a team that suited my play style better. The character creation is really fun and there are some interesting ways to build characters.
You have Attributes, Skills, and Perks. There is also the option of giving your characters a Quirk, available only at creation. Attributes are the usual RPG kind, with things like Strength, Coordination, Charisma, and Luck. The attributes all affect something, whether it be the number of Action Points a character has or how quickly can react or deal damage. Skills are what really matter. Skills have three categories: Weapon Skills, Knowledge Skills, and General Skills. Weapon Skills cover both melee and ranged weapons. Knowledge Skills are things like Lockpicking, Field Medic, and Demolitions. General Skills include anything else. They range from Smart Ass, Hard Ass, and Kiss Ass, to Outdoorsman or Animal Whisperer. The skill diversity is fun to play around with. But it’s important to note that it’s usually better to have people specialize in a few skills than to have everyone take some of everything.
Perks are bonuses or special passives that help in some way. They vary from giving extra health per level, retroactively, to simply giving you a rank in a skill. They are unlocked by having higher ranks in skills, although there is a small pool of feats available to everyone. Quirks, on the other hand, are unique. They are available only at character creation and they both good and bad. They all have some kind of drawback in exchange for some kind of buff. They are entirely optional but can add flavor to your game, or an extra level of difficulty.
The character creation really shines when it’s put to the test in actual combat. The combat is fun and there are a lot of ways to handle the various enemies of the wasteland. Combat takes place on a turn-based grid. Each character has a set number of action points to use, although they can carry a few over to the next round. These points are used to move, stand up or kneel, and perform any attacks or actions during that characters turn. Weapons have their own AP values, making damage vs AP cost a big decision. There are also optimal ranges on ranged weapons, which makes positioning very important.
The combat takes these elements and combines them with cover mechanics, and sometimes even environmental effects, to deliver a rewarding yet punishing game. A random critical strike can swing the momentum of a fight around. I lost my entire party when a raider managed to slip past my team and use his machine gun’s rapid fire to take down my sniper. After that, they were able to advanced in relative safety and wipe me out.
I only ran a couple of issues with the game. The camera occasionally freaks out and zooms out randomly. This is very annoying, especially to me personally as I get motion sick pretty easily. The second issue is really a thematic one. It wasn’t fun giving people certain weapon skills like sniper rifles or energy weapons and then never having ammo for those weapons. Merchants are scarce and ammo drops in the world seemed to be pretty random.
The premade sniper character didn’t have another weapon skill and so became useless when he ran out of ammo. While this fits into the “post-apocalyptic” theme of the game, it at the same time seems counter-intuitive. This is something that can be handled by giving people multiple weapon skills but is still frustrating.
Wasteland 2 sets itself apart from other post-apocalyptic titles by offering a distinct take on the genre. The game presents a world where everyone shows that they understands how terrible the world is now and yet they strive to make it a better place. Many of these efforts lead to disaster for those involved yet they still tried to improve their situation. The player is put in the unique position of being able to mete out justice in the wasteland while simultaneously being able to abuse their power. The gameplay is deep, with a multitude of ways to solve problems and move through the game. The journey Wasteland 2 offers may suffer from a few cliches and technical problems, but the experience is worth it.