Games: Wasteland 2

Games: Wasteland 2

While serving national service in 1997, I looked forward to booking out during the weekend and going home to play Fallout.

You see, Fallout was the spiritual successor to Wasteland - a turn-based role-playing game (RPG) released in 1988 - which was set in the post-apocalyptic world of 2087.

But after Fallout 2, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas were released, Wasteland 2 was still nowhere to be seen. That is, until mid-2012, when a crowdfunding campaign for it was launched. I immediately put in my money to be a backer.

If you have not played the original, fret not because it is easy to pick up. You start off with a squad of four rookie Desert Rangers - self-appointed protectors of the wasteland. Your squad is assigned to investigate the murder of a fellow ranger and find some missing radio equipment.

You can choose from preset characters or create characters of your own. To survive the harsh conditions of the wasteland, it is imperative to have squad members with complementing skills and abilities. So, I picked a sniper, bruiser, techie and combat medic. You can have up to seven members in your squad.

As with many classic RPGs, this game is played via a third-person 3-D view. You can rotate the view by pressing the scroll wheel of the mouse and moving the mouse sideways, or zoom into details by turning the scroll wheel.

The user interface is quite intuitive and you can customise it to your liking. I like that you can sort your inventory items automatically with just a click of a button.

The old-school dot matrix printer at the bottom right of the screen is a nice nostalgic touch. It delivers all the messages - just in case you missed the dialogue.

There is plenty of talk, as many non-playing characters have lots to say. Unfortunately, you cannot drift off during the conversations as you will often get clues from them.

The game's soundtrack pays tribute to its predecessor by retaining the same feel and ambience.

I found the gameplay to be top-notch. You are free to wander around the world. There are radioactive areas, loot caches and random encounters - such as attacks from raiders or mysterious shrines.

Travelling the desert uses up water that your squad carries. You need to find oases and settlements so your squad members can refill their canteens.

As this is a post-apocalyptic environment, resources, such as medic kit, armour and bullets, are always in short supply and there are few traders around. So you need to open every crate and treasure chest that you stumble upon. The best stuff usually comes from looting fallen enemies.

Combat is turn-based and can be initiated by one of your squad mates or by the enemy. Moving during a fight requires action points (AP) and using different weapons requires different amounts of AP. If your character has the aptitude for a particular weapon, he will need fewer AP when using that weapon.

Make no mistake. This is a tough game, even at the easy setting. You need to position and find cover strategically during battles if you want to win and not deplete all your ammo. I lost two squad members in the first few battles.

Accomplishing quests is the staple of any RPG and Wasteland 2 excels in this. Other than the main quests, there are plenty of side-quests. They range from finding lost pigs to negotiating peace between warring factions.

During the game, there will be many moral dilemmas thrust upon your shoulders. For example, if two towns are under attack, which one would you save first? Do you kill a woman asking to be euthanised or do you let her die naturally?

The choices you make will decide the story's outcome and this means that no two playthroughs will yield the same result.

Despite the lack of a multiplayer mode, you can replay this game a few times. Even if you play the game only once, with all the side-quests, it can easily provide you with around 50 hours of gameplay.

Wasteland 2 follows the tradition of a classic RPG and is a worthy successor to the cult classic. For Wasteland and Fallout fans, this is a must-buy.

Rating: 9.5/10

Price: $36 (PC, version tested; Mac)

Genre: Role-playing

This article was first published on Nov 19, 2014.
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