Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: Wasteland 2 (PC)

Welcome back to the Wasteland Ranger

Wasteland 2 is a tactical role playing game developed and published by inXile Entertainment, released for PC and Mac on September 19th 2014. The title was almost entirely paid for through Kickstarter crowdfunding.

Through a fantastically done live action introduction featuring grizzly scarred men and Mad Max style women a tale of the not too unfamiliar scenario of a world destroyed by man’s jumping to conclusions and greed (Untimely destruction at the hands of all our nukes after a meteor impact is mistaken for an attack) is told, but this is not surprising as the original 1988 title is often cited as the spiritual predecessor of the much more well known Fallout series and as such almost all games involved in the current “fad” of post-apocalyptic themes.

After the cutscene is over you are given the choice to create your own team of 4 characters (and later 3 NPC allies) from scratch or choose from a roster of pre-made characters. If you choose to create from scratch then you are faced with a typical character creation screen and an almost overwhelming amount of choices for various skills to assign points to such as Leadership, Field Medic and Lock-picking and Toaster Repair as pictured below.

Your team take the role of new recruits to the Desert Rangers, a descendant organisation of a team of US. Army Engineers who survived the apocalypse initially tasked with investigating the murder of an experienced ranger and to complete the mission he was on when he met his end. The story writing itself is almost completely flawless apart from a habit of meandering & hiding some leads behind pointless mundane side conversations. Conversations and mission descriptions mostly take place within reams of text which could be very off putting to players expecting a faster pace, there is a limited amount of voiced content which although well executed and contributes well where it is would have quickly become expensive and slowed the game itself down due to the tens of thousands of lines of dialogue. One of the more unique features of the story writing is seeing in no uncertain terms that your decisions and conversation choices make a real and tangible difference to the world around you, creating a living feeling world that is easy to get deeply involved with.

Graphically Wasteland is good, textures are equally clean and crisp for both the characters and scenery although not the greatest I have personally seen, but being as the entire game plays from an isometric point of view then there is less of a requirement for the highest quality textures as they do not come under such close inspection as typical first person shooters and their ilk. Movement and combat animations are very fluid and do not suffer from some of the jaggedness of titles that work on a similar tileframe system such as XCOM (which initially suffered from hard left and right hand turns where the tiles were followed exactly) The sound quality outside of dialogue is overall of a high quality but nothing is too remarkable, guns shots have a good solid sound to them which being hit results in a satisfying squelch, the use of Razer Surround is a nice gimic but nothing much beyond that.

Gameplay wise Wasteland does very little differently to most titles of the genre, you arrive in an area and proceed to explore it using skills to open doors and break locks, converse with NPC’s, removing enemy resistance as you go until you reach the mission goal at which point you unlock your next fix of storyline and release a sigh of relief as an NPC explains in an a-level sized essay what is going on and where to move to next. The combat itself consists of positioning your characters into optimal position before being spotted by the enemy and starting an encounter, from then on in it is a standard use AP to move tiles and abilities while you attempt to kill all the enemy without being killed by them or accidentally shooting one of your own team by misjudging the spread of that shiny new shotgun you are using. Everything from crouching to reviving team members has an AP cost and in many cases an item cost too. Enemies themselves are not too outside the bounds of common imagination, ranging from mutated insects to bandits and robots.

I personally am still playing the game while writing this review so I cannot say with absolute confidence how long it is going to go for, but I have been informed that it is somewhere in the region of 50-60 hours.

In conclusion it is clear that Wasteland 2 has been lovingly crafted to pay homage to its roots while learning from the lessons the its spiritual successors brought to the table. Graphically it is only above average but the story writing, delivery and overall gameplay are more than enough to make up for any of the more aesthetic flaws with graphics and sound. Even though it is far from a perfect title, but it is certainly a worthy addition to the genre which I would highly recommend.

Overall score: 9/10

Who should buy:
  •  Fans of either the original Wasteland or the later Fallout games.
  • Players who enjoy a deep story
  • Players who like to see the impact their choices make.

Who should avoid:
  •  Those with a short attention span
  • Players who prefer short conversations and minimal reading.
  • Players who prefer direct control rather than tactical combat

[At the time of this review Wasteland could be purchased directly from Steam for £29.99]

A warning to those with lower end systems, while the game looks deceptively low spec it does suffer from some poor optimisation and memory issues. This is however planned to be fixed in an upcoming patch due to roll out a few days after this review is released. Please check your system against the recommended specifications before purchasing.

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