Over the winter holidays, I got into an isometric Baldur’s Gate-style RPG kick and played several games in that genre. The first was Wasteland 2, a post-apocalyptic RPG in the style of the original Fallout 1 and 2.
I got Wasteland 2 in the Steam Winter Sale for about $5. It’s been on my wish list for a long time, because I’d always heard very good things about it. I really enjoyed the original Fallout game back in the 90s, and the Wasteland series of games are closely tied with the original Fallout games for various reasons I won’t get into (mainly the same people worked on them).
Incidentally, I tried to play Fallout again somewhat recently, and I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much, but that’s another story. Mainly I think that was because the game is incredibly tiny and impossible to read when rendered on a modern display.
Anyway I saw Wasteland 2 on the Steam sale and impulsively bought it. I was looking for a change of pace from Pathologic 2 and Dishonored.
Wasteland 2 begins with a very complicated character creation for your 4-member squad, or you can just pick a default team of four. I initially picked the default team to speed things up, but that turned out to be a mistake because I felt no connection to my characters. I started a second time and painstakingly made my own custom group and had a much better time.
Unfortunately, Wasteland 2 also begins with a boatload of story exposition. Even after you can walk around in the game, depending on how thorough you explore and how fast you can read, you might spend up to an hour just talking to NPCs and listening to their life stories before you get on with the mission at hand.
I didn’t care for the slow start to the game. I don’t like to be bombarded with backstory at the beginning of a game, even a slow-paced, text-based RPG like this. (That was one reason I was so enamored with Pathologic 2–it threw you into the middle of the story and left you to figure it out on your own.)
Eventually you get out into the world and fight monsters, which is by far the best part of Wasteland 2. The tactical, turn-based combat is fantastic. It’s very similar to Fallout (and indeed most every other turn-based game I’ve played). I really enjoyed the combat encounters.
Sadly, I didn’t care much for everything in between the combat encounters. The story didn’t impact me at all, the humor isn’t very funny, the quests are tedious, and it’s a slog to get from place to place.
It’s particularly annoying to navigate around indoor locations because of the isometric nature of the game. It’s difficult sometimes to find a section of floor to click on, because walls and other obstacles obscure your view. I’m sure I’ve talked before about how isometric camera views are my least-favorite type of game, because it’s the hardest angle to see from, especially if the game doesn’t make any effort to hide walls, which Wasteland 2 doesn’t. The game expects you to constantly do the work of rotating the camera around to find that one angle where you can see clearly.
Despite the aggravations of the engine, I enjoyed driving my own personal Echo squad to their inevitable deaths. Wasteland 2 is hard. I played on Hard difficulty because I wanted to make entertaining videos, and it was hard. One by one, members of my squad were killed until none were left, and the game ended.
One suggestion I would make to prospective players is to make sure you have someone who has the Surgeon skill. Otherwise, you won’t be able to revive downed players and you’ll just have to stand around your fallen comrades and watch them bleed out and die. Why there needs to be a separate and distinct Surgeon skill to revive downed players, above and beyond the First Aid skill which heals players in combat, I have no idea. It seems like an unnecessary complication to me.
Some day I might go back and play again on an easier difficulty setting, because again, the tactical combat is quite good. But the story was so uninteresting to me that instead, I uninstalled the game after my whole squad died and went on to try a different game.