Video Game Review: Wasteland 2

By Michael Vass | September 21, 2014

Wasteland 2 video game
After much anticipation and 16 years of waiting, the sequel to the Wasteland video game has arrived. Released on 9/19/14, for $40, the game is an RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. To be exact, the state of Arizona which in the game may, or may not be the only civilized spot left on the planet. You are a rookie para-military enforcer of the law, seeking to avenge a comrade in arms and keep the peace.
Many of the current generation of video game players may not be familiar with the original game. In fact many may not have been born when the original game was released. But in addition to Wasteland 2, purchase on Steam comes with the original game for those interested. Since the original is so old, we won’t review that.

Wasteland 2 is immediately different than most video games in that the CGI graphic story intro that is common in almost every game is in this game actual video of real people and location. A unique change of pace from the norm that gives a more personal touch to the game and helps to involve the player into the setting. From the into the game shifts into modern video game graphics that are detailed and fresh.

While a wee bit towards the cartoonish, the look of characters on screen are detailed enough to suit modern eyes. The landscape in the main screen is bright and not as washed out as one might expect for a desert post-apocalypse game. The map screen is large and adds a scope of immensity to what otherwise might be considered a very small game area. Images in the character inventory for each weapon, ammo, and random junk items are distinct. That allows for immediate understanding of whether you have gotten a Midnight special revolver, a Navy Colt revolver, or a sub-machine gun. Higher quality weapons in the same class also are visually distinct and clear, making it easy to know who has what loaded as a primary or secondary weapon. Monsters, robots, and even a group of bad guys are easily identified from each other.

The sounds and music of the game are equally up to snuff. Without being too overbearing, the ambient sounds of the various towns and cities are around enough to notice. Music while loading different areas is the same track, but not enough to bore or aggravate. Plus load times when entering a city/town local are brief enough to prevent major distraction from the game. Faster load times would have been better though, still with an average of about 15-20 seconds on our system it’s not bad compared to other games.

The thing about the sounds that will really stand out though are the radio broadcasts, which are integral to the game. They will vary from a repetitive message every time you gain levels (so repetitive that after the first 3 or 4 times you will just wind up clicking through the message immediately), to very clear and often horrific screams and pleas for help, to not quite gibberish ranting. But as the radio message are so important, it’s a good thing that the audio comes across as clear and robust.

The game play itself is also interesting. From the start, at character creation, the game gets detailed. For those not familiar with RPG’s it may even be a bit daunting as there is not explanation of how you would want to set up your character and the 3 AI companions you will set out with. This is somewhat balanced by the fact that there are several generally arch-type based pre-set characters available at character creation. As a bonus, even those characters attributes and skills (and look) can be modified if you want to.

Once the video game starts there is some interaction with various NPC available. Plus a quick into to the fighting mechanics if you choose to take that option. Be aware that this came is text heavy. There are voiceovers for much of the interactions and radio messages, but there is also a bit of reading that comes into play – depending on who is the character involved in the conversation. Repeat conversations with NPC’s may also reveal new information at a later time and/or level of skill.

**Hint: Specialization is a benefit to the game. As it progresses, a jack of all trades will not be as useful as a more specialized character in many situations. The pre-generated characters reflect this already.**

The load time to the world travel map is not too bad, as stated previously. The interaction with the travel make is simple and easy to operate. Sadly you can’t review or manipulate character profiles and gear while in the world map. Nor can you review any missions that are on-going, which is a bit annoying, as you may have several potential destination and priority is a factor in the game.

Progress across the world is pretty open-ended, though there are consequences for going to one mission over another, or ignoring a mission. But it is your choice where you go. You can also leave a mission, though not while you are in combat. In addition, the occasional random encounter will occur in the world map – though you may be able to avoid some of them due to team skills or other factors.

Combat is turn based, like the rest of the game. Cover is important, though some cover can be destroyed – by you or the AI. The different skills and weapons of the character come into play especially in these moments. Loot is generally junk with occasional weapon/ammo drops. Sometimes there will even be upgraded weapons. Loot can be left and reclaimed later, as long as you remain in that same city/town without interruption.

Choices in combat will make a difference. The AI will, depending on the setting, go to higher ground, flank, and seek cover. While not perfect, the AI reacts well and provides a suitable challenge on most levels.

So is Wasteland 2 worth the money? For fans of RPG solo team video games, yes. The game may be a bit daunting on the very first character set-up, but it becomes clear how to do, and what you want to do, in the game. Without overly dense visuals, the cities and towns are dense in interactions and NPC’s. Most of all you are drawn into this game world via the urgency of calls over the radio, the missions you undertake, and the improvement of skills to do all the above.

Little things like object interactions clash preventing clicking on this or that are easily remedied by moving the screen a bit. It would be nice if trying to run out of a combat that was accidentally started was possible (if you start a combat you will be in it until resolved). Improving the world map, as stated prior, also would be a help. The same could be said about being able to see the gear of all your characters at once, but these are minor issues that generally don’t take away from the quiet but persistent feeling you are under the gun and the clock is against you always.

So overall Wasteland 2 is well worth the money and will provide more than a few different play throughs, that will differ enough to make it worth doing again. It’s also likely that DLC content and follow-up games will not take another 16 years of waiting.

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