Welcome to the Wasteland!

The Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut to be exact; the long awaited follow-up to the 1988 original Wasteland role-playing game, has now finally arrived on new gen consoles after being developed by inXile Entertainment. Can this old school apocalyptic RPG find a place in the modern era of gaming or could it be a case of failing to appeal to the mass market?

Wasteland 2 covers the story of four Desert Rangers who have recently been banded together as a team and subsequently given the Echo-One call sign. As they are the new Rangers on the block, they must prove they are up to the tasks that your leader, General Vargas, demands are to be done. A death of one of the original Rangers leads to an investigation into finding the culprit and ultimately attempting to finish that Ranger’s mission.

These four Rangers can be either pre-set characters or you can create them yourselves; I wouldn’t suggest the latter because distributing all the skills to create well balanced individuals is tricky when you don’t know what lies ahead. In the end I had a mixture of custom and existing characters. Making sure that you’ll have the necessary skills to overcome specific obstacles is something I didn’t plan for and until you’ve experienced the world, it’s almost impossible to cover all bases.

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When it comes to skills, there are lots to choose from such as Lockpicking, Demolitions, Field Medic and Brute Force; nearly all of which can come in handy, especially within certain places where doors are frequently locked or blocked. Being able to smash your way through a slightly damaged wall with Brute Force because there’s no other way is very cool. Animal Whispering hasn’t helped much at the moment, apart from to get a stray goat to follow me; I’m not sure how much use it’ll be in a fight. Depending on the weapons being carried by the group of Desert Rangers, the combat skills for Handguns, Assault Rifles and melee might also be useful.

What works well is that as each character levels up, their original skills can be improved or they can learn additional new ones. It’s hard to keep track of who has what skills by memory alone, and so fortunately, the game will show you who else in the group has acquired the skill before any points are piled in.

From time to time, perks will become available to pick and they can come with very positive effects as long as you meet the requirements. For example, Deadeye reduces the cost of firing Sniper Rifles and On the Mend gives 10% extra effectiveness from healing items. On the other side of the coin are the quirks which I’m not entirely sure are needed. I’ve had the Unlucky quirk, a random chance of lightning in battle, on my created character and it’s barely been seen in action; when it has, it shocks me.

That’s a hell of a lot to digest before even contemplating putting the focus on a mission; in fact I was a bit overwhelmed at the sheer amount of perks, quirks and skills. But now it’s time to venture into the depths of Arizona (just the first of two main areas), bringing forth my first major criticism… wandering around the World Map as just a mere icon. Sadly, until you get to a major location or a random encounter, all you’ll control is an icon with a limited amount of moves determined by how much water the group has. Wasteland forgot to tell me soon enough about the importance of water in this basic form of travel, which led to dehydration and an unhealthy bunch of Rangers.

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Enemies come in all sorts of shapes and forms, from human raiders to exploding pod people and giant disgusting flies. Whether you run into a few enemies at one of the settlements or stumble across a random encounter on the World Map, battles will occur where each member of your group and theirs will take turns. Considering characters only have a set amount of action points, you need to be strategic in not only who to attack but also gaining an advantage position-wise before running out of moves.

Attacking seems straightforward enough; highlight a target, choose attack or precision strike – this is a new attack type to the Director’s Cut – and then, dependent on the success chance percentage it’ll hopefully take down the enemy’s health… right? Wrong, simply because it’s all a bit fiddly.

Moving the cursor using the analog stick causes a whole load of irritation due to the over sensitivity and then just when you think the attack is lined up, it’ll reset the cursor back to the character. It can be quite boring swinging a Sickle at a maggot, only for it to miss for the umpteenth time despite having above 50% chance of hitting.

The best part about the combat is that Wasteland 2 is ruthless when it comes to friendly fire; if you’re about to pump shotgun bullets into a rabid rabbit, there better be no one else nearby as it may hit them too. I found this out the hard way, like everything else, and killed an innocent or three with one attack. I’m cold hearted so I wasn’t overly fussed but if any tag along members to your group don’t like it then they’ll just leave you to it and that makes me play smarter.

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Looting is a key part of any RPG and it’s no different here where medical supplies, weapons and ammo are in short supply. Searching high and low may only lead to bits of random junk or piles of manure, however everything has a value to someone and selling for Scrap, which is the currency, can help build your total to then afford better items. It’s really easy to pick up and distribute loot between the group too.

Whilst discovering the ins and outs of the story, even on side missions, if any dialogue occurs it’ll come up in text form and voiced. That means there’s a huge amount of lines recorded for Wasteland 2 because these folk go on and on like they don’t get out too often or have regular human contact. I can’t knock the quality but conversations are a real drag due to the length of them, to the point where I stopped taking any of it in.

Now, onto the real damaging drawbacks that pushed me away from wanting to try and enjoy Wasteland 2. The environments are quite varied with deserts, fields, buildings and desolate streets, however, once inside a building you have to move the camera a lot due to walls obscuring the view of any dangers in your Rangers’ path and this becomes an unnecessary distraction. Worst of all though, characters often stop moving completely for no apparent reason and the only way to correct it is to bring up the logbook or pause it. In a huge game like this with loads of hours to be had, it just delays everything.

Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut is not for the RPG novices of the gaming world, for there’s no hand holding nor any real direction on how to achieve objectives. It feels horribly tough even on the lowest difficulty but nonetheless I would’ve enjoyed the challenge if it didn’t have the irritations I have outlined. And despite there being a graphics overhaul, it doesn’t scream new-gen, more like the middle of last-gen in reality. I was also surprised to see a lack of co-op which would’ve suited the four person Ranger group.

If you are a rookie role-player, then beware of this old school style where everything is earned with hard graft; which, with the issues, becomes a real chore. Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut has so much to offer, the problem is whether you’ll get very far with its frustrations.

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