Wasteland Remastered does almost exactly what it sets out to do; it is very much a remastered version of the original Wasteland, running well and providing an updated visual style that looks good. Keep in mind, I said “remaster” and not “remake” – for all intents and purposes this is exactly the same Wasteland that released more than 30 years ago, for better or worse. If you’re looking for a modernized experience look elsewhere, because everything is kept just as it was with very little hand holding to guide you along. It will however deliver a great time for those returning to the game many years later, but for newcomers who haven’t previously experience Wasteland, well it might be a massive slog. When you get into the groove and play by the rules, it’s easy to see why Wasteland is such a cult classic, but if you can’t handle the heat then I suggest staying out of this 1980’s kitchen.
I’m going to get the massive negative out of the way first – this version does a horrible job accustoming new players to both the game world and its mechanics. I spent multiple painstaking hours going through trial and error, trying to figure out how the esoteric systems work. There is a “Wasteland manual” but it’s difficult to use and only goes through the bare minimum basics; it’s practically useless. This is such a missed opportunity, as this lack of teaching will kill off so many newcomers who could have really enjoyed this title. In fact, it’s almost like a brick wall that you have to bust through to get to the actual game, which is a shame because the gameplay still holds up. Don’t get me wrong, it does feel aged, but it’s still fun for fans of the genre.
This is a classic party-based RPG. You roam the wasteland with a group of four rangers that you build with certain stats and abilities; abilities which help in combat and also allow certain interactions in the world. Wasteland is unique in the abilities it offers as there are stats covering all manner of things like climbing, metallurgy, bureaucracy and more. These can be used in various creative ways out in the world by going through a menu and selecting them on objects – if there’s a fence blocking your way you would need to go through the menu and select your climb stat to clamber over it. It has been quite good fun seeing all the weird uses that are available in the world.
Combat is seen through a text log and a little picture of the enemy, as you decide what actions to take against opponents by each member. The turn starts and you see the results of your – and your enemies’ – actions on the log. As you would expect to hear, it’s pretty archaic but it works well and is actually okay once you get used to it. It helps that the enemy encounters are varied and incredibly creative, as you fight against everything from giant mutated bunnies to an infant with a .45. The game as a whole is incredibly wacky and the combat often reflects that. Thankfully unlike many old-school experiences the difficulty is hard but never feels cheap. If you understand the systems, the game offers a sizeable but not punishing challenge.
The plot is pretty bare-bones though, but the minimum amount of dialogue and the moment to moment events are ridiculous and often hilarious. There’s a tongue in cheek attitude throughout the whole experience that hasn’t aged a day. Wasteland’s dark comedy and social commentary made it so revolutionary back in the day, and even now, some 30 years on, it is still sharp as ever. Although the way that dialogue works in this version is absolutely maddening – you still have to type in responses adventure game style just like you were on a computer. If you’ve ever typed anything on an Xbox controller you know how unforgivable this is and it absolutely boggles me that such an archaic structure has been left in for the console release.
If you’re a veteran of the genre, or an old-school player who loved the original, then you’ll be very pleased with what’s on offer here. Wasteland Remastered on Xbox One is quintessentially an Apple Two/Commodore game re-painted and re-released on a modern day console. It’s very difficult for me to recommend this to any newcomer though, unless they are specifically interested in it from a historical perspective. It’s not a bad game, frankly it’s excellent, but it is an aged game and that ruins the appeal for many. The experience feels like it has aged horribly and that is something it will never escape from. There are so many more great modern role-playing games on Xbox One that it’s hard to see why a new player would pick this, but then maybe it was never for them in the first place.