One could be forgiven for not being aware of the Wasteland franchise upon hearing of this title. Whilst Wasteland 2 has been available for many years now, the first title in this series was released all the way back in 1988. Fast forward to 2014 and the sequel was born retaining its original director Brain Fargo who was producer for the massively famous Mario Teaches Typing…and Fallout.
Wasteland 2 is a post apocalyptic RPG that has the player split between party management, turn based combat, and exploration. It’s a hardcore RPG fans dream in a sense. Old school to the core, as your actions have serious consequences. Side quests arise where you have the choice on how to complete them and must choose between warring factions where your input can mean the difference between peace, war or annihilation.
The game starts up at the funeral of Ash a high ranking member of the Desert Rangers. A group that reside in Arizona and try to keep the peace. Your squad of new recruits begin with the job of finding out just what happened to Ash and finishing his mission. Your party begins as four player created characters and later on you can even recruit NPC’s later to boost your numbers to a maximum of seven on the battlefield.
Management of your squad is an integral part of Wasteland 2 in and out of combat. Outside of combat it is important to make sure you upgrade your squad to be adequately equipped to take on any hazard. Not only must you choose their natural attributes you must also choose what each member specializes is. The weapons they master and skills they learn are shared by the same stat point and must be allocated wisely. Lean to far into weapon mastery and you could find a squad that is severely lacking in key skills like surgery or lockpicking, lean the other way and your squad may get wiped out easily. Outside of the initial introduction of mechanics Wasteland 2 does little hand holding and this freedom to choose what each unit specializes in is most welcomed.
So with your squad prepared the next step would be taking them into combat. As you roam each location enemies will appear on screen and the battlefield will take place where you stand. Combat is just like XCOM or Mario + Rabbids. Turn based action set on a grid where getting to cover is king. Enemies can vary from raiders to giant maggots to killer robots in this world and for the most parts I greatly enjoyed the combat. Each unit has action points and each action uses up a certain amount of these points. For example firing a handgun uses less than a sniper rifle.
The amount of weapon types provided a great deal of variety in how each character performs. Obviously the way a sniper acts will greatly vary from how someone wielding a shotgun or knife would, but whilst I found the combat to be a solid system with tricky enemies and a good bit of variety. I found towards the latter part of the game being too familiar with it. No new mechanics are ever really introduced. So I found it did start to fizzle out before the end.
The world that has been built in Wasteland 2 is an abysmal and cruel one. A place that you want to explore and dive deeper into. It could be argued that it is cliche or generic, but it is delivered in a way that keeps it interesting. The main mystery as it evolves and you realise just what sinister motivation is taking place to the inner working of groups as they butt heads and you must try clear them up. I found myself enjoying many of the interactions, but some dialogue trees were a bit too long.
One thing I found impressive was how side quests were handled. Some RPG’s feel like most of their side quests are just there for the sake of it, but Wasteland 2 does have some uninteresting ones, but also a good amount that feel satisfying and truly interesting. When I progressed through the main story and it was time to leave Arizona, I decided to finish up exploring. I was surprised at how much was optional and how much story surrounded these locations.
I have a lot of praise for Wasteland 2, but it suffers from one major issue that I find tends to haunt most Western RPGs and that issue is bugs and crashes. The former are not too impactful of the experience, only once was I forced to reload my save as a character was stuck in the stairs. The amount of crashes in this game are inexcusable though. I believe I ended up losing at least five hours of game time as I went through. I had to resort to a saving frequency that seemed to border on OCD tendencies. As you combine crashes with a challenging gameplay experience and you end up with a product that can be deeply frustrating. It is a problem that for the most part is easy to avoid. Simply save after each battle. However as you navigate a new location and talk to everyone the game can crash and that easily loses you 30 minutes.
Aside from its frequent crashes Wasteland 2 for the most part runs exceptionally smooth on the Switch. From Docked to Handheld I never noticed any difference in performance and it is a game that is nice to play on the go. However if this is the only version that suffers from frequent crashing I’d find it hard to recommend this one.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Wasteland 2 was provided by Sandbox Strat.