Wasteland 2 ReviewPrice:
Developer: InXile Entertainment
Publisher: InXile Entertainment
We were supposed to have a review of The Evil Within this week. But once again I wasn't given a review code prior to release, because games PR is a domain of strange rituals that I do not pretend to understand. This being the case, I decided to look back at the recent surge of releases to see what we’d missed. And, like the hazy silhouette of an oasis rising above the horizon, Wasteland 2 came into view.
Upon closer inspection, however, Wasteland 2 didn’t turn out to be the perfect island of paradise I hoped it might. The palm fronds were green enough, but browning at the fringes. The water, while undoubtedly slaking my thirst, tasted a little oily. And while I was resting against the sun-baked trunk of a tree, a coconut fell on my head and left me with a mild concussion. In all I’m glad to have encountered it, but the experience wasn’t without its bumps.
Wasteland 2 is the sequel to a 26 year old game that I never played. I was less than a year old when the original was released, and by the time I was old enough to understand what the word “Wasteland” meant, I had learned far more colourful words such as “Sonic the Hedgehog”. But I am considerably more familiar with Fallout, the game that Wasteland inspired, Wasteland 2 follows that post-apocalyptic RPG structure with an unyielding faith. Depending on how you come to Wasteland 2, this might be considered its greatest strength or biggest weakness.
The game lends you control of a squad of Desert Rangers, the de-facto law enforcement unit in the dry wastes of Arizona after the A-bomb. Interestingly, Wasteland 2 has you create an entire party of characters from the start, rather than a single character which nowadays is the RPG norm. The wide range of skills and aesthetic choices enable you to assemble a pretty diverse crew of post-apocalypse police.
My own party included a seven-foot tall woman named Marlene who wore her hair in pigtails and conversed entirely through the medium of explosives and spiked-baseball bats, a sniper who doubled as an all-round hacker and lockpicker, and a Muslim doctor who was also a dab-hand with sub-machineguns. Unfortunately, there’s little context given to these available choices, which makes the character creation process a mite overwhelming. In addition, as I discovered later on, while all the skills are useful, some are more important than others.
As you can no doubt see from the screenshots, presentation-wise Wasteland 2 is lo-fi to say the least. I’m in two minds about this. According to Wasteland 2’s fiction, this makes perfect sense. Everything in the world is run-down, second hand, or worn out, so to present this through some slick visual style would be somewhat contradictory. On the other hand, I don’t feel like Wasteland 2 has much of a style at all, and that makes its post apocalypse indistinguishable from all the other post-apocalypses I’ve survived in. Of course, there’s an argument that Wasteland got there first. But for someone coming to Wasteland for the first time, my question is “What makes THIS game interesting?”