Review and Tips: Wasteland 2

Release: 19 September 2014
Genre: Tactical RPG
Developer: inXile Entertainment, co-developed by Obsidian Entertainment
Relations: Fallout series, Wasteland.

This is the first review and guide on our site of a relatively recently released game called Wasteland 2. The reason for selecting this game is because it runs natively and it would be good to highlight the rare gems in the limited linux game library, populated by games which feel incomplete or lack the polish of old school RPGs, such as those resembling more like phone apps rather than full featured games.

start

The very fact that this is storyline based and has its relation to fallout made me pick it up. This is a personal review, so I will cover my gameplay experience although the developers advertised that the gameplay will differ for every playthrough.

Wasteland 2 is a post-apocalyptic RPG whereby you control your players using a semi-overhead rotatable view. You have space to create 4 characters and recruit 3 other members into your team. Who you recruit depends on your choices, opinions and the sharpness of your tongue. The game is based on an alternate history where a nuclear holocaust occured and thereafter the formation of the Desert Rangers, who go around helping those in need (although I killed more than I helped eventually). The story begins when you investigate a radiosignal regarding ‘man and machine become one’. Sounds like “The Terminator”.

Starting the game and portraits

The game begins showing you a start screen of a wicked looking giant robot scorpion, it is one of my favourite art pieces, a familiar return from fallout both Fallout: New Vegas and Wasteland 1, although they looked a lot more useless before.

Starting a new game then prompts the creation of 4 characters. You can type their bios as well but this does not change their gameplay. Unfortunately, the base portraits were not very useful, as the customisation options did not allow you to emulate their look. This is somewhat disappointing. The graphics werent the best either so a snapshot would always end up awful. This is somewhat understandable from a kickstarter project but I still feel they should have at least provided more portraits.

I imported the portraits from InXile’s very own facebook page and their forums, where they have helpfully trimmed the images to fit the game. It took me a while to google this location as most users are on Windows/Mac. The portraits can be viewed here and downloaded in a zip (> 240 images). Some are recognizable from other games.

~/.config/Wasteland2/Custom Portraits

Character Creation

Finally, after that is settled, I started creating my characters and even their background histories. I am impressed at the amount of options I have. I thought my team plowed through the game so far without much issues so you can consider having a party like mine.

Attributes: Coordination, Luck, Awareness, Strength, Speed, Intelligence, Charisma (C.L.A.S.S.I.C.) Note: Fallout’s attribute system is based on a too, S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

Mask_black

Starting from the top left to bottom right

Nameless: This is my leader, the guy with the blunt weapons and a pistol. He is a smart ass talker and practically the one who sits right at the front (behind cover of course). I set him up for strength with lower coordination. He has the smart ass talking ability. You can always switch characters with other talking abilities during the coversation, unlike the Neverwinter Nights series so that is a plus point for the game. He is also the one with the best perception, being right in front to detect stuff and I gave him lockpicking and security skills as he would be the first to enter small rooms.

Seraelle: Sniper, Kiss ass, Pirate, paper armor. She is used to start the battles and I must say sniper rifles are a little bit overpowered, apart from the fact that ammo is such a pain. I gave her computer skills and raised her Coordination attribute. Obviously she is going to be doing pure damage from a distance so armor is not that essential…? Or that was what I thought at first. I gave her submachine gun skills which have close range bonus just in case.

Charlene: Every team needs a medic. This medic is my skill dump, with all average stats except slightly higher stats in intelligence, allowing her more skills than the others, with both surgical and medical skills. She can even disarm bombs and talk to animals. I also made her my lucky girl, seeing how she isn’t spec’ed for combat. This allowed her several lucky turns. And decided to pop her with energy weapons and grenades. Energy weapon damage is not affected by range, so it makes it possible for her to move around anywhere in the team.

charlene

Character sheet with Full profile and inventory. Notice all her dynamites…

Valeran: This guy is the jack of all trades and I kinda ran out of essential roles. Holding an assault rifle and an accessory weapon (usually an RPG), he deals damage well from all distances and is able to destroy man and machine, even groups of men and machines, although the rpgs are usually one-time use. Basically I gave him toaster repair and made him the mechanic of the team, because I didn’t need barter and I don’t know what else to give him. I also gave him sharp weapons as skill but he never uses them much unless I run out of RPGs.

Start of Review

This is going to be long… so get ready.

Introduction

So the game begins. After the introduction speech, you are told to investigate the radio signal which Ace was involved in. Just before you leave, your very first team addition is available in that same map, Angela Deth. I had to look every corner of the map… before I found her. It was after this that I realised that the game had almost 0 hand holding. You can type words into the coversation box and NPCs will even respond, although most of the time they won’t know what you are talking about. The number of options in the conversation are sometimes limited to your speaking skills although some are hidden. However, like the other games by Obsidian, there are multiple paths to the same destination, or different destinations. Just make sure you don’t sell the shovel. Anyway, the initial impression was good. The models look cool and from the overhead angle, the low polygon 3d models actually look quite fine. I was also impressed that there were plenty of voice-overs.

Soon enough, you will get to the world map, which was again a graphics blower. Well, not going to be a graphics whore but it was unpolished enough to make an impression. Moving on, I was lucky enough not to encounter enemies during my first travel, and then I arrived at the Radio Tower, where my first combat begin.

Combat

The first combat impressed me a lot, subsequent ones even more. If you were to enter a random map encounter, the enemies may or may not be alerted to your presence. Sometimes you may be ambushed.

Bridge

Ambushed and surrounded by enemies. Lucky they didn’t have grenades.

If you are exploring a zone, the enemies would usually not be alerted to your presence (unless you are a bad conversationalist), allowing you to have a first strike. If you get caught by the patrols however, it is likely they move first.

desert2

There wasn’t much cover and a melee attacker spotted charged towards Charlene as she walked towards the bridge.

The combat is turn based, but you can move more than one party member at any one time before the battle begins. This allows you to choose covers which will greatly increase your damage. It makes sense, because leaning on a structure always reduces recoil.

Usually I place my members inconspiciously in strategic positions, and then initiate the battle with Seraelle (sniper). It is always essential to have some melee ability (recommend blunt) and Nameless usually eats anyone nearby for breakfast. At the later stages of the game, some of the game mechanics become more apparent, such as armor piercing, which sharp melee weapons do not have.

On top of that, many weapons have additional functions, such as headshot for snipers, reducing the aim and increasing the damage, or burst fire for assault rifles, making Valeran and Angela Deth super killers under the right cover. Sometimes, having a cover is not enough to make up for accuracy, enemies have their own covers. You need to move around to place yourself strategically. One last option that you can apply is crouching, although this takes precious AP away. For Seraelle, because she gets 8 AP each time, and she fires with only 7AP with the sniper rifle, i usually get her to crouch before the second shot, sharply increasing accuracy.

The battle also doesn’t always go smoothly and may require a little luck (both real life and the attribute). Having extra hits usually means less healing needs to be done during and after battle. Every stat becomes important and if you are ambushed, you realise that your sniper now requires defense, and a close range weapon, which the game severely punishes you for spec’ing.

Just as I thought I was going to get hit... Lucky!!

Just as I thought I was going to get hit… Lucky!!

It is possible to play a game without specialist and have everyone use assault rifles and energy guns, but doing so will make you run out of ammo as everyone is using the rounds of the same calibre, 5.56mm rounds can be quickly consumed with burst fire. It is important to know what weapons function at what range, and whether or not to crouch.

As in the case above, the damage of energy weapons is not really affected by range and my new Herbicide from AG centre turned the enemy into goo!

As in the case above, the damage of energy weapons is not really affected by range and my new Herbicide from AG centre turned the enemy into goo!

Weapons do jam as well, as in real life, you will need to choose your weapons nicely, which I didn’t realise at first. I bought very powerful weapons from a scammer NPC in the game called Bowling. They jammed 95% of the shots and were essentially useless, despite having superior firepower.

Either way, the game rewards and punishes you for every choice you make and there is no right way to play. My suggestion is to spec your characters, give them different weapons, but do not overdo it. Giving a person 0 charisma or 0 luck can be detrimental.

Soon after I levelled up and sent a radio transmission back to HQ.

Storyline and Choices in the game.

The radio is important, it tells you your missions, your rank, and allows you to ‘level up’. Very soon early in the game, the radio suddenly rings and says two places are attacked at once you are forced to make a life-changing decision.

You receive two transmissions at once, with requests to save both settlements. One provides food for the desert, AG Centre (a modern research plant) and one provides water, Highpool (a town where the rangers have a bad rep). Obviously I picked water, because its essential compared to food.

The game then cruelly continues to haunt you on your choices as you continue to complete the quests in either places. Anyway, I saved highpool, and when I entered AG centre, I was horrified. It was the first time I saw greenery in the desert, but now, all destroyed. Monster plants and infested humans are now running loose and the last survivor spat vulgarities at me.

Kathy

Reading online, I also realised I lost a healer which I could recruit, Rose, and also failed to recruit the sniper from Highpool due to some poor conversation choices, leading me to be stuck with five party members where other players were having 6. Now, this is a good game, it felt gratifying to play despite the outcome. I wasn’t too bothered, I wasn’t losing any battles anyway.

Right after solving the issues in both places, I travelled back to base, where you can access the very first ending, not a good one obviously.

The ranger base, pretty gloomy.

The ranger base, pretty gloomy.

Endings

There are many endings in the game, and there various ways to achieve them too.

Just remember there is no hand holding and don’t press the wrong buttons that you will obviously regret, such as a live warhead.

Breakdown

Graphics – Understandably sub-par for a modern game. However, the models still appear relatively ok from a top-down view, more portraits could have really been added to the stock, or provided as an update, rather than needing to download from their website itself, making character creation somewhat off putting. The shadows and art style are really refreshing and make up for the lack in other areas. The buildings look especially beautiful and detailed, sometimes you can see random signposts, paint peeling off, blood stains and greenery growing over it.

Beautiful building art and good level design.

Beautiful building art and good level design.

Storyline – This is well done as described above. Choices are actually impactful. The multiple endings make the game fun to explore and certainly worth replaying.

Music – Relatively good. Example as below. It is difficult to construct music for a tactical RPG as the player may take his time to make his choices but Mark Morgan did a great job.

Gameplay – The tactical aspects of the game are complex and meaningfully so. You can enter many buildings and the level design is very polished.

Others – There are minor quirks/hints of unimplemented features such as the AG centre infection not killing you.

Overall impression

cover-art

8/10 – An almost perfect tactical RPG littered with minor bugs and imperfect graphics. These are relatively forgivable and if you are able to appreciate the true essence of a story inclined RPG, this game will have endless replayability.

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One Response to Review and Tips: Wasteland 2

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