Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4
Believe me when I say that no one is more surprised than I am that I am playing (and loving) a post-apocalyptic squad based RPG. Although I’ve collected most of the Fallout games over the years, I’ve barely even dabbled, and I’ve kind of subconsciously relegated them to something I might play someday, maybe. And the only other squad-based combat I’ve ever done even semi-successfully has been in Dead State: Reanimated. There’s no reason at all to think Wasteland 2 would float my boat. But oh, it floats it. It totally does.
Although you can play with pre-made characters, you can also completely customize ALL FOUR members of your squad. Four times the character creation! This really got me invested into my whole team. I chose to have one character with good charisma and leadership skills, who can also toss on a bandage and fire a gun. One is perceptive and fast, wields a small knife, and can pick locks. The third is a master of the long-distance kill with a rifle, while the last has a bad attitude, a strong back, and a big stick. Just the idea of having a party that you can customize in a squad-based game is fantastic. You can even take a snapshot of the character you’ve created for their in game portrait.
Despite the fact that the game put its credits before the opening cut scene (a particular pet peeve of mine), once the story started, I was all in. Your characters are doing some work for the Rangers, a group that’s not only trying to survive but to help other survivors in a really harsh world. You’re tasked with completing a mission that got another Ranger killed trying to complete. Not only do you need to worry about people and animals trying to kill you, you have to be wary of things like radiation and running out of water.
Travel between major locations happens fairly quickly, but you always have the option to stop and check out something you see on the way. Characters with high awareness and the outdoorsman skill are more likely to spot points of interest on the road. There’s definitely a story path you’re expected to follow, but if you want to just go out and explore, there are lots of things to do outside of the main story line. The main campaign will take anywhere from 30 – 50 hours, and there’s close to another 50 hours if you go off the beaten path.
Wasteland 2 – Director’s Cut, when bought via Steam, also comes with the original Wasteland, which being almost 30 years old, isn’t nearly as pretty, but might give some joy to some. The voice acting and writing feels authentic, and the graphics are decent – although I would trade a little bit of pretty for a little more clarity, especially where lootable items are concerned.
Even on the easiest difficulty (and there are four), unconventional character choices are probably a little too punishing, but with four characters, you have a little wiggle room to try out some of the fun stuff. Without any random elements, I don’t know that Wasteland 2 – Director’s Cut will hold up to multiple play throughs, but with the sheer amount of content in a single trip through, it can be forgiven if it doesn’t.
Wasteland 2 – Director’s Cut is free to play this weekend on Steam (through 1pm Eastern on Sunday, May 12), and on sale for 50% off until the same time on Monday. For that price, it’s a steal, especially since you can give it a spin before you buy. However, due to a small glitch in the system, you’ll want to follow these instructions to make sure you get the proper version of the game, especially if you’re concerned about being able to continue using your save if you decide to purchase the game.
Personally, I’m torn, because my backlog is so deep, but this game is so good. I wouldn’t be surprised if my backlog ends up being one game deeper by Monday morning.