Wasteland 2: Gameplay and Review
Old-world infrastructure is the key to rebuilding
Oh why, why did we have to wait so long for a game like this? Don’t get me wrong, I’m about as big a fan of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas as you’ll find. I have no qualms with the blend of real-time first-person-shooting with turn-based combat mechanics, nor with the very Elder Scrolls-y underpinnings of the games as a whole. In fact, I regard both those games as a sterling examples of modern computing horsepower used to move the RPG genre forward. And yet, somewhere along the line, publishers got the idea that the old isometric, turn-based style of RPG no longer had any place in the videogame market. Wasteland 2 is the ultimate refutation of that idea.
See, as great as Fallout 3 and New Vegas were—and I will defend that greatness against the accusations of any naysayer—there were certain compromises made in realizing an expansive, three-dimensional open world with 100% voice-acted dialogue. For starters, the amount of that dialogue had to be cut way down. I can’t comment on the original Wasteland, as I have yet to play it, but I have played the spiritual successors to that game in the form of Fallout and Fallout 2, and I really missed the open-ended conversation systems in those games. Instead of simply selecting a pre-defined question or response from a dialogue tree, players could query NPCs by inputting text; if the NPC in question recognized a certain keyword, they wold respond appropriately: “Oh, the Brotherhood of Steel? For all I know they could be a myth. From the sound of it though, they’re some kind of crazy technology-worshippin’ cult.” It’s just not the sort of luxury a game with voice-acting across the board can have, given how expensive voice acting is.
Scientists of the future are almost universally mad
Having a beautifully-realized 3D world with cinematics and all the fixings is also somewhat of a double-edged sword, in the sense that it creates the expectation on the part of the player for “show” rather than “tell”: Show me that the mutant is scowling at me as I pass by, rather than telling me. That’s fine, but there is something to be said for the ability of earlier RPGs to exploit the player’s own “theatre of the mind.” When the player’s imagination meets good, descriptive writing, it makes it more of a two-way street between creator and player; and sometimes what is imagined is just flat-out more interesting than what can be represented.
So as much as I love the new Fallout games, and as hyped as I am for Fallout 4, I am ecstatic that, after twenty long years, a true successor to the great post-apocalyptic RPGs of old has finally emerged.