Wasteland 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: InXile
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Wasteland 2: Director's Cut'

by Fran Soto on Dec. 10, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Wasteland 2 is a turn based top down role-playing game, sequel to what many considered the godfather of post apocalyptic RPGs.

Buy Wasteland 2: Director's Cut

A triumphant crucible of hardcore role-playing awaits us in Wasteland 2: Director's Cut. Serving as the follow-up to the 1988 role-playing hit, Wasteland, this new installment brings contemporary isometric gameplay with good ol' postapocalyptic fun. Wasteland 2 was originally released in 2014, and the Director's Cut was released a year later with upgraded visuals and expanded voice-over options. Now the title finds its way to the Nintendo Switch as a complete package. Despite its format taking up all of the Switch's screen space for a mildly cluttered look, the title does find a suitable home on the Nintendo device for an experience we can take anywhere. Developed by inXile Entertainment (The Bard's Tale, Torment: Tides of Numenera), Wasteland 2 is a detailed game where player choice holds all the power. We are truly thrown into a waste where we must build ourselves up — or die trying. From NPC interactions to examining our surroundings, the world of Wasteland 2 serves as a vehicle for our moral and survival choices.

Wasteland 2 immediately puts players' decisions at the forefront by asking us to form our own party of adventurers. Detailed character sheets ask us to choose specialties for each member in order to create a balanced team. It's not necessary to create balance, but Wasteland 2 is a punishing experience for those who fail to plan ahead. In addition to assigning special skills, players have the option to assign "perks" for additional stat boosts. Perks come at a cost, however, as they are normally a double-edged sword. One may choose a perk to complete character development, but there are advantages and disadvantages that permanently affect character stats. For my first playthrough, I went without perks and settled with basic skills. With four party members, each one was assigned a specialty in either the medical or technical field. I even had one party member with high charisma value to smooth-talk our way through situations and unlock additional dialogue options.

We begin our adventure at the funeral of a well-known Ranger, Ace. After the world had been engulfed in nuclear apocalypse, a ragtag group of citizens emerged from the fallout to become the self-proclaimed law enforcement of the wastes. Rangers provide protection and order for the civilian communities within the area. They are often called to settle disputes and solve problems. We gather around Ace's grave to commemorate his actions and mourn the loss of a fellow Ranger. Ace had been sent on a mission to expand the Rangers' radio signal and had met with a troublesome fate. As the newest recruits of the Ranger Citadel, our group is sent to Ace's last known location to investigate his death and continue his mission. What we discover at the site of Ace's death unravels a mystery steeped in the wasteland's history.

Wasteland 2 offers a variety of locations in the world that contain different stories and missions. The world is ever-changing with timed events and certain decisions that must be made. After investigating Ace's last location, we're called to an emergency situation in the wasteland. We must choose to respond to one of two calls: save the region's water supply from raiders, or save the region's food supply from mutated plant-zombies. I chose to save the water supply but failed to save the food source. The moral situation forces us to make these choices despite our best efforts. Wasteland 2 excels at forcing players to think on their feet and make difficult decisions. It's reflective of the harsh environment of a postapocalyptic future where not everyone can be saved. It's a harsh reality to know that the world continues on its own without us.

In the wastes, every supply matters, even a handful of bullets. Wasteland 2 not only forces us to make decisions about the world around us, but also decisions in regards to supplies. Item management becomes a key feature of the game as we progress through the story. It's imperative to be as prepared as possible since Wasteland surprises us frequently with enemy encounters. One may never know when an enemy will appear out of nowhere to begin an engagement.

Combat takes the traditional turn-based battle system of similar RPGs. Tactics become necessary when facing enemies. Everything from positioning to the type of weaponry has an effect on the outcome. We're able to specialize our Rangers to utilize a variety of weapons. Having a good mix of long-range and close-range weaponry is key to winning fights. Even understanding the weaknesses of certain enemies is useful to successful battles. One must be careful, however, as friendly fire and Rangers going rogue can negatively impact plans. Deciding how to engage enemies may give us the upper hand, as we can split our group, perform ambushes and even set traps for unsuspecting enemies. The battle system doesn't try to reinvent the wheel; it just continues perfecting it, but there are times when attempting to avoid battles may cause trouble, thus creating a counterintuitive gameplay system.

While saying "yes" in so many situations can yield exceptional benefits, like obtaining access to materials, provisions and additional content, saying "no" to certain NPCs automatically sends you into an encounter that you might not want to be in. This is certainly understandable in some instances, such as when you're trespassing or not complying with raiders. There were many times when I meant, "No, not right now. I'll be right back," such as when I attempted to bypass a conversation with the opposing militia's liaison. Before we could enter their territory, the party needed to pay a weapons "tax." We did not have the money and wished to collect it and return (or attempt to find a way around). The rejection was not meant as an offense, but the NPCs made no distinction and became hostile. The situation initially appeared to be flexible but turned into a forced fight. With no way to run away from fights, it becomes a whole process of fight or die (or reload) in a game that requires conservation of resources. Meanwhile, other dialogue choices with friendly NPCs offer the opportunity to screw them over in some instances. In a title that requires skill in being able to master survival, Wasteland 2 sometimes forces counterintuitive gameplay.

Despite some gameplay flaws, Wasteland 2 gets a lot of things right for the genre. Fans of isometric, hardcore RPGs will find a detailed world to explore in the title. inXile Entertainment provides deep attention to detail on an awe-inspiring level. Creation of independent currencies and social hierarchies in the game create a living environment. Fully fleshed-out NPCs with voice-overs add to the detail of the wastes and make characters more than just placeholders. Interacting with the environment may lead to new clues and options for gameplay. Wasteland 2 is full of player choice and replayability that will keep players busy for a while. With gameplay easily exceeding 80 hours of content, Wasteland 2 is not for the faint of heart. Those who appreciate challenging experiences and detailed world-building will find Wasteland 2: Director's Cut an important installment in their RPG library.

Score: 9.0/10

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