Published on October 23rd, 2015 | by Don Parsons2
Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut Review
Summary: Wasteland 2: Director's Cut is a top-notch transition to consoles, with everything you would want from an RPG that feels both new and nostalgic.
The wasteland is a cruel, bitter place full of consequences. Even my best intentions always seem to take a turn for the worst. Case in point, my crew of Desert Rangers and I stumbled across a dying woman while roaming around a reclaimed prison. This woman pleaded to be put out of her misery. Normally, I would continue about my business, as I had a few big tasks me and my squad were working on. But this time was different. I felt sorry for the woman. Maybe it was the heat and exhaustion and I just wasn’t thinking clearly, but I opted to do her bidding. I raised my rifle and put a bullet into her head. I felt as if I had done a justice and sent her to a better place. After saying a small prayer, I began to leave the dead body when a child stepped out from around the corner, screaming at me for killing his mother. As the child attacked me, in a reflex motion, I shot and killed the child. Silence for several minutes followed, the events that just unfolded wrapping around my head. I left the area, and cleared a cave of monstrous animals, then came back to the area, dead bodies still lying on the ground. I felt sick and continued on briefly before saving my game and turning the console off.
Wasteland 2 is riddled with moments like this, where your actions can leave you feeling heavy and depressed. This was a rather extreme instance, mind you but that event left me emotionally upset, something I have not felt playing a video game since Shadow of the Colossus.
I’m going to back up just a little. Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut is a repolished version of last year’s isometric RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. The original Wasteland spawned the Fallout series, back when Fallout was an isometric RPG (think Baldur’s gate). But this version of Wasteland 2 has various UI tweaks, a whole bunch of extra voice overs, and a graphics overhaul.
I played this version on the Xbox One console. While the PC has various RPG’s like this, this style of RPG is not common on Xbox One (or Playstation 4 for that matter). That makes Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut all the more wonderful for its rarity.
You start the game by picking, or designing, four starting characters. These members will be the core of your squad, which can eventually get up to seven members strong., The other three members can be traded out as you see fit. The default party is a nice way to start, though, with a nice all-around skillset. After picking your party, your team is tasked with finding the killer of a fellow Desert Ranger and completing the task he died trying to finish. After this, you are dumped into a vast, grisly world full of murder, looting, and problem solving.
There are essentially two ways to move around the wasteland; a map view as you travel from locale to locale, and a zoomed in area of said-locale. The overview map shows a ranger badge drawing a trail across the lands. Every once in awhile while exploring, either a group of mutant animals or bandits might attack, or you might find an oasis to refill your water (which expends while traveling) or a shrine. Exploring this part of the map is fun, but doesn’t quite scratch that itch I have playing these post-apocalyptic games. That comes into play when I dialed in on a specific location.
Once you enter a town, farm, village, prison, or whatever sort of establishment you come across, you are dropped into a more tactical view. The camera can be rotated and zoomed in and out, but the mechanic I found equally as useful was that I could single out one person to move and the rest would stay put. While this has many tactical advantages for battle, I found it more useful for exploring minefields and such, as one person had higher perception (the team member that actually disarmed these was someone else).
Wasteland 2 isn’t just rich for exploration of areas for loot or whatever else survivors may have left behind, but finds its true value in the characters you meet and situations you come across. The mood is simply perfect for this type of game, more so than any other in the genre that I have played. I actually felt depressed during part of my adventures as a Desert Ranger. Other times, I felt very accomplished after saving a community, or even a single person stumbled across in the wilderness. And the story I mentioned in the opening of this review, I pondered on for a night and day until I played again. The setting and story is so rich and vibrant with details, I found it very easy to get lost in the game.
Another layer of Wasteland 2 is the deep, branching story. My first game, I opted to go to village A (no spoilers here) instead of village B. Well, due to making a few too many mistakes in learning the game, I decided to scrap that three or so hours for a fresh start and picked option B. Several hours later, I had to go to the neglected village anyways and the aftermath was crushing to my ego. At this point I was starting to feel good about my team and what I was doing, only to be deflated with remorse.
As someone who enjoys strategy games, I always love it when other genres blend strategy elements into games. When combat is initiated, the game switches from real-time to turn-based. One of two things generally happen here; either I engage the enemy from a distance and start the combat sequence, or the enemy sees me and starts combat. Typically I controlled my sniper on the field, not only because he had higher perception, but he had better range on his weapon, so I could take a 60% chance (sometimes higher or lower) to deal some heavy damage and land a surprise attack.
Turns cycled through characters, and enemies based on stats and each character could hold and switch between two sets of weapons. I didn’t use that much, as I preferred to bury my skill points and stat upgrades into single skill sets, as opposed to branching off to have melee skills and firearm skills. This paid off pretty early, as I felt like a boss. While there’s a great deal of tactical skill involved, combat is also marginally luck based. I have played entire encounters where my sniper missed every shot, or my tough melee-based character missed two swings with a crowbar because every hit isn’t a guaranteed hit. This feels nostalgic, and while when this happens in some games and I feel cheated, I didn’t in Wasteland 2, because even the enemy would miss, sometimes several hits in a row.
Cover is a big deal, so I found myself playing more conservatively instead of rushing in, especially if the enemies were using cover as well. And the enemies did, in fact, use cover. Frequently,, actually, which made victories feel even more satisfying.I eventually developed a strategy that worked for most encounters, which then led to me looting their bodies and moving on. On occasion, though, I stumbled into unique enemies that needed a different plan of action, so I didn’t become too complacent.
Consoles, in particular, are in need of a game like Wasteland 2: Directors Cut, and any fan of the genre or setting would be remiss for skipping this title. With such a beautifully desolate world to explore, and consequences to be had, Wasteland 2 is both an explorer’s paradise and an emotional roller-coaster.
This review was written based on review code provided by the publisher for the Xbox One console. For more on our review process, please read here.