Wasteland 2 Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 2 years ago
Back in 1988, before some of us were even born, a game called Wasteland was released. This post-apocalyptic RPG was the first of its kind and was said to have paved the way for the massive Fallout series that we know today. Almost three decades later, a sequel to the classic title was announced in the form of Wasteland 2, which released on PC last year. Although it would have probably come as no surprise that a lot of gamers hadn't heard of the original, the title has now made its way over to Xbox One. With all that in mind, does Wasteland 2 fit into the games of today or should the series have stayed dead and buried over twenty years ago?

After a long slumber, Wasteland returnsAfter a long slumber, Wasteland returns

Wasteland 2 has you in control of a squad aligned with an organization known as the Desert Rangers in the Arizona desert after an apocalyptic event that destroys civilization. The Rangers are a symbol of protection and thus are represented as the good guys across the wasteland. The game sets itself up with your squad being measly recruits who need to prove themselves before becoming fully fledged Rangers, and eventually your hero status will rise as you help the many people you meet. Initially, you are attempting to solve the murder of a former Ranger called Ace, but as you go deeper, you will soon realise that there is more to this than meets the eye.

Immediately upon starting Wasteland 2, you will notice that it has a "rough around the edges" look. The main menu isn't flashy, and the in-game text is extremely basic. Games of today often try to impress us with their shiny graphics and vibrant colour pallets, but with this title you don't necessarily get that. It isn't completely ugly by any stretch, but the top-down view and typewriter-style text recording your adventures in the corner gives off a nostalgic quality. It felt slightly off-putting in the first hour or two of play, but you eventually warm to the direction the game has taken in design.

This is similar with the conversations in the game. With this being the "Director's Cut" edition of the title, many more spoken lines have been added in, but you will still be spending a lot of time reading what is said to you. Speaking to various NPC's will trigger dialogue sequences where blocks of text will show up and instead of listening, you will need to read every line to keep up with what's happening. Major characters such as General Vargas, the Ranger general, will have more spoken dialogue, but even he isn't fully voiced. There are many, many conversations to experience in the game so it's understandable that they aren't all spoken given the game's design, but it can sometimes feel odd when one line is spoken and the next isn't. It feels inconsistent, especially when one character physically speaks to another while the other remains voiceless throughout. The voice acting itself isn't the best, as some lines don't convey the emotion that should be felt in what they say, but some of the characters do portray their personalities fairly well in places.

Just one of the many conversations you will be havingJust one of the many conversations you will be having

While interacting with everyone in the wasteland, you'll be looking after your trusty squad along the way. When starting a new game, you will have the chance to create four custom Rangers or pick from a number of pre-made ones. These will be with you until you either dismiss them for new followers or they die. What causes Wasteland 2 to be more dangerous than a lot of games is that when one of your rangers die, they're dead forever. You are allowed to have up to seven people in your squad at once, and there are plenty of skilled people out there who want to join you, but once they're gone, they're gone. This is why skill allocation is a very important and intricate process.

The key to success in Wasteland 2 is by giving each of your squad members a specific specialty. There are a lot of potential skills to acquire and it's impossible to be a master of them all, so decisions will need to be made. Everything from weapon mastery and lockpicking, to dialogue skills and charming animals in combat is available here, and every skill point is important. Want someone to be an expert sniper? You'll probably have to sacrifice the prospect of them being any good with a shotgun for that. Want someone else to easily disable alarms? You might have to give up the chance of them being able to crack open safes instead. The ideal scenario is that every one of your squad members will be an expert in a different field so everyone will be useful for something in the wasteland. It sounds like a hindrance, but it makes gameplay exciting and every skill will feel all the more useful when you come across a section in need of it. However, only by dedicating someone deeply into a certain skill will it become truly helpful. You may have one point in computer science, but don't expect to successfully hack a computer on your first try.

To go alongside the fairly complex skill system, inventory management also comes into play. Looting ammo, weapons, healing items and all sorts of junk will be a regular occurrence in the wasteland and you will need to make sure every squad member has exactly what they need. You may have taken an assault rifle off a corpse but it could have been given to the wrong person. Another thing to note is that squad members can become over-encumbered if they carry too much at once, so be careful with what you want to buy and pick up.

Choose wiselyChoose wisely

Wasteland 2 uses a turn-based combat system which is difficult to fully enjoy at first. Either you can shoot to begin the encounter and have your turn first, or the enemy will spot you and get the jump on your squad. Whatever happens, the combat arena will be given a grid which determines how everyone can use their action points. Every action that someone takes will use these points, whether it's moving to a new position, attacking an enemy, using a trauma kit to revive a fallen squad member or even reloading or fixing a weapon jam if the need arises. Certain actions require more points so you must think tactically when engaging opposition. It is possible to end a character's turn early if you wish, and this causes unused action points to be carried over to their next turn. It can be frustrating when a lot of turns are used to just run closer to the enemy because they are too far away, but it's the same for the enemy as well. Even on the easiest difficulty, some battles can become nail biting as you watch your squad's health rapidly deteriorate so don't expect it to be a cakewalk. Leveling up can even be a tactical move as to do so, you will need to contact the Ranger base via your radio, and this immediately heals everyone who has enough XP to gain more skill points. It all adds to the strategic aspect of the game. Once you get the hang of how the combat works, it becomes second nature to reload weapons before an encounter and position your team in the exact way you want. After you get past the initial spike of difficulty and understanding of the system, it can certainly feel rewarding.

Throughout all of my combat encounters there was one thing that always irritated me, though; the amount of times that you can completely miss. Depending on where you are in relation to the enemy, and most likely your skill in the weapon your squad member is currently using, the percentage chance of whether your attack will successfully strike will increase or decrease. This is shown as a simple number above each enemy so you can decide which enemy has the better chance of being pummeled. Of course, with a 97% chance of an enemy being hit, there is still a 3% chance that you'll miss, but strangely enough, one of my squad members completely missed swinging at an enemy in melee range with this percentage twice in a row. This regularly happened and it just felt off. It could just mean I'm rather unlucky, but it was too consistent, to the point that even a 100% chance still had me anticipating the worst. The problem can arise outside of combat too when using other skills, but it doesn't feel as prevalent. It's almost as though it's completely random whether you'll hit an enemy or successfully pick a lock. It doesn't ruin the game, rather it's something to be aware of.

Watch where you throw that. It can harm your own squad tooWatch where you throw that. It can harm your own squad too

When you aren't fighting, looting or putting your skills to good use with your squad, you'll be traversing the world map. Unlike other games of this type, Wasteland 2 doesn't just have a "click to fast travel here" map. Instead you'll actually be physically moving on the map to get from A to B. You will be in control of a Ranger marker and moving it around to explore the map, unlocking new locations as you go. Special caches can be uncovered and occasionally the radio will send out messages and potentially unlock new locations for you to discover. The world map essentially acts as the barren wasteland you are enduring throughout the game and so you will need to regularly cross it to press on with the adventure. The catch is that you'll constantly be draining the squad's water supply whenever you're moving the marker and if it runs out they will begin to lose their health. At first, this sounds like you can't do much exploring but there are oasis are scattered all over the map that will fully top off your water supply whenever you come into contact with one. Moving around the map feels less daunting once you know where you can find an oasis.

With any luck, you'll have a smooth journeyWith any luck, you'll have a smooth journey

Whatever you're doing in Wasteland 2, you'll always be drawn to the game because of the addictive quality it possesses. Even after three hours of play, you'll still want to carry on journeying. This is partly because the quest logbook never tells you the exact direction to go and there isn't an in-game radar apart from the maps, so this encourages exploration and figuring things out for yourself. Many quests have multiple outcomes so you are never tied down to one particular way of playing. It grows on you the more you play, so if you aren't impressed by what you see at first, the idea is to keep playing until you begin to understand the game.

Due to not being told which way to go in the game, the achievement list is an interesting one. After playing for a while, you will realise that the game will take a long time to complete. Many of the achievements require you to complete quests in certain ways or perform specific actions upon reaching certain sections. The achievements themselves aren't hard, but you will need to be prepared for missables and playing for a while until you get a hefty amount of the 1,000G. It's a creative list, though and encourages you to explore and play in different ways.


When looking at Wasteland 2 from the outside, it doesn't look like anything special. However, once you get stuck in and persevere through the initial confusion of combat and little direction you are given, there is a gem to be found here. I began my travels in the wasteland with bitterness, desperately wanting to play something else, but eventually, I started to crave playing the game more and more. The skill system makes every squad member useful, and combat can be a rewarding experience, despite particular issues it can sometimes have. The game has an alluringly addictive quality that makes you want to keep playing and strengthen your ranger squad, even if it does look a bit rough around the edges. It may not be flashy and appeal to everyone, but those who do give it a shot will be in for a pleasant surprise.
4 / 5
  • Addictive gameplay
  • Rewarding combat
  • Unique use of skills
  • Combat issues can be irritating
  • Voice acting and dialogue can be lackluster
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent just under twenty-one hours exploring the wasteland, beating up bad guys in combat and unfortunately losing a couple of rangers along the way. Only 8 of the game's 46 achievements were earned. A physical copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.