I fight through the gila monsters, hordes of raiders and a few desert dwellers, turning them all into a thin, red paste in order to retain my claim to the treasure tucked carefully away inside my backpack. I’ve been waiting for this for ALMOST 30 YEARS! At last, the prize is mine!
As I reach my cozy little bunker, far away from the radiation zones where my Geiger counter sits silent instead of clacking away, the excitement and tension are palpable in the cloistered air. Booting up the old kitbashed Commodore 64, I remove the carefully wrapped package, pop in the disk and proceed to install WASTELAND 2.
So I purchased this some time ago, but my writing schedule did not permit me to play it. I admit freely that I can be easily sucked into playing a video game for hours, but I have plenty of self-discipline to not let it turn me into the freak that lives off of cheese puffs and Mountain Dew in their mother’s basement whose only exposure is a trip to answer the door when the UPS or FedEx guy drops off that special collector’s edition Mad Meltdown Mayhem III. However, I had been eagerly awaiting this one, as stated, for 30 YEARS! Not that the Fallout series wasn’t fabulous (all of the games are), but Wasteland was the one that got me started, back in the day. I was a young girl then, and when my brother bought the game and installed it on his Commodore 64 (two disks, double-sided, had to be copied*), I couldn’t wait to get my fingers on that keyboard.
And so it is…
First, I made a team loosely based on my characters from Umbra. [The following may contain some SPOILERS, if you haven’t read the novel or played either of the games.] There’s Shaw with his beard and boonie, Mance with his youthful stature and mussed hair, without the robes he wore in the novel, however. And there’s Vera. I am absolutely delighted to say that within three minutes of starting the game, she had her goat following her. Now, Aberforth isn’t Casey, but I can’t get everything I want. And to round out the team, I included hefty meatsmasher Deergut to give my team a little heavy weapons and brute force. Deergut wasn’t in Umbra, but he will showing up in one of the sequels…
It was nice to see the “old faces” in the game, namely General Vargas (‘Snake’), Angela Death**, Thrasher and Hell Razor, and sadly, Ace as a corpse. Makes me wonder who else I am going to see***…
What also got me excited was that they tried to stay true to the locations, as well. The Ag Center map is much like the map from the original Wasteland, with its desk area at the front, the long corridor in the center and the two garden areas off to the side, complete with the satellite dishes. The Ranger Center, now moved to the Citadel where they originally fought off hordes of evil nuns, even has the museum room with the Secpass in the display. (I guess the Quasar key you found there was left behind at Cochise.)
As for the soundtrack, they get extra kudos for bringing in Mark Morgan who created the music for Fallout 1 & 2. Anyone who reads me knows I am very picky about soundtracks for games/movies like these, but I can’t say enough about Mark Morgan’s work. “Radiation Storm”, the track played during the Vault Dweller‘s trip to The Glow, still gives me the chills when I hear it. Talk about creeptastic. If anything, I am looking to progress through the game not just for the storyline and entertainment of playing an RPG, but for the music Morgan brings to the game.
I was really happy to be playing an isometric style game. I loved the original Wasteland with its sprite-ful overhead view and the combat screens with portraits and descriptors (note that ‘thin, red paste’ I inserted above. And don’t forget to bring the blood sausage!), and I really grew to love the visuals of Fallout. This game is no different, giving it a retro but not too retro feel. I am able to accomplish a lot of tactics that I enjoyed setting up, like the crouch and headshot (headshots! woot!) for my sniper in order to get the ‘party’ started, and I like the ambush function. My only gripe with that feature, however, is that they ALL shoot/aim for the same target on the ambush. I wouldn’t mind having a simple “wait” so that my sniper, for example, could use her turn on the high-value targets instead of the fodder that can be cleaned up with a club or a simple burst from an SMG when they wander into firing range. If they change this in an update (which they may already have, but my internet connection is spotty so getting the old computer to a place to DL them is a trip rather than a normal occurence), I will be one happy camper.
I could go on and on, but I think a full play-through will be necessary, and probably more than one, since the very beginning of the game sets it up for multiple playthroughs with different outcomes. I’ve been having a grand time getting in an hour of gametime a day, so I see this one keeping my schedule occupied for quite a while. So far, I am going to give the game 4-1/2 out of 5 mushroom clouds.
*This was done so that changes made during gameplay were maintained throughout the world, something few if any other games did at the time. You couldn’t go blow a place up, leave the local map and come back to find everything intact. Your actions mattered. This is fairly standard now, but a lot of credit goes to the developers for the persistence of behavior and consequences in Wasteland. Of course, if I wanted to play the same area over again, I could make another copy of that side of the disk and play ‘fresh’. I suspect that was how a lot of people, myself included, got their Rangers absurdly high promotions.
**Minor break in continuity, if you had the Strategy Guide from the original Wasteland like I do (yes, I still have my copy). Angela gets fatally gutted and they leave her behind, and SOMEONE is an android. Good reading though.
***I hope the reference to the ‘blue woman’ is actually ‘purple’ and happens to be Charmaine, one of my favorite characters from the original game.