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Quick look into InXile Entertainment's computer role-playing game Wasteland 2 (full-version)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Hi my fellow readers, it's been forever since I've been posting to this blog. The blog is now rather inactive, but I will post something game-related time to time. I wanted to share my initial thoughts about Inxile Entertainment's Wasteland 2's full-version. I was super-exited to get to play the finished game, finally. After being able to test out the very early Beta ages ago, I thought that the game had some potential, but wasn't starting to look as good as expected. I still kept my hopes up.

As many of you know, Wasteland 2 is party-based computer role-playing game in fashion of the original Wasteland, released around late eighties for PC. Wasteland was the game that influenced Fallout PC-game series (parts 1 and 2), so we're dealing a very highly anticipated game for cRPG freaks out there.

Now after playing good 30hours+ of the game, I can say, that while it probably doesn't quite meet all the hype set for it, it is a good game, and deserves a play-through for any Fallout-series fan. Even if you like Infinity-engine party-based cRPG's of the late nineties, give Wasteland 2 a try.

The game falls in being "a happy medium" between Fallout 1 (and 2) and Jagged Alliance 2. The story and general game-world setting, plus exploration and dialogue, choices in the World of Wasteland 2 reminds those of Fallout-series games, except being not perhaps just as mature in it's feeling. The main-story so far feels satisfying enough, although not extremely original. Anything in post-apocalyptic setting is always fan, anyhow. Chasing Ace's killer in the beginning, seeking leads that lead you eventually to discover all sorts of a plots of evil (not spoiling) taking over the World (bit in Fallout-fashion, but not quite), and getting sucked in conflicts by several different factions feels satisfying, as least, if not very good. The game falls a bit short compared to Fallout 1 and 2's greatness in multiple game and story affecting choices and freedom, and the exploration is not quite as grand and free, and feels a bit one-way-track-y at times in the World map. However, the dialogue and choices are still there and often times there are few ways to crack the nut. Choices you make do not as often affect the World around you quite as effectively as in Fallout 1 and 2, but there are several situations in which you see pleasant outcome depending which way you choose to play the story. (As a minor spoiler) First major one would be whether you choose to help Agricultural Center (aka Ag Center) or Highpool, and later on you could choose who to help with Titan's Temple quest. Those are just few to mention.

Graphically, of course, the game looks if not bad, at least rather poor. Not game-breaking poor, though. It's certainly acceptable, but doesn't raise any shouts of joy. I think InXile did a good job cranking the game's not-so-perfect graphics- and core mechanics-engine to the best in their limit of the available development-time. Not perfect, but it gets the job done. All I'm gonna say is, that rotatable 3D wasn't perhaps the best choice, in my opinion, but would 2D had been too retro? At least it's proven to be very clean and swiftly working for tactical combat, as an example. And these days can also look beautiful, more beautiful than poor-end 3D. Just look at the Torment: Tides of Numenera develop-screenshots, for example.

Combat in Wasteland 2 satisfying, but far from perfect. It's more advanced than in Fallout-games and nods more towards Jagged Alliance 1 and 2, but is nowhere near as complex. Using cover will give evasion bonuses to dodge bullets, and using higher ground will give you chance to hit behind cover better. You can use burst fire or single shots, and spend your turn to order character to wait for a "ambush" if enemy enters his/hers range during an enemy turn. Guns to jam, and there are several types of weapons such as: assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, heavy weapons, energy weapons, blades, blunt weapons, and explosives. Sadly, these don't feel varied and different enough from each other tactically thinking, like in Jagged Alliance 2, and progression from early to later weapons is rather too much of a "one-way-track". You usually just pick the one with highest damage/action rating of your weapon class, and weapons don't have much more characteristics than than, when thinking which one is the best. Luckily you can add some modifications to weapons, which keeps things slightly more interesting. To put it shortly, combat mechanics work, but they are nowhere near as tactical and complex as in Jagged Alliance 1 and 2. Mainly, the combat engine with it's cover spots and all could had been used much better than currently, with only few in-game areas leaving space for interesting tactics on combat-movement and cover-usage. The game also has some annoying bugs, especially in the combat field (I'm not going in those at this short peek, though), but they are not game-breaking. One of the better areas for combat tactically, with cover and interesting environment would be "The Prison".

So far I'm liking character development and progression, although I would had hoped slightly more interaction between character skills and the World. For example you can choose backgrounds for your characters such as Race and Age. But "who you are" (meaning who you are, your background, before you DO anything to affect things) to begin with seems not to have effect how the World reacts to you. Skills mostly consists of combat skills and several (too many) skills for opening different lockers. In fact, computer science, lock picking, safe cracking, disarm alarm, demolitions, and brute force are very commonly all used for opening different containers in the game world. And there's plenty of containers which each offers too little. I would had liked less containers with more meaningful content, more spaced out than currently. I, however, like the fact that loot is rather scarce (in quantity), which means looting and finding ammo and medic kits meaningful. Scarce amounts of look found per container gives a slight survival-element to the game.

Skills such as Hard Ass, Smart Ass, and Kiss Ass give additional dialogue options and ways to solve quests and conversations and are one of the more satisfying skills in the game. They bring a glimpse of Fallout 1 and 2's greatness to the one's mind time to time. While not quite reaching story interactivity and freedom of exploration like in Fallout 1 and 2, nor reaching party-based tactical combat greatness of Jagged Alliance 1 and 2 (especially the part 2), Brian Fargo's InXile Entertainment has still put out a enjoyable grand party-based computer role-playing game, which seems to last probably something like 60 hours. There's probably no good story-material for quite that long run, nor the game's World and combat does carry it's quality throughout that long time perfectly, but the game still feels one of the best cRPG's to come ouf for over a last decade. Even with it bugs and shortcomings, I found the game addictive at it's best. Worth checking out. I MIGHT do a full review later on, but it remains to be seen.

I actually wish that InXile, who now have a good base-work done for this game-engine with Wasteland, does a polished sequel in the future. After finishing with Wasteland 2, I'm setting my sights for Project Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera, but I still have probably good 20+ hours to go. With no triple-A aka AAA game-development budget available, even with slight delays in development, InXile has done nice job and I want to congratulate their team for putting up worthy game. Wasteland 2 may not become a grand classic, but it's a lot of fun.

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