Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut


I wanted to like Wasteland 2 more than I do. It’s a good example of how Kickstarter’s been influencing games this year; instead of trying to make a product with as broad an appeal as possible, which runs the risk of making it bland, a developer is free to make a niche product with direct support from its fans.


As such, Wasteland 2 is a sequel to an early CRPG from 1988, made in the Unity engine, and aimed directly at a hardcore audience of strategy/CRPG fans. Like its predecessor, Wasteland 2 is set in the post-nuclear war Arizona desert, cut off from the rest of the world by clouds of radioactive fallout. As four new members of the Desert Rangers, a self-appointed group out to bring some semblance of law and order to the wasteland, you’re tasked with doing whatever odd jobs come your way, starting with solving the murder of one of your commanding officer’s closest friends.


It’s the kind of game where its punishing difficulty is meant to cause happy flashbacks to the late 1980s; resources are initially scarce, you’ll always be jonesing for your next fix of skill points, the combat system has a distinct learning curve, there’s no level scaling or other modern conveniences, and the world is generally out to kill you. If you make your own crew rather than using the pre-set party, it’s easy to ignore several valuable skills, and the game will happily let you do it. You can take advantage of a few easy crutches at the start of the game, like being able to recruit a kitted-out level 10 character with a couple of much-needed skills from near your starting position, which helps to smooth things over.

If you can overcome that initial hump, however, Wasteland 2 opens up into an elaborate, sprawling dungeon-crawler, which reminds me of the SSI “gold box” Dungeons & Dragons games I cut my teeth on. You’re rewarded for taking cover with higher evasion rates and an accuracy bonus, so the game does a good job of representing infantry combat in a turn-based system. I found myself directing characters to do a “roadie run” between sources of hard cover, and success in even a simple fight can be incredibly satisfying.


I do have slight qualms with the ways it’s implemented. Systems work on a percentage bonus, which often seems weirdly weighted against the player. Enemies often have upwards of a 75% hit rate regardless of your cover, whittling your HP down by slow degrees, while I found that anything south of an 80% chance to hit generally meant I was going to miss. Skills like safecracking, lockpicking, and demolitions fail more often than they succeed, regardless of the numbers you’re given. I still have no idea how you’re supposed to successfully navigate minefields, as ranks in Perception seem to make no real difference. You often have to go outside the game for things like basic controls, as there’s no in-game documentation whatsoever aside from the dense, rapid-fire tutorial windows, which are gone forever once you close them.

(Also, I’m red-green color-blind. I sometimes have a very hard time reading the text that indicates my chances to hit a target, as it’s often red text on a brown background. Some tweaks to that system would be appreciated.)


Much of this is part of the game’s learning curve, of course, and I’m sure I would’ve worked it out given time. The typical retort to problems like these on places like the Steam community is going to be that it’s a hardcore game, and its constant attempts to kill and/or frustrate you are a deliberate part of its appeal. Wasteland 2 is for masochists. That’s a given.


What’s stopping me from surmounting that, and I’m actually at a point in the game where I’m starting to crack into some seriously overpowered levels of skill and gear (my sniper, for example, can kill anything she can see in one shot), is that this game is by no means finished. Wasteland 2 on the PlayStation 4 is a buggy mess of a game.

So far, I’ve run into several loading screens that caused the application to quit, two separate areas where the camera froze, two fights where I was suddenly no longer able to control my characters’ position, a character falling through the world and becoming inaccessible until I left the map, the camera inexplicably zooming out to satellite height during a battle, and a door in the Ranger Citadel that simply will not open. I’d assumed that it was story-locked, but no, it’s apparently a bug.


At this point, I can’t recommend Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut at all until such a time as it’s patched. It simply isn’t a complete product, and while I like a lot of what’s here despite its petty inconveniences–it often feels like playing a tabletop role-playing game with a game master who’s using loaded dice and also hates you–I can’t give it even a qualified recommendation in its current state. It’d be a 80% or 85% game were it not for its technical issues.


Reviewed By: Thomas Wilde
Publisher: Deep Silver
Rating: N/A

This review is based on a digital copy of Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut for the PlayStation 4 provided by Deep Silver.

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