InXile's Wasteland 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the original Wasteland. How long-awaited? Well, the first Wasteland hit the gaming world in 1988, meaning that even George R. R. Martin has the right to balk at the quarter-century delay.
But 26 years later, the game is finally here, thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign throwing just under $3 million InXile's way.
The game is a turn-based RPG with a focus on squad management and tactical combat. If the name didn't give it away, it's set in the post-apocalyptic future of 2102, the aftermath of a nuclear war back in 1998. Your squad is a pack of newly minted Desert Rangers -- one of the few factions or gangs actually dedicated to making life better for the survivors living in the titular Wasteland.
I've been losing a frightening number of hours to Wasteland 2, first during the early access beta and more recently after the final release, which is a genuinely more polished and enjoyable version.
Wasteland 2 ticks a lot of the boxes when it comes to what I look for in a good RPG. I'm a big fan of Fallout, and the Wasteland series is often regarded as a spiritual stablemate to Fallout, but Wasteland 2 made me a little nostalgic for, of all things, 2001's Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.
First and foremost for any RPG is character creation. While the low-fi isometric look of Wasteland 2 doesn't lend itself to having you fuss over the distance between your characters eyes or how deep their chin cleft is, there's still plenty to work on. Ethnicity, religion and -- bizarrely -- preferred cigarette brand are all there, along with a dizzying array of skills.
I found the character creation a little challenging: without a single main character, I initially ended up with a squad of 'generalists' -- characters who were passably competent at a variety of things. It was a disaster. With four squad members, I highly recommend specialisation.
On my next -- far more successful -- attempt I ended up with the charismatic leader, the enormous heavy weapons fan, a surgeon/sniper and Sprocket, my tech gal. Along with space for two NPCs, it's proven a solid combination. Basically, there are too many skills and not enough skill points per level for you to waste time on a jack-of-all-trades.
Aside from combat (which we'll get to) exploration and discovery is the real name of the game here. Wasteland 2 is a big, sprawling environment, heavy with background lore and chatty NPCs who'll occasionally overwhelm you with backstory and dialogue options. There's also buried treasure to dig up, safes to crack, crates to open and locks to pick.
It means that your choices about skills really impact your journey through the world, even when it comes to conversations. Case in point: there are actually three skills that will influence the conversations you can have. These are Smart Ass, Hard Ass and Kiss Ass. Occasionally, one or two will appear as options in a conversation. But if you've concentrated on Kissing Ass, then anyone who needs a bit of intimidation from a Hard Ass won't be revealing any secrets to you.
Same with the safes you find. Some will be a tumbler needing a Safecracking skill, some a lock requiring a Lockpick, and some might have a keypad, meaning you use Computer Science. And that's not even taking into account the possible of a trap or an alarm, both of which require different skills to disengage.