Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut is the throwback fans deserve, on a new console, with updated visuals, dialog, voice acting, and generally more everything. Those wanting a hand held experience that walks through the intricacies of what made games like Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, and other isometric RPG’s of the PC golden years won’t find it here – as Wasteland 2 holds a tutorial, but not much beyond that in terms of a kindergarten approach. Challenging, dense, and systems-focused are typically words that could be detractors to a solid overall product, but the team at InXile have focused their aim perfectly to deliver a crit in terms of execution, and a great experience to sit back and soak up.
“What comes after the end?”
Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut doesn’t rewrite the main game of similar moniker from the Kickstarter, instead opting for refining the experience, and ultimately enhancing it. The tale of Wasteland 2 follows in suit with similar post-apocalyptic RPG games, and serves as a direct sequel to the original Wasteland from 1988. Most reading this might not even be aware that Fallout has Wasteland to thank for much of its structure and setting, and will likely not be able to shake the feeling of a Fallout like story, what with Rangers, the Wasteland, and more echoing through both. Rest assured though, Wasteland 2 is a honest to goodness sequel to an original and innovative title, and earns its own spot as a solid tactical RPG with some impressive depth and systems.
Wasteland 2 hit PC in full release on September 18, 2014. Since then, it’s enjoyed decent success, garnering over 5,000 reviews, and a generally positive outlook on Steam. In the year since release on PC the team at InXile have been hard at work on this Director’s Cut. The big differences being that the game has received a solid update to the dialogue in terms of voice-over work, a handful of new perks and abilities, as well as overall graphical refinements. The core of the game remains that of the hardcore, and unapologetically old-school approach of a tactical RPG. Turn-based combat, action points, and status will be your frequently used terms and referenced items. Selecting which skill to unlock becomes a game in itself to see if your character becomes a well-rounded wasteland warrior, or a heavy-on-a-few stat type. Choices in all of these systems can paint your wasteland wanderers into a corner, or craft a path to victory and legendary status among the Rangers, but as previously stated – it’s old school, and in that respect you might not know you’ve made the right choice until it’s too late.
The game kicks off with a well done full-motion video cutscene describing the series of events leading the western United States to the wasteland it is. After nuclear explosions, the few that survived were left with little usable land, water, and resources, and constant chaos plagues the land. From that, few decided that justice and order must prevail, and so the Rangers were born. You take up the mantle of Wasteland Ranger, with your still shiny star you choose either the default Rangers dictated by the game, or create your own and head out to serve General Vargas and the Rangers to greater good. While the default heroes are good for the beginner, and fairly well-balanced, seasoned vets or those wishing to have a bit more control will most certainly want to customize their rangers, and that’s where the game proves its density.
Skills to pay the Bills
Players jumping into their first tactical RPG might be a bit overcome by the pure amount of choice put forth – as it resembles more of a Dungeons and Dragons setup; choose your name, sex, portrait, ethnicity, even their favorite brand of smokes, as well as write your own bio for your character – that’s just the first screen. From here you can customize the look, then you’ve got three more Rangers to create.
From there you’re taken to another customization screen that might be more familiar again to those D&D fans, or Fallout of old. Attributes are set out to CLASSIC categories in 7 variants; Coordination, Luck, Awareness, Strength, Speed, Intelligence, and Charisma. Each attribute having great effects on that individual Ranger, and possibly their cohorts depending on the level. Next are your skills, which can be added or enhanced at any time during the game when leveling up, but not reduced, so picking wisely, early is a good investment for the future. Rangers can specialize in all shapes and sizes of weapons from bareknuckles to heavy and bladed weapons, or opt for skills like lock picking, computer science, or barter in order to make their journey through the wastes easier. Most skills boil down to helping you do two things; getting into a container or around an obstacle, or using a certain item (mainly weapons). While that’s a cursory and highly simplistic view of the skills, the sheer amount of them available left me planning each and every level gained very methodically. I just picked up a great shotgun, and my sniper has no close range support. What if she runs out of ammo for the sniper, what then? Will she just hide? Not at level 10, oh no – she’s going to get up close and personal.
Just when you think the customization is finished, there are perks and quirks – perks come along every fourth level, and for the Fallout fan, they function much in the same way. Players can pick a perk to make them gain AP quicker per turn in combat, or have a higher chance to find more ammo, etc. Quirks on the other hand are chosen at character creation (or granted with the base players upon starting the game) and serve more as a personality trait. Quirks like Fainting Goat stick out – where if an enemy lands a critical hit on you, there’s a 35% chance you’ll faint, causing them to miss, but at the penalty of moving that character back in the order.
Rock, Paper, Systems
Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut plays by a set of rules and chances, adhering to them strictly. If you know what you’re in for and are accepting that early game characters will miss shots, even melee strikes from the next square over, you’ll be fine. If instead you’re hoping for a Fallout 3 top-down game where each strike hits for at least some damage, or you’re not relying on the addition, multiplication, and division of percentages and values on the back-end, you’re going to have a bad time.
Wasteland 2 having been a PC release initially, and having played it there first myself, feels at home on the PC. With the clicking interface it really just feels right to have such dialed in control over every movement of everything, down to the camera. That isn’t to say the team at InXile didn’t put out some very competent controls with the Director’s Cut on the PS4 version I played. In fact, it felt great to be able to sit back and wander the wastes on the couch instead of in the office chair, and truly immerse myself in the world without having to sit forward. It could be said that at some points, Wasteland 2 is even better as a sit-back game, instead of up in good posture in front of a monitor. However when engaging in combat I still found myself saddled up and surveying the battlefield closely, wondering which square would expose me least, which would give me that high-ground advantage, and which would be the best time to strike.
While the game is incredible and easy to get lost in, there’s still a few issues. A few times we found that once hovering an available spot to move to, the reticle would turn red indicating the move was not available, when the map showed it was. After trying again it showed available with no issue and our character was able to head over to our tactical choice. I also noticed the option to heal enemies would pop up automatically a few times, which was strange, until during a particularly tough fight I healed an enemy that was giving me a ton of grief but we had withered down well enough. Now he was back to full health while I assume our medic gave a thumbs up and wanted an “attaboy” for a job well done when in fact he actively detracted from our success. Small things like this don’t really ruin the experience, but were noticeable enough to comment on, and frustrating enough to merit mention.
Shockingly well done are the controls – with the left stick on the DualShock 4 constantly controlling movement, the right doing camera work, and face buttons serving differing purposes based on their context clues in the world. The camera on PC was excellently integrated by allowing the player to continue exploring the map while their characters moved to a certain point. The console version doesn’t allow this, but clicking in the right stick does change the camera from a right stick zoom/rotate function to a pan, allowing the player to at least scout ahead a little to see if there’s any movement in that there fog of war. Switching characters between your 4 to 7 rangers and companions is done via the shoulder buttons, and becomes second nature quickly along with using the directional pad for quick actions like accessing the map, logbook, and changing stance from standing to crouching.
The Director’s Cut doesn’t reinvent the wheel with Wasteland 2, instead opting to refine the old-school, by adding more to it. There are noticeably voiced characters that were silent in the original PC release, the game looks great on the PlayStation 4 hardware (though the game is also hitting Xbox One on launch), and the few new options like a precision strike, much like Fallout’s VATS allows players to pick a part of the body to aim for and inhibit things like movement if shooting legs, armor for the chest and so on.
The Bottom Line
Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut offers a few different values; an insanely good tactical RPG for the fan of the classics and more system-heavy games of old like Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, and Wasteland, while on the other hand it offers a decent entry point for those looking for a good new RPG set in an apocalyptic wasteland. Rookies to the genre expecting their hands held and a walk in the park even on Rookie difficulty settings will find challenge, but the rewards for sticking it out and exploring the wastes are more than worth it. Wasteland 2 offered gamers a modern revamp of a sorely missed angle on RPG games, and the Director’s Cut enhances the year-old game further, adding value, depth, and polish to an already well-rounded game. This one deserves a spot on your list of games to get to sooner than later.
Examiner was provided with a digital code for PlayStation 4 of Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut for review purposes.
Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut hits PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One on October 13, 2015. PC owners of Wasteland 2 can look for an update to their existing copy if previously purchased, as the Director’s Cut is coming free of charge to previous players.