Wasteland 2 is the product of a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, where inXile Entertainment asked for $900,000 and the fans of the original Wasteland game (as well as other gaming fans, all 70,000+ of them) actually crowd-funded $2,933,252! Returning you to the Citadel from the original, Wasteland 2 takes place in the same post-apocalyptic world that Wasteland previously enjoyed. Wasteland 2 is a direct sequel to the first ever post-apocalyptic tactical turn-based computer RPG game, Wasteland (which was the primary inspiration behind the much-loved Fallout series). What made the original game so unique was the ability to control and command individual party members for tactical purposes as well as the first ever appearance of the now-standard moral choices.
Being a pioneer in the gaming world when it comes to multiple ways to complete an objective and providing consequences based on your actions, Wasteland 2 has a massive reputation to uphold. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Early Access build on Steam.
Before diving into the meat of the preview, I just want to let you know that when you go and purchase the early access ( which you should do right now ) you are opting into the game well before it releases (in this case I would say Wasteland 2 is in roughly the Alpha stage). If you are not interested in being a part of the development process, well, I would still urge you to purchase the game and try it out, but just remember, this is an Early Access build.With that out of the way, Wasteland 2 has a relatively realistic portrayal of what a post-apocalyptic world would be like. From the burnt-out automobiles to the dry, scratchy environment (complete with radiation zones), Wasteland 2 tries to keep things as nitty-gritty as it possibly can without being overly dramatic (or cheesy) and it definitely succeeds.
I would like to note that at the start of a new game you are able to create a party (or use a few pre-created members) which I personally like as it gives me full control of the members of my squad. However, the models used in the character creation screen are not exactly the highest of qualities. To be fair though, once you get in game the models look much better as they are farther away and appear much more crisp. The models that are shown in the creation tool are a good representative of what you will see, but by no means is it exactly the same. Environments are simply stunning, providing a rich and deep experience with plenty of cover provided that your team can use to hide behind. Vehicles, buildings, and even the enemy units are all excellently crafted and fit in with the post-apocalyptic motif very well. When I first booted up a new game I was immediately struck in the feels as Wasteland 2 is lovingly crafted in the after image of the classic Fallout games.
A big part of the entire gaming experience comes from the audio of a game and good audio can certainly make or break a game (as I have stated many times in the past). Even in the Early Access build the audio is quite rich and provides an excellent ambient audio track. When using my SteelSeries Siberia Elite headphones (you can find my review of them here) the sounds of gunfire, dogs barking, voice acting and other standard environmental effects are super crisp and clean and helped to suck me right into the game. Providing such high quality audio is generally a struggle and if the Early Access build is any indication of what is to come, Wasteland 2 will contain phenomenal ambient audio and environmental effects. The soundtrack is well-composed though I found it to be a tiny bit distracting, though that may be due to the stellar sound effects that I was very much enjoying.
While graphics and audio are certainly important factors, the biggest question is "How does it play?" Well, to give you a bit of an idea, starting up a new game and working through the tutorial I felt almost relieved at being able to play Wasteland 2. A wave of contentedness washed over me and all was right with the world. Sort of like that feeling when, after a day of working hard in the hot summer sun and you are able to sit down for a moment to rest your weary legs and take a much-needed drink of cool, soothing water. Yes, very much like that feeling.
Tactical roleplaying games have always been a favorite of mine, but when they implement features like taking stress into account or flanking an enemy, the possibilities are endless. When you have a party member surrounded by bad guys within a space or two, their behavior will change, skills will have less of a chance, and they may even become brutish and be unwilling to follow your orders ( a.k.a. "going rogue" ). Adding in technologies that simulate feelings that you would have were it happening to you in real life brings about an eerie but very cool level off realism that few other games can pull off. Overall the way that you are sucked into the world of Wasteland 2 without even realizing that five hours has passed is certainly a rare thing.
Over the course of the dozen or so hours that I have put into Wasteland 2 I cannot help but start and restart over and over again as I move along the game using trial and error to find that exact team that works well for me. Doing such a thing in other games, like Dark Souls, would likely drive a person mad but not with Wasteland 2. With unique conversation options and combat that contains a lot of chance, nearly every restart was different from the last. As I previously stated, Wasteland 2 is currently in Early Access so it may have some rough edges or strange quirks (for some reason I could not run the game on my Windows 8 machine unless I ran it in Compatibility Mode for Windows 7; my Mac had no problems), though it is well worth any minor setbacks, as Wasteland 2 is a spectacular game (so far).
I will be eagerly awaiting the final release and fully intend on being a part of the development process. It is only fair that I show the love and respect for Wasteland and Wasteland 2 that inXile Entertainment is showing, as Wasteland 2 is wrapping up to be a shining beacon of hope for any computer-based tactical role-playing game fans. Seriously, head to Steam now by into an amazing group of people creating an amazing title; you can find it here.
Preview by Robert