Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut

Developer: inXile Entertainment | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Turn-based

Even though I never played much of the first Wasteland game, I still backed this one. It looked really promising, but the reports of it being difficult kept me postponing it – until today. And I’m happy to say that even playing it so late to the party, I was still grabbed by it and found it really atmospheric.

At least until California.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, it felt like much more of an earnest successor to Fallout 2 than the games Bethesda produced after buying the rights to the franchise.

I played with the preset party featuring Pills, Slick, Bear and Cold-Eye. It started with General Vargas giving my party their first assignment as Desert Rangers – figure out how Ace died while putting repeater units on three radio towers in the wasteland, complete his job, and optionally revenge him. I made sure to accept Angela Deth as my fifth party member, and into the wasteland we ventured.

The atmosphere was excellent. The music and the ambient sounds were spot on, and the random radio calls from someone asking for help an excellent detail. In between the settlements I was traversing a larger map and it was important that our water supply would suffice. This is also where random encounters could happen, or we had to cross nasty clouds with radiation.

In the settlements themselves, it was typical party management and turn-based combat. It felt like I was allowed to move around further each turn than in other turn-based games, which was great for reaching cover behind crates or stones. I won’t get into too much of the story here, but the dialog with NPC’s were well written and their settlements had interesting quests and tasks to do.


Playing in a 4K screen resolution made the HUD and its text tiny. Good thing it had a HUD zoom feature.

I know it made a lot of sense and thus I begrudgingly had to accept its logic, but I really didn’t like how assault and sniper rifles lost a lot of precision when enemies ran up right next to a party member. I had to distance myself to increase the precision again.

A great detail was how right-clicking something to be handled – e.g. a locked box or a computer – opened a small icon row where I could choose a skill accumulated from all party members. If I chose e.g. to lockpick the gate, the party member with that skill automatically ran up and starting working.

I also liked how the dialog choices were handled. Many games show lines in the log itself, or a wheel with choices. Here, dialog buttons appeared in a static row in the bottom of the screen. It worked well.

After killing a group of enemies, an XP report list was shown in the right side.

Invited party members had a percentage chance of going rogue and doing their own thing when it was their turn. There were ways to reduce this, but I actually liked it and wished they did it more often. It felt like they were able to get more shots in than had I controlled the party member myself, and usually they managed to kill at least one enemy in the process. Lovingly automatic – just sit back and enjoy the show.

Another thing I really liked was the way area grids were laid out to show how far a party member could be moved while retaining time for a shot. An smaller, cyan area showed this, while a larger area with a yellow border showed how far the party member could just move.

Mines, however – I really didn’t like those. I thought they were used too frequently and sometimes in bottle necks where they were hard to deal with. In the beginning it just started exploding around the party while I was strolling down a seemingly peaceful road. Later, it just made me wary of crossing a conspicuously barren field, which is not a cool way to move around. A skill could be leveled up to deal with the mines, but disarming one was slow and often there were more than half a dozen of these in a tight area.

Another thing I didn’t always agree with was the chance to hit. It felt like it was really strict. I realize that when the chance to hit is e.g. 65% there is 35% to miss and sometimes that has to be met, but it looked like I was missing more shots throughout the game than I really needed to.

The critical failure situation when e.g. unlocking a chest or a door was also a little too trigger happy. I made a habit out of save scumming when the success rate was above 50%. Critical failures should not be allowed when the success rate is that great.

Spoiler: Click

I didn’t manage to make peace between Atchison and Topekan. It required dialog options I didn’t yet have the skills points for. So the Atchisons were slaughtered when the two factions finally met up.

Apart from Angela Deth in the beginning of the game, my next two companions to reach the full party size of seven were the kid Ralphy and the old drunk Scotchmo. I saved the kid from drowning and he could repair toasters. Later I gave him an assault rifle. Scotchmo used a shotgun and could open a safe. All three sometimes came with voiced comments when arriving in new areas. I particularly grinned at Scotchmo’s comments about how water was undrinkable and thus pretty useless.

In order to cross parts of the wasteland, radiations suits were necessary to avoid taking damage from radiation clouds. I could buy the cheapest suits in the beginning, but I at first I thought it was one suit per party member. I bought one and clicked it and it disappeared from the inventory. Fine, I thought – now that party member was using it. I then bought another one, but when I clicked it for the next party member, I just received an error sound. It then dawned on my that the radiation suit was for everyone.

That was not set up in an particularly intuitive way. And it could have been fixed easily – just change the graphics of the inventory icon to show several radiation suits stacked on top of each other. Then it would have been logical to assume that clicking it would cover the entire party.

Darwin village was a disappointment. The way the village was described, I was expecting a big and important area. There were barely two fights against zombies and that was it. A garage door wanted a keycode I didn’t have, so there was nothing more to do. Talk about anticlimax.

At one point a farmer asked me to release three of his pigs that was stolen from him. They could find their own way home. I found the den and opened the gate, and they did dart in the right direction. Later, when I walked down a barren field, I found the three pigs dead, stepped on a cluster of mines. Then when I returned to the farmer’s place, he was just totally gone.

Did the developers decide to remove him if the pigs died, to avoid having to write dialog for that situation? If I had been writing that quest, I would instead have moved the mines away to avoid killing the pigs that way, no matter what route they decided to take.

I also found a group of goats guarding a couple of chests. Ralphy had the animal whispering ability and got three of them to follow us. I quickly regretted that – they were all frequently bleating and screaming. Sometimes one of them was even using the Wilhelm scream, which did make me laugh a little.

Before leaving for California, I was ordered back to deal with Commander Danforth. I got hold of an antidote for his suffering dogs and cured them all for him. After a talk he agreed to negotiate a peace with the Desert Rangers. Nice turnaround after the Atchison/Topekan fiasco.

Then if was off to California in a chopper. Of course it ended up crashing.

California was the second half of the game. A little greener than the sandy Arizona, but other than that it was more of the same. Mines, chests, safes, robots, toasters, bandits, quests. To be honest I was starting to lose my fascination with the game. It felt very repetitive. I was hoping California would have kept things more refreshing than this.

I was also miffed about the quest for rescuing cows in Cerritos. It was the first chance to show how Desert Rangers did things and so please don’t fuck it up. At one point I saw a few non-aggressive characters in the corner of the screen, but I decided to check out some chests first. In the meantime a quest or two auto-completed, which confused me at first, but whatever. Then as I went up in the top of the map, all the non-aggressive characters had snuck out with all the cows. The quest giver in the beginning now simply stated that we had fucked it up. Get out of my sight!

I despise quest design like that. It one of those things where you sort of have to “know” what’s going to happen, otherwise you’re just going to lose. If only they had one of my companions say something like, “We better hurry finding the thieves or they might escape!” That would have made sense and also given me a chance to get it right the first time.

It’s a good example of the game not always playing fair.

I went to another area where I rescued a mayor and his people from Lt. Steven Dengler and his gang. After checking out the entire map, I travelled to Angel Oracle. That’s where I decided to stop playing.

Abandoned after 33 hours.

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