One of my all-time-top-ten-life-decisions (hey, I'm 23 there haven't been many) is when I traded-in Wario Land on Gameboy and made off with Fallout 2. In an act of incredible foresight, and laughable PEGI standards, I managed to snag one of the greatest RPGs ever simply on the basis that I thought the 'guy on the box looks proper cool'.
Now when you speak about Black Isle and Bethesda's scorched earth series, it's hard not to get dragged into top-trumps elitism. Those that came with the Xbox 360 are dismissed. Those entering with Windows 95 are roundly ignored. The first one? Are you kidding me? Only those with Commodores and Amigas deserve real respect. 'War, war never changes?' pssh, tell that to Wasteland.
Following the smouldering path set by other Kickstarter projects, Wasteland 2 is the product of the IP's original designer Brian Fargo, a dozen ex-Interplay alumni, and a whole lotta fan loving. Raising almost $3 million in pledges, the game is one of the biggest successes of the crowdfunding scene, and a testament to the enduring love of nuclear fiction. But regardless of achievements, what about the actual product? The mushy innards of the code? Well, that's a story that's still unfolding.
Set in a post apocalyptic world, you're a young hopeful in the Desert Rangers: a rag tag group of survivors with a desire to rebuild the world in a Texas militia kind of way. Events of the first game suitably tied-up like a radioactive hog, trouble seems to be brewing once again: a ranger is missing, and you ain't getting in the company enclave for dinner until you've poked around for answers.
From the minute you're handed control over Wasteland's 2.5D climes, it's clear that this is a labor of love for both nostalgic cRPGs and isometric graphical engines. Details matter, from the hand-drawn environments to the descriptive chunks of text illuminating beyond the top down perspective; this is old school roleplaying, the type your grandpappy told you about.
The comparisons to the Fallout series squeeze out of the monitor immediately. For those with Van Buren R.I.P tattoos, this feels like a tear stained apology for that ill-fated project. Murky browns return, as do overgrown reptiles. It's like returning home - the radioactive, goo-sticky, mutated homestead that is.
So wrangling control of your crack team of desert marauders, Wasteland follows in familiar patterns of bygone RPGs. Conversations come in equal measures of quest locations and lore, linking up with ever-present radio contact, and violence is never far beneath the surface.
InXile have opted for a return to turn based combat. Strategic positioning and AC points replace reflexes and instinct, and while a little primitive at this point, this almost forgotten system makes a welcome return. The problem though? It just isn't quite XCOM (more on which, later).