The sequel to the 1988 classic that inspired the Fallout series is finally available for Switch. The question is; do you have what it takes to be a Desert Ranger in the unforgiving world of Wasteland 2?
Wasteland 2: Director's Cut has you command a small unit of Desert Rangers within the post-apocalyptic desertscape of 22nd century America. Under the supervision of General Vargas, it's your job to investigate the death of fellow renowned Ranger Ace which leads to many situations and confrontations that you definitely won't see coming. The story begins in Arizona and you'll eventually end up in Los Angeles. Along the way, you'll accomplish many intricate missions and meet plenty of characters that seem like they're straight out of a Mad Max movie. There are story-altering decisions to be made, some of which may have devastating consequences no matter what you choose. Overall, the aggressive atmosphere and dire situations make the narrative immersive from start to finish. Heck, after playing for a dozen or so hours, you'll become quite attached to your ragtag group of Rangers which is something that I wish I felt in more games.
The gameplay featured in Wasteland 2 primarily involves traversing the overworld map as a symbol then entering various areas that are usually large and intricate maps. There, you'll meet NPCs and battle enemies that come in all sorts of varieties; be they human, monster, machine, or mutated animal. The battle system is similar to most modern turn-based strategy games so there's nothing new or exciting in that regard but it is very cool how the gameplay seamlessly shifts from free-roaming to battle then back again. What adds a layer of engagement to the combat is the element of survival where you have to deal with limited ammo, permadeath, status ailments, filling your water supply, etc. It can be grueling stuff but it's ultimately rewarding to juggle everything and kick ass while you're at it.
Wasteland 2: Director's Cut's campaign is enormous and will likely take you dozens of hours to complete. On top of that, there is so much to do that perfectionists could spend over 100 hours trying to master everything. Considering you can also play through the entire campaign again while making different decisions to see what changes, you're looking at a ton of replay value.
Although it's fun, Wasteland 2 could definitely improve upon its performance, presentation, and interface. It all feels unrefined when you compare it to other modern games in the genre such as Divinity: Original Sin II, Blackguards 2, and XCOM 2. For starters, the loading screens are ridiculously long and occur whenever you transition to a new area. Everything from the text to the way you navigate through the menus feels unpolished and clunky, too. Even moving the symbol around on the world map is weird. Why can't I see my characters? Sure, it's satisfying to uncover new areas but it seems like they could have put a lot more effort into fine-tuning these aspects.
Last but not least, Wasteland 2: Director's Cut has a rather steep learning curve yet it only features text tutorials. As a result, if you don't retain as much information as Sheldon Cooper does then you'll likely have to learn everything on your own. I wish developers would heed Alex's easy-to-follow advice in his helpful piece How to Make an In-Game Tutorial.
When it comes to SRPGs, Wasteland 2: Director's Cut offers a rewarding survival-based campaign that'll delight hardcore fans of the genre. However, a few nagging issues bog down this otherwise fantastic experience.
- + Rewarding survival-based campaign with engaging turn-based battles
- + Well-done aggressive atmosphere
- + Huge campaign with lots of replay value
- - Presentation, performance, and interface could use a lot more refinement
- - Steep learning curve with only text tutorials to provide guidance