Surviving the apocalypse can be fun!
With so much hype surrounding the upcoming release of Fallout 4, many fans don't know that the series spawned from old-school, isometric, turn-based RPGs like Wasteland. These types of games focused more on gameplay than visuals and audio, and they didn't coddle players by letting them earn every upgrade that's available. Apparently, CRPGs still have a hardcore following because last year's PC-exclusive sequel, Wasteland 2, was completely funded through Kickstarter. Now Wasteland 2: Director's Cut has been unleashed on PS4 and Xbox One, so console owners can get their own nostalgic post apocalyptic fix.
Players assume the role of the infamous Desert Rangers, who patrol the wasteland and offer their own brand of justice in a world ravaged by nuclear war. These aren't the happy-go-lucky, pretty-boy pigs like those found in Cop Rock. No, these rookie rangers are scruffy-looking characters with flawed personalities who don't always make the correct moral decisions. They can't be blamed for being realistic, though, as the wasteland is filled with hard decisions with solutions that usually aren't black and white. Believe me, players will remember many of these choices—whether to save one group of survivors or another—long after they turn off the game. If the choice alone doesn't make players feel guilty, hearing the radio play-by-play of the demise of a band of survivors will definitely drive the decision home.
Another thing I really like is how the game focuses on a four-person group of rangers rather than one specific person. Not only does this mean players can take whatever rangers they want on any dusty outing, but they also don't have to worry about the game ending if one specific person takes a dirt nap. It also makes all rangers less expendable, and in this game, death is permanent. As a result, each character becomes more important and players will tend to replay a battle if one or more rangers fall.
Before the adventure begins, players can decide whether to use randomly-generated characters, create their own characters, or use a combination of the two. I prefer creating my own band of roaming law-bringers because the computer doesn't always choose the best combination of skills for the group. Speaking of which, the sheer number of skills and stats to choose can be intimidating, especially for people who don't have much experience with stat-heavy games. Perhaps the worst choice would be to try and dabble in everything because the stats would be so strewn out that a character couldn't be an expert at anything. I suggest thinking hard about what kinds of characters would compliment each other, such as having a heavy gunner to protect a medic.
The Desert Rangers roam the wasteland in a top-down world map view that switches to an isometric view once a location has been entered. When on the world map, players must avoid radiation zones and also refill their water resources at various oasis or else they'll dehydrate. One dash of nostalgia is the inclusion of random battles that occur without warning. No matter where they are in the game, rangers are in constant contact with their home base via radio, which is the main source for finding events and also for getting quest assignments. Oddly enough, it's also how players upgrade their characters when they level up. I'm pleasantly surprised at the high-quality voice acting for radio chatter, especially since it's such a vital part of the game.
When exploring areas in isometric view, rangers will encounter various survivors to talk to as well as bands of enemies to subdue. Combat begins when a ranger initiates a surprise attack or gains the attention of an enemy, and all enemies in that area join in. Then movement range, attacks, actions, and turn order for each ranger and enemy are all determined based on their stats. Players must employ a heavy dose of strategy to determine which ranger to move where and what attack or action to perform. It doesn't always pay off to rush enemies and simply attack. I found it much more effective to make use of cover, remain in relatively close proximity so allies can he healed, and focus on one or two enemies at a time to take them out quickly.
It's easier to survive if players work as a team, especially when frequent and unexpected weapon jams can quickly put rangers in trouble. This is one of the numerous reasons why the combat can be very challenging, so I suggest that newbies start the game on easy mode and then increase the difficulty later on. Keep in mind that the old-school, methodical combat found in Wasteland 2: Director's Cut can be slow and time-consuming. Although I love turn-based games, the combat can become a bit tedious in large doses.
New to the Director's Cut version is a complete visual overhaul using the Unity 5.0 engine that includes increased details, new textures, more environmental items, and new character models. While the visuals definitely look better, they're still not up to the standard of modern AAA games of course.
My favorite new feature is using Precision Strikes during combat to target specific parts of the body like head, arms, and legs. This increases the chance to land a critical hit and lessens the chance for the weapon to jam. Also new is the ability to choose from various quirks for custom characters that impart personality trait bonuses and drawbacks. For example, Thick Skinned imparts +2 to base armor and -30% to base combat speed while Unlucky gives a chance on every turn to strike a random friend or foe with lightening. Lastly, there has been a significant increase in the amount of voice acting, which is a very welcome addition.
Wasteland 2: Director's Cut is a fantastic retro-styled CRPG with many modern upgrades. Sure, it has a few bugs and takes a while before it becomes truly interesting and fun, but that's par for the course for games with 50+ hours of gameplay. Despite some flaws, it's still a great game that offers a real challenge and isn't hindered by coddling. Fans of stat-heavy RPGs will surely love it's post-apocalyptic goodness!