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Wasteland

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Brian Fargo & Alan Pavlish

GAME DEVELOPER:Interplay

GAME PUBLISHER:Electronic Arts

Copyright 1989, Interplay

My most favorite RPG ever, and one of the very few games that earned a permanent place on my hard drive since the first time I installed it, Wasteland is an epic post-apocalyptic RPG that set new standards for the genre that arguably have not since been matched. Set in the California after World War 3 nuclear holocaust, the game casts you as a band of Desert Rangers, a vigilante group intent on bringing some order into the bleak, chaotic society. from town to town, gradually uncovering a sinister plot that threatens what’s left of mankind. Just how good is the game, and why does it deserve to be in every RPG gamer’s collection? George Shannon’s eloquent review for MobyGames says it much better than I could: “Even with outdated graphics, the setting sets one’s imagination aflame, using familiar elements from life and including them in the game, but overlaying the horror of nuclear war on top. While some of the darker elements aren’t as evident, it’s still very obvious throughout the game that there is a detailed, thoughtful, and even meaningful post-apocalyptic theme everywhere.

Another element that makes Wasteland such a great game is the character development system. Most RPGs have a player select a class for a party member – but what IS a class? Does it let YOU role-play? No, the class tells you what and how to role-play. Does it enhance the game? Perhaps, but once the class is defined there’s no real development OF the character – A level 1 knight has the same desires, goals, and value systems as a level 18 knight. Wasteland uses a skill and attribute based system, periodically giving a character ‘points’ to use on attributes and skills, as well as having skills increase through use. But moreover, the character development doesn’t stop when you use up the points – many places in Wasteland allow a character to separate from the rest of the party and engage in some solo activity – maybe hooking up with a prostitute, or venturing into a cat-and-mouse game within the mind of an android. Stuff like this builds the character individually, and thus, the party. By the end of the game, I look at my characters and not only see what they are (level 20 Corporals, demolitions dude, charismatic leader, tech expert…) but what they went through… their individual victories and tribulations. This makes for a very powerful gaming experience.

In other areas, Wasteland does quite well. Graphics are average to outstanding. The play balance is nearly perfect – the advancement from one area prepares you quite well for the next, neither too hard nor to easy. Not many sounds are included, fortunately they are simple and do not get repetative. Overall, even without the character development, Wasteland is just plain fun.

With such a positive personal slant on Wasteland, it’s hard to define problems with it. In some places, the appearance of enemies is too ‘generated’ (they pop up out of nowhere, Bard’s Tale style) and are seemingly endless. Some enemies and situations are a little too ‘weird’, but Wasteland isn’t supposed to be about realism. Some plot elements are a little cliche, but most are handled quite well.

Wasteland is an amazing ROLE-playing game. The setting is thorough and detailed, your characters can get into all sorts of trouble, as individuals and as a party. This makes Wasteland a unique experience every time.”

It is too bad that the official sequel Mean Time was never made, and Fountain of Dreams, Electronic Arts’ “unofficial sequel” is extremely disappointing. With a unique skill-based system that lead to many excellent adventure-style puzzles, intriguing plot with tons of ’80s references, and a truly epic scale full of many hidden surprises and subplots that guarantee hundreds of hours of play and replay value, Wasteland is simply a must-have. If you wonder where Fallout came from, this is its true predecessor (and a game I infinitely enjoy more than Fallout series). A classic in every sense of the word.



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