by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
A passionate rhetoric
Ask any seasoned gamer - perhaps slightly balding, greying - what his favourite post-apocalyptic games are and chances are that he will have a hard time picking between Wasteland and the Fallout series. If he knows his games, he will be able to tell you that both games sprang from the same mind, Brian Fargo’s. Ask him if he backed Brian’s Kickstarter for Wasteland 2, and the odds are good that you will get a resounding yes and a passionate rhetoric on why Wasteland’s comeback is God’s gift (well, Brian’s mostly) to gamers. And you know what? You may doubt it, but your gamer friend is neither crazy nor wrong.
A day in the life of a Ranger
Wasteland 2’s storyline manages to tickle the player’s imagination right from the get go. The isolated desert area that the Rangers have exerted their control over has long been at peace but some unknown entity is threatening to come and upset the balance through a series of ominous broadcasts. Your little band of new recruits is tasked with finding out who is behind the radio signals. You set out into the scorching desert to investigate the death of a fellow ranger. The sinister, brewing disquiet about the broadcasts is overshadowed by full-out alarm almost instantly. I’m going to stop there as I don’t want to spoil too much of the story for you. You will have to find out what that alarm is about with your own recruits.
Wasteland 2’s Early Access version is already imposingly large. The campaign map seems barren at first but exploring the surroundings of the Ranger’s headquarters will soon reveal places where the remnants of humanity have carved out lives for themselves after the nuclear apocalypse.
One of these places is the Rail Nomads Camp. Reaching it from your starting point is something of an adventure itself as you will have to travel through a radiation cloud. Radiation suits keep the damage somewhat under control but seeing the health bars of your team go down as you try to cross is disconcerting to say the least. The grass is greener on the other side, however, and the Rail Nomads Camp feels like an oasis compared to the forsaken bunker that is Ranger HQ, even if it has been built using rusty shipping containers and deteriorating rail wagons.
The first person you meet – a Topekan - offers you an opportunity to become the new local hero without firing a single shot. It is a great way to introduce yourself to the locals but you soon find out that they aren’t particularly interested in any outside help. It is difficult to ignore their current predicament though. The train that normally plays a vital role in their economy is missing an equally vital piece that keeps it from running. From here, the options to progress appear to explode. Will you hunt down the Achisons that have allegedly stolen the missing piece, but used to be responsible for the track maintenance of that very same train? Would the Topekans give up the Golden Spike to the Achisons to broker a deal between the two people? It certainly seems that this spike is at the heart of the issue. And what about simply stealing the pieces?
It is just one of many choices that Wasteland 2 will have you make. More often than not, going through one door means closing another and you will have to live with the consequences. Some consequences are of the ‘light’ variant and can easily be waved away but losing access to a valuable merchant is never a good thing.