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Wasteland 2: Director's Cut

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

I didnít really know what to expect from Wasteland 2: Directorís Cut. I knew what to hope for, of course: I hoped to see a repeat of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Ė Ultimate Evil Editionís console release. Regardless of your feelings on the matter, certain types of games tend to do well almost exclusively on PC. Real-time strategy is absolutely the number one on that list, but somewhere in the mix is the hardcore Dungeons & Dragons-style Western role-playing game. Games like Baldurís Gate and Planescape: Torment are simply made for keyboards and mice. Experiences with the complexity of the original Fallout generally donít lend themselves well to devices with limited input schemes. It happens, but not very often. Wasteland 2: Directorís Cut on Xbox One isnít at all optimized to reach its utmost potential, but it remains a fantastic post-apocalyptic adventure for anyone brave enough to plumb its irradiated depths.

Wasteland 2 tells its story through its art style and its writing, and the two work in tandem beautifully to tell the tale of a world bereft of hope and teeming with chaos. Things donít look so great from a technical perspective. Wasteland 2 is not a technical marvel; in fact, in terms of raw power, it could have been made a decade ago and most of us wouldnít be stunned by its graphical prowess. But thatís missing the point; itís visually cohesive, and therefore much more immersive than it could have been.

To be fair, several of the differences inherent in Wasteland 2: Directorís Cut are easy to miss, but thatís only because there was so much content in the original release. One of these enhancements is additional voice-acted dialogue. The original caught some flak for featuring a jarring disconnect between spoken and written dialogue. All told, that never made the game feel particularly incomplete to me, but the fact that that happens far less often now is indicative of how much theyíve added. Considering the incredible quality of the core releaseís voice acting, itís a massive improvement. Rounding it all out is a gritty, cynical soundtrack that captures the downtrodden but persistent spirit of the survivors that populate this destroyed world.


Welcome to the Desert Rangers, recruit. Youíre now one of the worldís best and brightest, and because of that, youíre perfectly suited to the impossible task of keeping the peace and helping the worldís remaining populace survive. Sounds fun, right? Right!

Wasteland 2ís story has a definite sense of structure to it, as well as a basic narrative framework. But the specifics are fluid and freeform, taking on whatever shape you give them. How appropriate, then, that Wasteland 2 approaches player choice in a way that few modern role-playing games are able to. You may have been involuntarily cast as the law, but the world you occupy is too much like our own to be wishy-washy about the decisions you make. Indeed, on your very first patrol, you will be forced to make difficult decisions Ė quandaries that have no discernibly "right" answer. Whatever sense of morality you cling to, you may be forced to betray it at some point. It is here that Wasteland 2 shines the brightest; its unflinching dedication to pure choice and consequence helps foster storytelling of a very high order.

But how does it play? Well, the original Fallout comes to mind, but the similarities only run so deep. At its core, Wasteland 2 is a limited open-world role-playing game played from an isometric perspective. You assume control of a party of Rangers as you explore, accept tasks, and complete them Ė all the while becoming more adept at survival and teamwork. Thereís a lot of skill point and inventory managing, which makes it a more personal experience than you might expect. And all of the storylines are deep, rich, and positively bursting with humanity, humor, and gravitas.


For all the uninitiated Desert Rangers out there, Wasteland 2 comes with a difficulty curve. Itís a complex game that canít be learned in a single sitting Ė that is, unless you have prior experience with games like these. Thereís a lot to keep track of, and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. But if you take the necessary time to acclimate yourself with Wasteland 2ís gameplay systems, youíll find an experience that is difficult to match in terms of flexibility and depth.

Thankfully, you can save just about anywhere in Wasteland 2. Combat encounters are deliberate and tactical, in almost direct contrast to the likes of Fallout 3. And in the early hours, you may want to get some practice; trial and error are fantastic teaching tools in this game, and you learn by doing.

You wonít be able to see everything there is to see in a single playthrough of Wasteland 2 -- or even two. This is a game about making choices and committing to them with everything you have. Certain story threads close forever at key moments, and youíre forced to come face to face with the consequences -- in both narrative and gameplay.

Game Mechanics:

Having played the original PC release of Wasteland 2, I worried about this part. Nearly all of the mechanics and systems seemed incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to carry over to the limitations of a gamepad. In some cases, my worries were well-founded; but there are a number of pleasant surprises that make the game surprisingly accessible.

Number one on my list of worries was the user interface. A common staple of many old-school Western role-playing games, that giant, clunky interface is about the most impossible-to-adapt mechanic in all of gaming. Wasteland 2 shoulders that burden and presents it as a badge of honor; it is unwilling to compromise its vision for the sake of streamlining. That being said, the team at inXile obviously did their absolute best to keep the frustration to a minimum. Games like these were common in the 1990s, before we realized that heads-up displays were obtrusive screen hogs. And Wasteland 2 does have a fairly sizable one. It turns out, thereís no substitute for a mouse and keyboard to manipulate the windows within windows and multitude of random icons scattered across the bottom fourth of the screen. But I have to give inXile credit for at least mitigating this problem. Shifting between in-game action and HUD action with analog stick clicks isnít ideal or intuitive at first, but with time and practice, it gets easier to use. All told, I get the sense that they did the best with what they had.

I didnít really worry about the combat; XCOM: Enemy Unknownís console versions are more than competent, and if anything, Wasteland 2ís combat system most closely resembles that one. Itís a grid-based, turn-based strategy system that takes into account distance and assorted statistics (skills, cover, weapons, etc.) to deliver an algorithmically sound but admittedly challenging combat experience. There are a lot of nasty creatures out in the wastes, and learning how to properly put each one down is one of the many delights of Wasteland 2. And choosing which skills to use (in combat or exploration) is as simple as pulling a trigger to open the specific radial wheel.

For those who have played the original release to death already, here's what you're getting in the Director's Cut: the aforementioned extra voice over work, new perks, redesigned enemy encounters, and the Precision Strike system, which is similar to the V.A.T.S. targeting system of the last two Fallout games.

With Fallout 4 weeks away, Wasteland 2: Directorís Cut is admittedly a hard sell by default. The comparisons will be drawn (though technically, its predecessor came first) and it will inevitably be dismissed by some. But they do themselves a serious disservice. It may lack the bombast of a triple-A release, but what Wasteland 2 lacks in budget and polish, it more than makes up for in heart and ambition.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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