Review – Wasteland Remastered

About a decade before Diablo, Fallout, and Baldur’s Gate would reinvent the genre, western RPGs were dying. Lack of innovation from genre headliners, a torrent of similar feeling titles, and rising competition from the east was quickly leading to genre fatigue. Amid the doom and gloom however, a few devs were working ahead of their time. Interplay, the company that would later spawn Black Isle, Obsidian, and inXile, was one such team. Fresh off the success of their revolutionary The Bard’s Tale, they turned their eyes to an even more ambitious project. A mature, post-apocalyptic, party-based, non-linear, turn-based RPG, featuring fully animated portraits and a persistent world. It’s title was simply Wasteland. Now almost thirty years later, Wasteland Remastered gives a fresh coat of paint to the landmark title that didn’t manage to save the western RPG, but did pave the way for its rebirth.

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It’s a simple sleek look that is nonetheless charming.

For those who have no idea what Wasteland even is, the easiest explanation is it’s literally FalloutFallout actually exists at all because Interplay couldn’t get the original Wasteland rights back, so they ripped themselves off. Isometric exploration, turn-based combat, CRPG heavy mechanics, it’s all the same. Such similarities don’t stop at gameplay mechanics, as the story and world are just as familiar. Set long after a nuclear war devastated the world, the focus is on a redeveloping humanity and the trials and tribulations they face. Wasteland essentially defined the post-post-apocalyptic setting and quirky tone that Fallout would later grow to exemplify. It’s a legacy that Fallout itself has always honored, from the Desert Ranger companion in the first, to the monument to the Ranger corp in New Vegas.

It may be titled and priced as a simple remaster, but I feel that’s selling the great work Krome and inXile did short. It’s far more than a simple resolution upgrade, as everything has been remade from the ground up. Brand new cinematics with full voice-acting, redrawn and reanimated portraits, and a new 3D board game style for maps and models. Much like WarCraft III: Reforged, the fine line between modernizing and remaining true is expertly maneuvered. Those of us who have played the original will recognize all its charms retained while newer players will find something far more visually inviting.

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The new cinematics feature brand new animation and art alongside full voice-acting.

The game itself also received a few major quality of life upgrades, but newcomers will be hard-pressed to believe it. Make no mistake, the game remains a product of its time, new looks aside. There is no tutorial for example, and you’re expected to have given the manual a quick perusal before starting. The UI may be new, but it’s still best navigated via keyboard with minor mouse input. Enemy groups are represented on the field with unique pieces, but combat itself takes place in a text box. It remains very menu heavy in general, with something as simple as skill-use requiring multiple clicks.

Overall, the original core experience was retained, for better or worse. The focus instead was on making everything smoother and more convenient, without compromising the game. The new Journal is a perfect example. It functions as a quest log, an in-game manual, and keeps track of encountered enemy types. Party information is now displayed right on the dashboard at all times, rather then requiring a button click to check. This saves a lot more time than you’d think.

One of the biggest changes is the incorporation of all text into the actual game. As was common for the time, Wasteland featured so much text that instead of displaying it in the game, it would give you a reference number for a physical manual instead. You would then go and read the given paragraph and then return to the game. This being no longer needed in today’s age of 100 GB games, it’s this very welcome change that will probably appeal most to veterans.

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Name one other game that throws a pistol wielding infant enemy at you. I’ll wait.

I always enjoy seeing a true classic get a new lease on life, especially when they look as nice as this one. Some parts have aged better than others, but I think it’s a true testament to Interplay’s genius just how playable Wasteland remains overall. It can take a few minutes to get used to and it’s not an easy game, but it’s worth the investment. There’s also some issues with bugs (something else this shares with WarCraft III: Reforged…), but the beta patch fixed most out the door with a full patch release incoming very soon. With Wasteland 3 fast approaching, and the Fallout franchise descending to questionable quality levels, now’s as good a time as any to give the franchise a shot.

 

Graphics: 7.0

The board game aesthetic was a novel idea that works well. The remade artwork captures the original’s charm without the original’s pixel count.

Gameplay: 7.5

It’s very much on the basic side compared to modern CRPG’s, but it still plays very solidly. Character building depth is particularly impressive.

Sound: 6.5

The new music and sound effects are a definite upgrade from the original versions from 1988. The new voice-acting is really good too.

Fun Factor: 8.0

It’s pretty simple, occasionally obtuse, and isn’t upfront at all about how anything works. Still it’s very playable even today and the writing remains just as clever and fun as ever.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Wasteland Remastered is available now on PC and Xbox One.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Wasteland Remastered was provided by the publisher.

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