(This is part of my journey playing through Wasteland. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)
Yes indeed, it’s time to put a kibosh on our Wasteland journeys. I’ve had a good half-dozen sessions to get re-acquainted with a very old friend, and I’m at the point where (a) I’m not having that much fun with it and (b) I have a good feel for what the game has to offer. That is a signal for me to move on to a new title.
Wasteland is a classic, and for a very good reason. At the time, it offered a pretty in-depth computer RPG experience in a somewhat mature environment. The mentions of gore, the use of drugs, the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the ability to be as nice or nasty as you wanted to be were pretty heady. It certainly did a lot to further the love of the setting in computer games and was a great inspiration for Fallout, which would take Wasteland’s core concepts and greatly expand upon them.
I would have a very hard time recommending Wasteland to a modern crowd. I think I used the word “tedious” a lot in my playthrough, and some of that is just the limitations of the late-80s software. It’s a game where you have to navigate menus constantly, where all of the information is not always in front of you (due to limited screen real estate), and where the non-combat view is as primitive as what you’d find on the NES. Combat doesn’t present a lot of options — move, evade, attack, run away — and requires you to meet it more than halfway with your imagination.
I was a little surprised to see how disjointed it felt. I didn’t really encounter a lot in the way of story, other than a few paragraphs describing scenes here and there. I know there’s an ultimate showdown with a bad guy named Finster who wants to remold the world in his image, but from what I played, very little of that is established. You’re just kind of roaming, kind of killing, and kind of looting.
The setting is the real crown jewel here and is a refreshing change from fantasy. When I was a kid I thrilled to the animated images of the wasteland denizens and I liked how hostile and somewhat contemporary the world is. There’s a nice bit of choice and freedom to create and mold your party, and while some of the skills are hardly ever used, there’s a huge selection from which to choose.
So I’m OK with letting Wasteland go. I only have the stomach for so many mindless massacres with no greater goal in sight, and I have Wasteland 2 to honor the memories of the past with a more modern take in game design.