Wasteland: Final thoughts

(This is part of my journey playing through Wasteland.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)
wasteland finalYes 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.

5 thoughts on “Wasteland: Final thoughts

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus December 9, 2013 / 1:58 pm

    This sort of sums up my reasons for not being all that excited about Wasteland 2. I remember Wasteland. It was the last game I bought for my Apple ][. I enjoyed it. But my enjoyment seemed, in hindsight, to be in large part based on the limitations of the medium of video games at the time. It was a good game in the context of 1988, the way Castle Wolfenstein or Wizardry were. But how do you translate what was fun in that context into something today that is fun AND represents the original game at the same time?

  2. Rowan December 9, 2013 / 2:31 pm

    I applaud you for being able to stomach the graphics and other limitations of computer games of that era. I have no sense of nostalgia for late-’80s PC games, or consoles for that matter. Other than Tetris and a little Donkey Kong at friends’ houses, I just never got into them. Books at the time, despite requiring almost the “graphics” to be in my head, were far more enjoyable. Even though I did get a computer in the mid-’90s and was playing RTS titles like Age of Empires and SC2K, I couldn’t fathom playing them now. Much of this reminds me though that things I thought were technical marvels back then (like some action/sci-fi movies) now seem hokey in retrospect.


  3. Syp December 9, 2013 / 4:19 pm

    It’s a good question — I’m almost wondering if Wasteland 2 is going to go full-circle and be more influenced by Fallout than Wasteland 1. From briefly looking at the screenshots, it kind of looks that way.

  4. Shrapnel December 17, 2013 / 2:52 pm

    Syp I just finished reading your Wasteland- your writing style is hilarious. Great Job!

  5. Syp December 17, 2013 / 4:42 pm


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