Wasteland Remastered Review: A Classic Experience for Modern Gamers
A whopping 32 years after originally hitting the Apple II and Commodore 64, Wasteland finally sees the updated version it deserves for modern devices.
After InXile released upgraded editions of the original Bard's Tale dungeon crawlers last year, giving the same treatment to the very first graphical post-apocalyptic role-playing game made a lot of sense.
Many of these classic titles like Wasteland and Bard's Tale hold a special place of nostalgia in the hearts of Millennial and Gen-X fans, but frankly, the old gameplay mechanics and extremely limited user interfaces just don't hold up anymore.
The remastered edition handles those issues nicely while still maintaining the old school feel. The end result is a new version of Wasteland absolutely worth returning to just to see where the genre started 10 years before the original Fallout was even a twinkle in Interplay's eye.
Wasteland Remastered Review: A Classic Experience for Modern Gamers
Fans of the original experience aren't left in the cold here — the story, locations, and characters all remain exactly the same. Hell Razor, Angela Deth, Snake Vargas, and Thrasher are still roaming the wasteland to solve problems. They still travel to places like the High Point, the Rail Nomad Camp, and so on before finally confronting the genocidal robots in Base Cochise.
That being said, this is really more of a full remake than a simple remaster, although it keeps many of the same keyboard-based UI mechanics for nostalgia purposes.
For starters, you don't need to reference a physical book to read the dialog and descriptions like with the original Wasteland! That's a huge plus, as the Wasteland re-release a few years back stuck with the old style and had players switching to separate text document.
Other big changes in the base gameplay can be found from beginning to end. Although it's not exactly canon (Snake Vargas and Angela Deth fighting at Base Cochise is critical to the story in the sequel), you now have the ability to make your own ranger crew from scratch.
With updated mechanics also come achievements to unlock, and the InXile crew has a firm eye here on pleasing long time fans. The utterly useless Combat Shooting skill returns for instance, and like with the original it does absolutely nothing in-game, but it does come with an achievement this time around, masterfully titled It Finally Does Something.
Going from 1988 gameplay to 2020 gameplay, of course, Wasteland is now much more graphical-focused than in years past. Updated biting and shooting animations have been added during battles for a bit excitement, which is a luxury the original Wasteland developers probably never dreamed of having.
You'll also be treated to brief animated cut scenes when entering new areas or meeting new characters, as well as voice-overs for many of the text descriptions now. In short, the world feels much more alive and immersive than before.
The area backgrounds, overland map, and player icon have been completely redesigned for a 3D aesthetic, but the enemy imagery is very closely based on the original sprites. That faithfulness leads to a few odd choices on what didn't get changed in the remaster and probably should have been.
Wait, Why Didn't THIS Get An Upgrade?
Apparently this is a bunny...?
Considering how many elements of Wasteland were overhauled, it's strange that corners were cut on the enemy graphics in particular. The same base sprite is used for a whole bunch of different encounters, and it's really noticeable.
If you're going to take the time to remake the game for more modern audiences, this major graphical area seems like a pretty obvious place to put a little effort in, right?
Graphics aside, Wasteland is still an old school game through and through with a high level of difficulty and absolutely no hand-holding. Although there's more explanation this time around if you dig through the menus, there's still a good deal of trial and error to figure out how the skills work and when you should use them. You can expect to die, repeatedly, while first exploring anything.
...and also a prairie dog?
Although vastly improved overall, some of the UI remains oddly clunky. Pressing Space or Enter takes you to the main menu screen for instance, even if you are engaged in a combat encounter. That's incredibly annoying since the icon on the "Continue" section of the combat text looks like the space bar.
To move along to the next section of combat you need to use the number keys or click the mouse instead, which isn't very intuitive since most of the gameplay isn't handled with the mouse pointer at all.
A rat! OK, now I at least see the resemblance!
Fans of the original will be pleased to see you still have to take note of keywords to type in during dialog, although most of that is much more clearly highlighted with the in-game journal.
All of that text is still broken down into the original paragraphs, so it won't be hard to get back into Wasteland in this new graphics-focused version if you played it way back in '88.
New players, on the other hand, are going to be in for a bad time if they don't know to expect these very old school mechanics. You will absolutely want to read the getting started welcome post from InXile if you never played the original, or you will be totally lost.
Wasteland Remastered Review — The Bottom Line
- The granddaddy of all post-apocalyptic video games returns in a much more playable version
- Graphical upgrades galore
- You don't need to print out a novel to play anymore
- While more accessible than the original version, this can still be a major pain to get into if you didn't grow up with Wasteland
- A few bugs still need to be patched
- Extremely unforgiving difficulty
Wasteland Remastered does suffer from a handful of bugs at launch, like weapons not showing up as equipped when you swap them out unless you close and re-open the game. There's already a patch on the way to deal with these relatively minor problems, though.
Honestly, it's hard to be too critical of the experience considering how clunky Wasteland was originally back in the '80s — and that you can basically play it for free if you have Game Pass.
Whether you love the original or have never tried it before, this is easily the best way to experience the original Wasteland, so long as you don't mind dealing with some un-intuitive old school mechanics.
Since InXile is known for picking up classic franchises and rebooting them, there's another 80s dungeon crawler that could use their attention - I'd love to see Dragon Wars get the same treatment someday!
Of course, after the development team was scooped up by Microsoft, many are wondering if that will continue to be the case in the future. For now, we can look forward to switching from the irradiated Arizona deserts to a snowy Colorado landscape when Wasteland 3 releases on May 19, 2020.
Whether the Microsoft buyout bodes good or ill in the long term, at the very least there's some good news in the near future — Wasteland 2 took 26 years to arrive after the original, but thankfully the wait for the next sequel won't be measured in decades.