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Game #2425
Hall of Belated Fame Inductee  Wasteland    View all Top Dogs in this genre
RPG   Top-down

Rating: 9.15 (859 votes)

Wasteland box cover

Wasteland screenshot
My absolute favorite RPG ever, and one of the very few games that earned a permanent place on my hard drive, Wasteland is an epic post-apocalyptic RPG that set new standards for the genre that arguably have not since been matched. Set in California after a World War III nuclear holocaust, the game lets you direct a band of Desert Rangers, a vigilante group intent on bringing some order into the bleak, chaotic society. The band travels from town to town, gradually uncovering a sinister plot that threatens what's left of mankind. Just how good is the game, and why does it deserve to be in every RPG gamer's collection? George Shannon's eloquent review for MobyGames says it much better than I could: "Even with outdated graphics, the scenario sets one's imagination aflame, using familiar real-life elements but overlaying the horror of nuclear war on top. While some of the darker elements aren't as evident, it's still very obvious throughout the game that there is a detailed, thoughtful, and even meaningful post-apocalyptic theme everywhere.

Another element that makes Wasteland such a great game is the character development system. Most RPGs have a player select a class for a party member – but what IS a class? Does it let YOU role-play? No, the class tells you what and how to role-play. Does it enhance the game? Perhaps, but once the class is defined there's no real further development – A level 1 Knight has the same desires, goals, and value systems as a level 18 Knight. Wasteland uses a skill- and attribute-based system, periodically giving a character 'points' to allocate, as well as having skills increase through use. But moreover, many places in Wasteland allow a character to separate from the rest of the party and engage in some solo activity – maybe hooking up with a prostitute, or venturing into a cat-and-mouse game within the mind of an android. Stuff like this builds the character individually, and through them, the party. By the end of the game, I look at my characters and not only see what they are (level 20 Corporals, demolitions dudes, charismatic leaders, tech experts...) but what they went through – their individual victories and tribulations. This makes for a very powerful gaming experience.

In other areas, Wasteland does quite well. Graphics are average to outstanding. The play balance is nearly perfect – advancement from one area has you quite well prepared for the next, without it being too hard or too easy. The scarce SFX are simple and do not get repetitive.

With such a positive personal slant on Wasteland, it's hard to define problems with it. In some places, the appearance of enemies is too 'generated' (they pop up out of nowhere, Bard's Tale -style) and are seemingly endless. Some enemies and situations are a little too 'weird', but Wasteland isn't supposed to be about realism. Some plot elements are a little cliche, but most are handled quite well.

Wasteland is an amazing ROLE-playing game. The setting is thorough and detailed, your characters can get into all sorts of trouble, as individuals and as a party. This makes Wasteland a unique experience every time."

It is too bad that the official sequel Mean Time was never made (until 2014's Wasteland 2), and Fountain of Dreams, Electronic Arts' "unofficial sequel" is extremely disappointing. With a unique skill-based system that leads to many excellent adventure-style puzzles, intriguing plot with tons of '80s references, and a truly epic scale full of many hidden surprises and subplots that guarantee hundreds of hours of replay value, Wasteland is simply a must-have. If you wonder where Fallout came from, this is its true predecessor (and a game I enjoy infinitely more). A classic in every sense of the word.

Reviewed by: Underdogs
Designer: Brian Fargo & Alan Pavlish
Developer: Interplay
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Year: 1989
Software Copyright: Interplay
Theme: Apocalypse Now
None that we know of
System Requirements: DOS
Where to get it:
Related Links: The Wasteland Ranger HQ-Grid, The Desert Ranger Outpost (archived), Desolation MUD
If you like this game, try: Fountain of Dreams, Burntime, Dragon Wars

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