Saturday, September 15

Review: Wasteland 2 - Director's Cut [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Wasteland 2 had an interesting road to being developed between the Kickstarter campaign that helped get it funded and its overall lineage and ties to the original Fallout games. The result was a title that did well critically and seemed to be satisfying to its backers as well, delivering a more classic RPG experience in a post-Apocalyptic world with an isometric view and a load of opportunities for customization. Now that experience has come over to the Switch, and though it retains all of those things that help make it appealing, it’s hard not to note that it clearly was designed to be played on PC and can be cumbersome and clunky at times as a result.


Starting with the positive if you’ve not played the original Wasteland or any of the original 2 Fallout titles you may be shocked at the degree of control you have in putting together your squad. There are some pre-made characters with a variety of skillsets you can use, and for your first attempts these may be a good choice, but the real fun is in handcrafting your party. The goal is to end up with a core squad that each have specific areas of expertise but not making them so specialized to start that you risk making anyone too incapable of lending a hand when bad things start to happen. It’s more as you progress and gain experience that you can then hyper-specialize and go down more specific paths but if you want to survive early on everyone needs to be able to carry their weight.


The world isn’t a friendly place and anyone who isn’t at least capable of doing some effective damage can quickly become a liability. That’s because as you venture out you’re going to run into all sort of situations you won’t necessarily be able to control. Certainly having at least one member of your party who is a good sweet-talker may come in handy, but you’re equally likely to find great use for someone who can pick locks, work on computer systems, or even repair toasters. This is the allure of these sorts of RPGs, there’s not a set script or path to success and not all scenarios you run into are going to be ones you have a great solution for, you’ll just need to do your best, keep your team alive, and try to make the most of every opportunity you’re given.


Where the experience falls down a bit on Switch is certainly tied to the interface and some of the compromises that needed to be made in order to interact with the game using a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard. If you were thinking that perhaps playing in handheld mode and that touchscreen play could make things easier that’s a two-pronged issue. First, while playing this game portably can be done I don’t consider it optimal as the scaling of the text can get a bit on the small side depending on how much eye strain you’re comfortable with and factors like the ambient lighting. Second, there’s no touchscreen support. What you’re left with is a lot of use of even the shoulder buttons to try to navigate through essential things like inventory management and even controlling your team in combat. It can be done, as you get used to things they aren’t so bad, but it’s obviously not optimum. Throw in some lag in responsiveness in some areas and it can be aggravating. Controls aside I’d say the only other issues are likely to revolve around personal tastes but this is very clearly a port and not a game that was developed with the Switch in mind.


What it comes down to in the end is that Wasteland 2 is an excellent RPG that plays completely differently than anything else on the system. The degree of control you have over dictating the skills and perks tied to each of your squad members goes far beyond what can be done in other titles and though this can be overwhelming it also guarantees that nobody is likely to experience the game in quite the same way. Just understand that this is a bit of a compromised experience, and while the developers have done an admirable job of trying to make it as viable as possible on the Switch the interface can be cumbersome at times and even aggravating. However, if you thirst to explore a post-Apocalyptic world and all of the challenges and violence that can entail it’s still well worth checking out.

Score: 8

Pros:
  • A unique RPG experience on the Switch
  • The degree of customization possible for each member of your squad is staggering
  • No two playthroughs are likely to be the same

Cons:
  • The game’s interfaces clearly weren’t designed with consoles in mind
  • Handheld play isn’t optimum due to some scaling issues and a lack of touchscreen support
  • The degree of customization, and the failure that can set you up for if not managed carefully, could frustrate less determined gamers