Eurogamer saw the ongoing Wasteland 2 Kickstarter fundraising drive as an opportunity to dive back into the original with a retrospective article, which has plenty of words of praise for the post-apocalyptic RPG setting, but certainly not as many for its combat. Here's a generous quote:
What I'd forgotten about Wasteland in the years since I played it last was just how much of that experience it actually offered. Where most other RPGs of its era were content to vomit up lots of space and monsters, Wasteland set out to create a whole fallen civilisation full of puzzles and characters and things to twiddle with, all magically crammed into less than a megabyte of space. It was a world that felt alive like few others, where things had a purpose and there were surprises to look forward to uncovering.
True, achieving this feat did mean making some hefty concessions to the technology of the time. Much of the in-game text isn't actually in the game for example. Instead, big chunks of plot and flavour text are handled by a polite little message saying "Read paragraph 13", which is your cue to turn to the printed manual (which of course you have, since there's no way you can find this information online) to see what's happening.
What stops you simply reading them in advance and spoiling the entire game for yourself? Nothing, save for the risk of lies and red herrings. There may be someone out there who didn't simply devour the entire list within five minutes of discovering it, but I've never met one.
Even with a little stolen knowledge on your side, it's a long, brutal path to actually making use of it. You're given a starting team whose most useful first mission would be to drop their gear to the ground and politely turn themselves into delicious protein shakes for your handcrafted heroes to sip as they wander the blighted landscape. Out in the wilds, monsters both human and animal are everywhere, and not always the kind you can be proud of killing. At the Agricultural Centre not far from your starting location for instance, you don't just face the usual giant rats. No. In Wasteland's dark future, there are opossums that want a piece of you.
That's a big part of Wasteland's charm though - that as bleak as it might sound as a setting, its mutant tongue is constantly pressed up against the insides of both cheeks. You never know what you're going to find in each new settlement, and something memorable is rarely far away. It may be from an era when disk space was so precious that the main plot had to be outsourced to the manual, but that doesn't mean it'll skimp on the bytes to serve up descriptions like "Four foot tall pears, pleasingly plump, perfectly prepared, possibly, to plummet perilously from their precarious perches and pummel any passing pedestrian to a pasty, putrid pulp" or throw a random shout-out to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.