Wasteland 2 Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Deep Silver
Developer:inXile Entertainment
Release Date:2014-09-19
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Rocky Roads

Wasteland 2 is showing a lot of promise at this stage, but as it's still in active development, there is a lot that can and likely will change. I won't comment on things like the occasional crash or save corruption issue (though in general, the game is pretty stable for me), because those come with the territory and are expected at this stage in development. Rather, I'd like to talk more about where I think Wasteland 2 can be improved... in some places, more substantially than others.

To start, even though I really enjoy the combat, at this stage there is some room for improvement. Right now there is a general lack of unique enemies and special encounters, with a lot of combat that could be described as filler... I think that for a game with this much combat, more needs to be done with the encounter design to avoid unnecessary repetition. Furthermore, things like grenades aren't yet in, and there is no destructible cover in place, so battlefields remain feeling very static and ultimately, battles themselves are a little predictable in how they play out - when the game throws a monkey wrench at you in the form of a sudden instantly-downed party member, it's great, but such events that force you to immediately change gears don't happen often enough. Last, the lack of features like aimed shots and different melee attacks arguably leaves things a bit more simplistic than they should be.

Skill use also needs some work. Although most skills are valuable, several of them are not too well balanced at this stage, and many of them don't get used as often as they should. Combat skills vastly outweigh the benefits of everything else, since combat is mostly unavoidable in Wasteland 2, and therefore either those skills, or ones related to combat like Field Medic and Surgeon, are most important, followed by Lockpicking and Safecracking, which are used very frequently. I'm not saying that every skill needs to be equally valuable, but right now I feel the game rewards some skills too much compared to others. The same can be said of attributes - Coordination is by far the most important, since it affects firearm use, while Charisma fulfils its legacy as a dump stat due to how little use it sees throughout, and because dialogue skill checks seem entirely unaffected by it.

I also have some complaints about how the game's loot is handled. Right now, there appear to be only generic containers, with very little hand-placed loot to be found. The type of loot isn't affected enough by the type of container you find - other games with generated loot lists tend to feature different container categories, like weapon lockers or medicine cabinets, but in Wasteland 2 you find the same old loot distribution over and over. As a result, there's also an over-abundance of containers, with some rooms featuring four or five lootables, but all the loot is distributed across each of them, so looting can feel like busywork (doubly so when the containers are locked and need to be lockpicked or bashed). This could be iterated upon quite a bit, in order to make loot feel more unique and to improve that sense of scavenging for supplies.

My final, and probably nastiest bugbear, is in the lack of free exploration of the world map and the general lack of connective tissue between locations. Right now, most map locations don't open up until the plot has advanced sufficiently, which means that roaming the world in search of adventure just doesn't really exist, and this also diminishes the importance of world map travel. Additionally, although there are multiple solutions to a lot of problems, often the potential for quests and interesting multi-faceted scenarios is not quite realized. It's that question of "what happens after the crisis" that needs to be answered; I would love to see more world-spanning problems appear that require some tough choices, with both possibilities as well as outcomes depending on choices made earlier in the game - that would really help the choice and consequence factor, as well as give some more meaning to the world map travel system.

Closing Thoughts

Even though Wasteland 2 has a long ways to go, at this stage in development I do feel it's very promising. The beta is not perfect by any means - graphics, user interface, and even quests, story and general gameplay are all subject to change - so that could turn some players off who expect a polished and bug-free time right out of the box, but at the same time, if you are interested in seeing a glimpse of what the game will offer as far as its overall gameplay experience goes, the beta is probably worth checking out.

Despite all the positives, it's worth pointing out that as-is, the game is not really in an acceptable state. When I preview titles, usually they are much further on in development, and if I hadn't done any game development myself before, it'd probably be pretty jarring to see a game like this. And, truthfully, there is nothing guaranteeing it will improve, so I'd rather not get too complacent with it and say the game's going to turn out perfect in the end, because that simply would not be honest or realistic. But that said, I do have faith in the talent at inXile and I expect them to make good on their promises as best they can.

All said, even at this fairly early stage, Wasteland 2 still brings back a lot of what I love about CRPGs from the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s... it just needs more time in development and more suggestions from fans to really get it that final 25% of the way there, and right now that appears to be just what it's getting. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how the beta evolves, as well as how the final product turns out.