Astonishing for its time, the predecessor to Fallout shows some truly miraculous ideas in CRPG tactics.

User Rating: 8.8 | Wasteland PC
The thing I always think about when I'm playing Wasteland is the tactical combat. There's something to be said about breaking your party into several parts to catch some slavering cybernetic organism in a crossfire of assault rifle bullets and rockets. The amount of calculation used for the numbers of various damage levels to differing targets from differing targets - for the primitive computers of the era - I'm no programmer, but I'm still amazed that they could do it.

It could even work out bullet placement from autofire into multiple groups of enemies. It's the sort of thing that would take the average gamer geek a fair few minutes with a calculator to work out - but it's all incorporated behind the scenes.

You'll naturally see a similar situation in Fallout, Fallout 2, and if they ever create it (hopes madly) Fallout 3. Along with that game's ability to grab a bunch of skills of your choice and use them almost on anything. Want to use your Doctor skill on that computer? Sure, why not. The same could be said of Wasteland - since you could not only use objects but skills on another person or object, but attributes too. This "I can use anything on anything irrespective of logic or sanity" approach was continued also into the excellent fantasy RPG Dragon Wars, which unfortunately never spawned a latter day remake as the Fallout series did for Wasteland.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, however. If you enjoyed the somewhat wacky, quirky humour in Fallout, this is where it comes from. The combat descriptions are both visceral, memorable and often very amusing. "exploding it like a blood sausage." for example. Again, like Fallout (I know it's a cardinal sin to refer to an effective sequel to describe the original!) the game really doesn't bother stopping you doing anything. Yes, there are occasional characters that you can't shoot no matter what you do - a few, at least. But if you're really bloodthirsty, you can almost shoot everyone by forcing combat and blasting away. You can even blow away parts of a city with a convenient howitzer, similar to the one that you use in Fallout 2's Sierra Army Depot to blow open the door.

The array of weapons is varied, with a ton of different calibers and makes of firearm, melee weapons and some very impressive and nigh unique energy weapons to reduce your opponents to their component molecules. Armour less so, but still a decent range and progression between all equipment.

I've marked this game as "hard" for a reason - character wounding is extremely realistic. There are no "magic potions" to heal your character from one hit point back up to full - if you're unconscious, it's not just a matter of being there nice and safe until combat is over and you pop awake very low on energy. Healing can be frustrating at some stages since you almost heal in realtime - unless you go to a doctor and pay their exorbitant fees, chances are, you'll have to "pass" until healed - this can be annoying and time consuming in places. Time passes at different rates depending if you are inside or outside, and healing rate can also likewise alter - try resting in a temple to radioactivity and see how slowly you heal!

As I alluded to earlier - unconsciousness isn't the bowl of cherries it is in other RPGs. Sure, you won't directly take direct fire from nasties while unconscious - but if your entire group is hit with automatic fire or rockets, congratulations, you'll take damage while unconscious and start slipping to Seriously Wounded, Critically Wounded, Mortally Wounded and "welcome to the next world because you've just shuffled off this mortal coil". And in a world without magic potions, your chances of resurrection are less than zero.

You can probably find this little gem floating all over as abandonware on the net - as well as the paragraphs of dialogue that go with it - some of this is amusing to read just by itself - and you can probably get the game working without a hitch using a utility like DOSbox. If you can overlook the graphics (I've marked it fairlyhigh for the time, but this day and age, it's dinosaurlike) and the almost nonexistant sound (it was a time where they just had the baby little beep beep beep speakers) you'll be captivated by this game for a fair few hours. And chances are, you'll want to play it again regularly, like I do. I can't stop playing it!