Marcus Jones on September 27, 2018

Wasteland 2: Director's Cut Review

Wasteland 2: Director's Cut isn't your typical RPG, nor is it your typical turn-based strategy RPG. It instead meets both scenarios in the middle. Not only do you adventure around the eponymous wasteland in search of good deeds to do, but combat is also focused on a structured, turn-based grid system that forces you to plan and act accordingly. There's a world map as well showcasing the new wastelands of the southwestern United States. This world map setting allows you to trek across the distances, but be careful though: don't run out of water out there on the trail.

Having not played the original Wasteland, I'm not well versed in the mythos or world other than this served as the main structure and inspiration behind the extremely popular Fallout series. However, the game's overall plot and the world is enthralling. Random encounters with bandits, local settlements dealing with raiders, and mutants are just a few of the things that plague the world. It's up to you and your team of wasteland rangers to solve the problem. Your team consists of four characters - it's possible to use the game's preset group or create your own. Creating a team offers some visual customization, but the big draw is in just how many skills and abilities exist to build from. Anything from smart ass and kiss ass to odd quirks granting benefits and possible ailments exists to pick from, all of which work to how your characters interact with the world and how you deal with the mutated dangers of this future. Be extremely mindful of the characters you create as well; I managed to create two people using weapons chambered with the same rounds, so I burned through ammo quickly. It became a pain to keep the two of them stocked, and it heavily affected my combat gameplay.

Setting out into the world, you're given a set of objectives initially by your commanding officer back at home base. While completing these will advance the story, other side quests quickly become available that will take you off on various tangents fast. That's not a bad thing! It's great not to be shoehorned into a linear quest structure with an RPG and Wasteland 2 does not disappoint. Plus how else are you going to level up, meet new people, and become better rangers in the dangerous wasteland wilderness?

By not getting hung up on the controls, that's how. The Switch controls for Wasteland 2 can be a menacing thing to learn at first, but with time it gets easier to navigate through the multiple menu screens, conversations, and combat itself. Every button, however, is used in some fashion. Careful when bringing up the context menu (selecting to lockpick a door, for example) since the camera may not be facing the exact way you need it to in order to choose your desired action. I ended up getting the controls down eventually, but still fought the wonky camera throughout my entire time with the game. Just a forewarning! But for those that love menus, love stats, and aren't afraid to get a little messy going through multiple screens, you'll have a blast.

The most depressing factor about playing the game on the Switch is just how hard it is to look at. Coming from the PC version, it's a real downgrade onto the Switch in every visual category possible. I get it, the system isn't as beefy as a gaming PC, but somehow they've managed to keep the fidelity of games like Skyrim and DOOM (2016), plus you have Breath of the Wild, all of which showcase just how powerful the little hybrid system is. To see just how jagged some of the polygons were on my TV screen while playing Wasteland 2 cut me with some of those sharp edges in the game.

Additionally, several other concerns stand out in the game. The camera controls, clunky interface systems, and odd freezes during combat can take you out of the game. The camera alone bugged me the most given how often I wanted to change my view, but I at least learned how to live and maneuver around it. The clunky interface, another thing that can be "overcome" with patience as you learn to deal with it, is still annoying enough in itself. But the combat freezing! I had a turn lock up on an enemy, and I literally had time to brush my teeth, feed a pet, and make a small snack before it continued to the next turn. When it happened a second time, I finally placed my Switch into rest mode for the night before returning to it again the next day. Two instances are not indicative of an issue, but it was undoubtedly an unremarkable experience.

Simply Put

The Nintendo Switch lacks in titles that fit a gaming niche as the one Wasteland 2 fills. Yes, there are RPGs on the system, but the mixture between the tactical combat gameplay and the extensive RPG story is a small category of games. Given how much possibility Wasteland 2: Director's Cut has, I think it's a solid title. What detracts from the game are the gameplay issues, awkward camera controls, and the unfortunate visuals. Players willing to put the time in and overlook these flaws will find an intensely rich game, but I'm just not sure everyone is willing to do that on a system that continues to gain new titles.

Note: Wasteland 2: Director's Cut was reviewed based on a digital Nintendo Switch copy of the game, provided by the publisher.

Wasteland 2: Director's Cut

Wasteland 2: Director's Cut 6
Massive RPG with several character traits and story plots to manage
Your actions have direct impact on the game
Replayability if you choose to change your team structure, change your actions, or simply try different things on the second playthrough
I had 2 useless guns for large chunks of time simply due to burning through ammo. Can't go rambo on everything
The serious stuttering and lag time between some action pieces
It's just so rough to look at...