Wasteland is considered a classic RPG from the Apple ][ era but it’s one that I never played back in the day. I have tried it in AppleWin emulation and then later with the modified MS-DOS port on Gog.com. In both cases I only made it to the second town before giving up. These original versions required looking up flavor text in the manual for various hints and passwords. This kills whatever sense of immersion they may have been able to squeeze out of 8-bits of computing power. I think much of the nostalgia for this game is built on the knowledge that the same team would eventually create Fallout. Well that and the memorable box cover art.
After the success of Wasteland 2 Kickstarter, Inxile proceeded to create a remaster of the first game. If I was ever going to tackle it, it was going to be with a modernized version. Of course the graphics have been completely updated into 3-D. Character sprites now look like board game mini-figurines on a detailed 3-D map. The pixelized monster portraits and character designs have been smoothed over with Photoshop brush work. There is also a full soundtrack and plenty of battle sound effects.
There have been quality of life changes too. The first big change is that the manual look-up references are built into the game, many of which have been illustrated and narrated as cut scenes. There are dozens of save slots. The game can be played entirely with the mouse. In reality, most of the remastering seems to be limited to the aesthetic details.
The game still plays clunky as hell. Combat is not terribly exciting and can be hard to follow. You see flashes of damage on character portraits but it never really seems to match what is being described in the text scroll. There are also many times when the text box fails to tell you how many enemies you are facing. This is too bad because this combat system is mostly the same style as the one in the Bard’s Tale games, but in those games it at least feels like there is some strategy.
The biggest problem with the game is the inconsistent ways in which you solve puzzles and interact with the world. There’s this seemingly robust skill system, but most problems can be solved with either a rope, a lockpick or punching. Interacting with NPCs is really goofy too. Some characters require you to turn on combat in order to allow them to join your party. Others require you to stand in a specific spot and then trigger a skill. There is no “Talk” command. If you are going to play this game, a walkthrough is almost mandatory especially when it comes to the endgame. I think you are probably able to put the game into an unwinnable state.
All that said, I did manage to get through it. While the world is nowhere near as fun and creative as Fallout or even the Wasteland sequels, I did enjoy some of the sections of the game quite a bit. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to more casual fans of CRPGs. If I were writing an SAT question based on this game it would be: Wasteland is to Fallout as Mad Max is to The Road Warrior or something like that.