Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wasteland (MS-DOS)

Wow, that's pretty bad. Maybe not the worst title screen on my site so far... or then again maybe it is. They probably should have switched to a different idea when it became obvious they didn't have the colours to pull off a mushroom cloud. Though for all I know they DID have the colours, and they did this deliberately.

Uh, I apologise to any Wasteland fans reading this, because I'm probably going to be saying crap like this about your game for the entire post. I mean I'm so bad at classic rpgs that there's a good chance I'll be whining about getting a game over on the character creation screen. Sorry.

Apple II
The original version of the game came out on the Apple II, and doesn't have a title screen. Instead it starts with a basic animation showing the back story of how the Earth got nuked.

Commodore 64
The C64 port also starts with the end of the world. I've no idea why the decided to leave this out of the PC version.

I'll be sticking with the DOS game though, as it seems prettier and I can avoid a lot of messing around with save disks. Still doesn't have any music though. All three versions play out in near silence.

The game started me off with a default party of four rangers, but I fired them to set up my own team. I kind of regret it now though, as now I have to think up names for them.

It seems that each of the attributes are rolled separately, so I could end up with a seriously underpowered character if I don't sit here pressing space for good stats. Not that I know what the good stats are in this game (I can't even guess at what SKP means), but I'd like double digits if possible.

Damn, they've really gone overkill on the skills I can choose from. Bureaucracy? Cryptology? The next page even has 'Metallurgy', just in case I need to create any alloys during my travels through the wasteland. I have no clue what I should go for, so I'm just going to grab the ones that sound essential (eg. the fighting ones).

Oh right, 'SKP' must be my available skill points. I figured it out 'cause I'm clever.

Hey, for a 'wasteland' this place doesn't look so bad. The landscape's a lot greener than in the Fallout games at least. And sometimes purpler too.

I exit the Ranger Center and immediately get into a fight with a... purple bear thing. Seriously, I haven't taken one step off the base yet and I'm already on my way onto the battle screen.

Hey, it's got a first person turn based battle system. I was honestly expecting it to have 'tactics' style battles viewed from overhead.

Well, my best plan of action seems pretty straightforward here. I keep choosing attack each turn until the bad thing goes away. I'm not sure why they've hidden 'Attack' so far down the list of commands. Even 'Hire' gets to go above it, and if I could use that to win fights I'd soon have an army behind me.

I won a glorious victory against the 'animal', but now I have no idea what to do next. I presume the Ranger Center kicked me out into the wasteland with a job to do, but nobody has bothered to tell me what it is. I assume (hope) the manual provides some clue where to start, but I'm too stubborn to check.

Without any better ideas, I journey west around the purple mountains to the next town.

Apple II
The original Apple II version of the game doesn't seem as pretty somehow, though it plays more or less identically.

Commodore 64
Same with the C64 game, though it has chunkier dots. I'll stop showing screens from the other versions now, I promise.

Well, this town seems like a waste of time. I got bored of being told "This is a dorm for teens. Nothing much of interest here" every time I tried a door, so I've given up on the houses. Knowing my luck the very next identical looking house is probably the one that kicks off a quest.

It's great to not have to talk to the bloody king or village elder for once in an rpg, but it'd be nice to have some leads to follow up on. I'm guessing there's a story (or two) in this game somewhere, but I can't find the way into it.

Well I found a kid to talk to (he's hiding behind the message box). I have to actually type in what I want to ask him about though, and nothing I try seems to work. All he does is shrug and say "I dunno."

I'm pretty sure he's got no work for me to do, so I left him to fidget in peace and ventured forth onto the world map. I continued to follow the mountains west until I reached the Agricultural Center.

Uh, did I just skip a page of dialogue by accident? I have no idea what I'm responding to.

Oh right it says 'read paragraph 56' at the bottom of the screen. Which I suppose means I have to open up the manual after all.

Hang on, there's over a hundred story paragraphs in this thing. It seems that half the game's text isn't even in the game itself. I've never seen a game do this before.

It seems that the poor farmers are suffering a bit of a varmint problem, so I offered to sort it out for them. Though I was so eager to have something to do, that I totally forgot to ask about what I'm getting as a reward.

Uh, that's not really a bunny. It's more like a rat... bear. The art looks awesome though, much better than I'd have expected after that title screen.

I used my normal tactic of pressing attack a few times on the creature, and that seemed to get the job done. Though I've noticed that bunnies don't drop any money or ammo, so I'm burning though resources here.


Hey, the bunny's back again, only this time he's an opossum. I guess "exploding it like a blood sausage" means I scored a critical hit. I've walked all over this farm, shooting and clubbing all kinds of (identical) rodents, but there seems to be no end of them.

My party are pretty low on health at this point so in the next fight I decided to make a run for it and come back later, and managed to accidentally split my team into two instead. It seems that the game IS actually playing out like an overhead 'tactics' style game, but it's hidden behind this battle screen.

I can flip back to the level map to check out how we're positioned, and move my units around using the 'Run' command. So I could put my melee character next to an enemy and keep the ranged units at a distance in every battle, but it's a hassle so I probably won't bother.

Son of a bitch. The farmers have locked the exit! I'm trapped in here with the bunnies and no health. I tried healing my guys with the 'medic' skill, but it just tells me that my wounds "must heal over time".

Oh wait, I can just use my 'lockpick' skill to open the gate. Duh.

The bag of swag behind the gate contained a crowbar and fruits. Finally I have something to eat so I can recover my health.

Actually no, apparently the fruits do absolutely nothing. Still I'm out of the bunny zone now, so I suppose I can just wander around here while I regain my health.

Oh shit, I'm not even safe outside! They've got tomato catapults set up all along the wall. Banana and pineapple too!

I'm going back to the world map, where it's safe.

There's no 'wait xx hours' option, but I can hold down escape or click my character to skip time ahead by a bit. I can skip time much faster out here on the world map, so I don't see a downside to resting out here.

Son of a bitch, I wasn't even moving! You can't give me random encounters that knock off all my health when I'm not even walking around!

Fortunately it seems that my people are only getting knocked out when they run out of health, and can recover by themselves over time. If my entire party is knocked out, the game skips time until one of them wakes ups, and then we just start the fight up again where we left off.

Fine, I'll rest back at the farm then. Slowly.

It'd be nice if time skipped ahead in the game as fast as it does in this screenshot. Unfortunately I had to hold the button down for ages to get back to full 'con'. It makes me think that I'm not supposed to need to do this to recover health, but it's the best idea I've got.

You know, it's just occurred to me that I still don't know what that 'radio' button does.

Oh. So the radio button tells me that I haven't got enough experience for a level up. Shame it doesn't tell me how much exp I need to get, or even how much I have, because that'd actually be helpful.

Okay, I finally have full health again. Time to find out where these varmints are coming from, and kill their boss. Or whatever.

I found a path on the south west side of the farm that led into a cave. Which then led to me being trapped in place by two groups of rats that beat me unconscious every time I tried to fight back or run away. They couldn't kill me, and I couldn't kill them, so after a few minutes of this tedious stalemate I had to give up and quit the game. Fortunately the game had autosaved at the entrance, so I didn't lose any progress.

Okay, I think I get the message. I'll leave my bunny quest until I've gotten a couple of levels and some better equipment. Onto the next town.

Quartz looks alright. It's an actual town with streets and houses.

There's a lot of manholes around, but they're actually instant shortcuts to other parts of the town. Wasteland earns 5 points for being smart enough to not have a sewer level. Though if I find one later I'll deduct 10 points for getting my hopes up only to crush them.

The first (unmarked) house I tried turned out to be a bar full of people trying to kill me. I didn't even do anything, just walked in through the door and immediately got ambushed and half my team knocked out.

Yes! I've finally killed an enemy that dropped cash and ammo. And guns too. Though there's no stats to tell me if they're better or worse than what I'm using now. Apparently I'm supposed to work that out myself. (Or read the manual).

Whatever, Syd's the only one with pistol training so I'll give the gun to her. Even if the gun turns out to be crap, switching to a 9mm weapon means her .45 rounds can be split between the characters armed with M1911A1's.

It seems I've ran out of people trying to kill me, as everyone else in here seems friendly enough. Makes me wonder why the evil bandits at the door weren't bothering any of these guys.

I overhear that the mayor is being held hostage, but nothing about where. I think I'm getting an idea why the game doesn't have a journal.

Quest: Varmint Troubles (Incomplete)
The farmers need you to sort out their bunny infestation. But don't bother trying to kill the bunnies, that solves nothing.

Quest: Save the Mayor (Incomplete)
Apparently the mayor of Quartz is being held hostage by someone somewhere, and the townspeople are concerned. So, good luck with that.

Someone in the bar fight dropped some armour for me to equip, so I've got an excuse to go into my inventory and sort it out a bit. Ammo needs to be swapped around, and stuff needs to be organised. An automatic sort button would have been really nice to have.

You know, I have no idea if any of this miscellaneous junk I'm dragging around has any point to it. Can I actually use the canteen, or the rope? There's no description for any of it.

Awesome, I found a (unmarked) shop just down the road. I can buy some rifles and body armour and get my team set up properly now. Well, I can buy one bulletproof vest at least. I'll come back later for the rifles if I ever find anyone else in this game who carries money.

I'm going to assume that for the weapons higher cost equals better stats, because the shop ain't giving me any other clues.

No Joes here, pal. We've got a Mike, a Syd, a Jenny and a Jane though. Wow it's just now occurred to me that I've got three women on my team, I thought I'd made two of them guys. Not that it seems to make any difference in game.

Most of the other buildings in Quartz were entirely deserted, but this (unmarked) house seems like it might be interesting.

Crap, that would have been my second guess. Well, see you tomorrow then I suppose.

Or we could just fight, if that works better for you.


Well this was the wrong room to wander into.

This screenshot was actually taken in the middle of a battle turn. Right now I'm moving my melee character up to one of the enemy groups so I'm close enough to hit them. The others can just keep shooting from where they are, they should have the range to hit anyone in the room.


I can't carry anymore ammo! I'm surrounded by bags of bullets and treasure, and I just don't have the space in my inventory for any of it. Now my biggest worry is whether the bags will disappear if I leave the house. (They didn't, items seem to stay where you leave them).

Unfortunately my roaring rampage of destruction was brought to an anticlimactic end when I found a guard standing at the next door that didn't want to kill me on sight. I'm not going to murder the one potentially decent bloke in the wasteland just to find out what's in the last few rooms of this house I broke into for no reason.

Wait, I just took out an entire house of enemies didn't I? Surely that's enough to get me a level up now.

YES! I have finally reached... level 2.

I get some extra points of health, and two shiny new attribute points are mine to spend. I upgraded each of their IQ stats to get extra skill points, but it won't let me upgrade my skills yet for some reason.

Somehow I feel like all that time and effort I've spent killing enemies so far could have been better spent just hitting the space bar a few more times during character creation to roll better base stats.

But anyway. After a couple of trips to the shop to sell the loot, I left Quartz and continued north until I finally reached the city of LAS VEGAS!

And then I was immediately run out of town by tanks. But hey, at least now I've got a seriously injured character to try my 'medic' skill out on. And I hope it works or else they'll probably die before I find a doctor.

Okay, Las Vegas didn't work out but I have a new plan. Now I've got the armour and rifles from Quartz (and an actual level up!) it's time to go back to the farm and sort out those evil bunnies. I'm not quitting this game until I finish at least one bloody job for someone.

Finally after wandering around the fields for a few minutes, I gave up and checked the internet to find out where I'm supposed to go. And it turned out to be the exact square I'm standing on.

It was a tough battle, but Harry the Bunny Master (and his evil bunny henchmen) has died. The plague of varmints is over, and I can collect my hard earned (yet undisclosed) reward.


Uh, so I'm suppose to come down here to pick up my payment right? I think I might have skipped part of the dialogue. Aw fuck it, they can keep the reward.

So, I wonder what else there is in this wasteland for a heroic team of bored Desert Rangers to do.

I went north to visit the Desert Nomads, but I didn't find much. I spoke to the people with tents, but they demanded to know my business, and weren't happy with any answer I gave them.

Though I did meet a guy living out of a train car who offered me information in exchange for a drink. I went all the way back to the shop in Quartz to buy him one, then brought it all the way back to the Nomad camp.

"Beware the man who has lived longer than the Wasteland" is all I got out of him. The git.

After wandering further west I eventually came across a town called Needles. I took a walk down the main street, and got my team critically injured by Leather Jerks every few steps.

I'm finding these random encounters more annoying than in most rpgs, because there's no feeling that I'm getting stronger from them. It takes forever to level up, and each fight eats up a little more of my precious ammo supply, without giving me anything back if I win.

My persistence eventually paid off, as I made it past the Leather Jerks to a police station, no doubt filled with missions and clues.

But the police decided they didn't much like me either, so nine of them got together to beat the shit out of me as well. And they did it wearing diving suits while posing in a puddle, to confuse me.

You know, this game actually reminds me a little of EarthBound, weirdly. The gameplay's not that dissimilar, neither game takes themselves seriously, and in both I spent most of my time wandering around lost, getting beaten into unconsciousness by street punks.

BUT I AM NOT DONE YET. I refuse to give up on this game until I find a main quest, or some kind of storyline, anything. I don't care how long it takes me, or how many bunnies have to die.


Uh, I'm sure those radiation symbols weren't there a second ago. And then the game boots me right back to the DOS prompt. Okay fuck it, I give up.

As a big surprise to absolutely no one, it turns out that I was really bad at playing Wasteland. I came out of almost every battle with most of my team unconscious, I barely got my characters to level 2, and I never did find out what the game is actually about.

I didn't enjoy it much at all, but I know for a fact that the game isn't unloveable, because people don't give millions on kickstarter to fund the sequel to a game they didn't enjoy. So I'm going to assume that I just didn't get it, that I wandered right past the good parts without even seeing them. But you know, I actually still kind of want to, which means I guess I have to give the game my slightly misleading 'gold star' award.


  1. Hehe. The manual is not optional for this game, you really need it to know what the hell is going on.

  2. In an ironic twist of events... it is discovered that this game's mushroom cloud is actually more accurate than most games. In real life, people looking at the intense energy of a nuclear blast report seeing a wide spectrum of extremely bright colors, almost a rainbows. Most games have a dull grey color (smoke) or hues of red and orange for the fire (which is typical of what most cameras capture in order to get the most detail).

    1. I suppose it makes sense that the most horrific thing ever created by humanity would look like an 80s PC game.

  3. Good post as usual, and I like the way you manage to GIF up everything right down to little things like the spinning satellite dishes. Good stuff.

    As for this game, I've heard it mentioned plenty of times and considered checking it out myself, but now I don't need to. Looks like it'd be even harder to play than the original Fallout, which is just on the cusp of what I'd consider visually acceptable at this point.


Semi-Random Game Box