Here I am in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, and you'd think that the few survivors of the nuclear fallout might be eager to get along, to rebuild society. Instead, they've mostly descended into cliches: gunmen, bikers, and vagrants, all eager to kill anyone with anything remotely valuable. In my visit to the town of Quartz, I utterly depopulated the place.
Before that, though, I managed to get all of my characters radiation-poisoned. Here's a tip, kids: When wandering through the desert, if you see a bunch of radiation symbols everywhere, don't walk on them.
Radiation poisoning keeps your characters from regenerating hit points, and from ever waking up if they're unconscious. The manual says that in such circumstances, one should "get medical help as soon as you can," but I had no idea where to find any. My "medic" skills did nothing. Bit-by-bit, enemies chipped away at my remaining hit points and wiped out my party. I had to restore the backup I made of my character files just after character creation.
Then I found an infirmary in Highpool. Aargh.
Retracing my steps again wasn't so bad, for two reasons: Jackie lived this time, and I managed to find a cave I had previously overlooked in the agricultural center
Also, this time around, I decided to sell the fruit I had collected in the agricultural center (I have no idea what it does), which gave me enough money to buy the engine from the Nomad's Camp and thus save Highpool.
After retracing my previous steps through the Rail Nomads' camp, I headed off to find the city of Quartz to give the brakeman's visa to Head Crusher. The city turned out to be on the other side of some mountains. Outside, there was this broken-down jeep, but I couldn't figure out any way to repair it. Maybe that comes later. It is funny that the game highlights this one jeep, though; wouldn't there be broken-down cars everywhere? If not, what happened to them?
In Quartz, I found a ton of abandoned buildings like this, with nothing in them:
But there was also a lot of adventure in the city. There was a store that finally bought all of my unwanted guns and ammo. There, I bought axes for my characters, TNT for my demolitions expert, and a Geiger counter (I just figure it will come in handy).
It was in the bar that things really took off. There were a couple of role-playing encounters like this:
Walking through the patrons, I started to hear rumors about "Ugly's gang," which was apparently holding the town's mayor hostage in the courthouse.
This latter bit of intel came from a teenager who I saved from being raped in the men's room.
The kid also told me of a bar patron named the Riddler. The Riddler asked me three riddles. The first, I got wrong, which annoyed me because I'm usually pretty good at that. See what you would answer:
After rejecting GRAPES, I went with MILK, thinking that for breakfast you "eat" milk, along with cereal, with a spoon, then drink it for dinner. It was wrong. He wouldn't give me another chance at it, so I didn't feel bad Googling it to sate my curiosity. TOAST was the answer. Dammit.
The second riddle, I got; something like, "It's in the middle of America and Australia" (R). But for the third, he asked me how I could compliment the waitress, Ellen, in 8 letters or less. I didn't know, but the bartender (whom I had to split my party to talk to, because only one character could belly up to the bar at a time), for $10, told me to check the graffiti on one of the tables. I had been writing the graffiti down, and I assumed that the words (URABUTLN, UQTU) were codes of some kind. But it turns out they're meant to be read phonetically ("You are a beauty, Ellen"; "You cutie, you"). With the former, I charmed the waitress and got from her a key to her room at the local inn.
Heading over there expecting some action, I was instead surprised to find her wheelchair-bound daughter, Laurie, who reiterated the plight of the hostages in the courthouse. She gave me some grenades and the password (MUERTE) and wished me luck. That's nice and all, but I was looking forward to citing Wasteland as the first CRPG sex. I guess that will have to wait.
Over a couple of hours, I stormed the courthouse and rescued Mayor Pedros and a guy named Dan Citrine. The battles were tough, pitting my axe-wielding rangers against armed gunmen who started shooting while I was some distance away. If you have melee weapons and your enemies have ranged weapons, you have to charge through a hail of bullets to get into melee range. Fortunately, hit points regenerate quickly in the wilderness areas, so I just kept leaving town and waiting to recharge.
In the courthouse, I found a clue as to the password to Ugly John's hideout and stormed that, too. After a bunch of combats, I ran into Ugly John himself, who had fastened a bomb to Mayor Pedros's wife, Felicia, and was willing to give me the code for his life. It was interesting role-playing decision, but I decided to kill Ugly John and trust my own "disarm" skill to deal with the bomb. Fortunately, it worked, and Felicia became my third (and final) NPC. Pedros, Dan, and Felicia all prefer small arms, so I'll humor them and see how I like it.
It sounds like a reasonably successful play session, but throughout it, I collected a series of mysteries that I wouldn't mind a hint or two (if you don't know the difference between a hint and a spoiler, please refrain from commenting) to solve.
1. I went to the town in the first place to give the visa card to Head Crusher. I found Head Crusher in the bar, but he won't talk to me and "using" the visa card on him doesn't do anything.
2. The bartender told me that a guy named Ace wants some help dealing with problems in Las Vegas. But I can't find Ace anywhere I look. (Maybe he's in another town.)
3. I keep loading up on items that don't seem to serve any purpose. Ropes and canteens I've figured out, but what do I do with maps, clay pots, jugs, jewelry, books, matches, fruit, and hand mirrors? I've been holding on to a few of each and selling the rest.
4. I've risen a few levels; a couple of my characters are Senior Specialists now. Each level up allows you to allocate a couple new points to your attributes. But how do you raise your skills? I've actually discovered that some skills increase by using them; my perception and climb abilities have both gone up this way. But my pugilism and brawling haven't budged despite using them extensively, and neither has lockpick. I've got a handful of skill points to spend, too.
Despite these mysteries, I've become a lot more comfortable with Wasteland and I feel like I'm in the groove now. One thing I like about the game is how you can use multiple means to accomplish the same things. Faced with a locked door, you can try to pick it, force it open with your strength, blow it up with TNT, pry it with a crowbar, or (in some cases) get the key from an NPC. When I needed to enter Ugly John's hideout, I could have fought my way through the front door, delivered one of two passwords (found at different places in the town), or sneaked in through a secret entrance and down a skylight. Even solving the riddles and meeting Laurie wasn't technically necessary to solve the quest, although it did make it easier and more fun.
Without knowing how to deal with Head Crusher or find Ace, though, I'm a bit adrift at this point, so I'm going to randomly explore some towns and such and see how it goes.
One final note: In Quartz, I explored a graveyard and was attacked by undead! Way to mix genres, Wasteland!