Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wasteland: Restless Nights in One-Night Cheap Hotels

Just like my first time in real life!

Just a couple days ago, I was noting that Wasteland declined to become the first CRPG to offer a sexual encounter by having my tryst with the barmaid turn into a quest-based conversation with her wheelchair-bound daughter. But then, in Needles, I ran into a three-legged prostitute (Total Recall did the mutation thing a wee bit better) and took her up on her offer. So I am pleased, after all, to report that Wasteland is the first CRPG to offer up sex.

Unfortunately, it also turns out to be the first CRPG to offer up a sexually-transmitted disease:

I don't want a doctor with a smock like that treating me for V.D.

The good news is that the post-apocalyptic, radiation-poisoned, violence-ridden world of Wasteland, unlike the modern world, has a cure for herpes.

Let's back up a bit. When I last blogged, I had prematurely entered Las Vegas and, as I alluded at the end of that posting, it wasn't fun. I got assailed by legions of tanks and robotic warriors and had to flee the city. I wasn't expecting robots. Who's controlling them? Skynet?

I was ready for this neither thematically nor tactically.

It turns out I was in the wrong city anyway. Earlier in the game, I had hopped into a jeep with Ace and took off for Vegas. When the jeep broke down and we ended up in a garage, I somehow had the idea that I was in Vegas. I left the city to go buy a new engine from the Rail Nomads and returned to Vegas only to have the robots chase me out. A little while later, I discovered that the garage wasn't in Vegas to begin with; it was in Needles. That worked out well, since samtam90 told me that's where I probably should be anyway.

Don't ignore your Geiger Counter.

I spent most of the day solving the quests in Needles, and after it all, I'm still not quite sure what happened. When I arrived in town, there was a lot of talk about murders going on, and it had something to do with a missing "Bloodstaff" from the Temple of the Mushroom Cloud. There were several sub-areas to explore in Needles, including a downtown inset, a police station, an ammo dump, and a waste pit. I decided to do the latter first, using TNT to blow up sealed doors. Everything was going well until I forgot to watch my Geiger Counter and accidentally stood on a barrel of radioactive waste. Most of my characters were rendered irradiated and unconscious, and Mayor Pedro and his wife were killed before I could get to an infirmary. I kept their corpses for a while because I didn't want to redistribute their goods, but eventually I replaced them with new NPCs I picked up in the city.

I paid $10 for "bitter piss-water"?!

The Temple of Blood, where I massacred a cult and retrieved the Bloodstaff, was quite difficult. First, I had to get by a bunch of random encounters with mechanized killers. Several times, I was forced to retreat outside the compound to rest and heal. Then there was some kind of puzzle that required me to navigate a chess board via a "sacred path." If there was a hint about the nature of the sacred path, I missed it, so I crossed it through trial and error, taking significant damage along the way.

After the chessboard, I was dumped into this underground lake, and my characters took damage swimming through it and from the snipers in the corners of the cult compound. Ultimately, though, I was victorious, retrieved the staff, and exited through a hollow, decommissioned missile.

Oh, yeah, and I freed some guy in the missile, but I'm not really sure how or why.

I was confused about a lot of what happened, but ultimately the priest of the Mushroom Cloud temple thanked me for the return of his staff and gave me a nice reward.

I guess this is a broad hint that I should go to Las Vegas next.

Throughout all of this, I was referred constantly to adventurer's journal entries. This was a memorable one from a torture chamber in the Temple of Blood. I got it just before I rescued a prisoner, a hobo named Ralf, who became one of my NPCs:

The glowing torchlight flickers across a horrific scene. Men in torn and blood spattered robes struggle against the ropes binding them to massive steel tables. The tables slope down at the head and a catch basin at the lowest corner is used to collect the dark flow of blood dripping from the small wounds cut into each writhing victim. Priests rush from one table to another, gathering buckets the way a dairy farmer gathers the bucket of milk from his cows. They pour the smaller quantities of blood into a hole in the floor, but you cannot tell where the dark fluid drains away to in this dim chamber of horrors.

Some other miscellaneous notes:

  • I left a few mysteries in Needles. One was a train that just goes back and forth on its track for no obvious purpose. Another was a howitzer, for which I have shells but no particular reason to fire it in any of the directions it offers.

This would have been more useful if could have blown up the Temple of Blood with it.

  • I keep accidentally running into cacti, which cause several points of damage per character.
  • There were some hills in the southern part of town that increased my climbing skill when I trundled over them. At the top of one was some kind of quest-related note for the Savage Village. Glad I took that effort. It makes me wonder what else I've missed by not stepping on every single square of the game.

  • There was a library in town that allowed me to spend my accumulated skill points. Two of my characters were smart enough for the "doctor" skill, which I guess is a more advanced version of "medic." One of the skills offered was "toaster repair." Is this a joke, or does it really come in handy somewhere?

  • A hot dog stand had some really disgusting offerings. The post-apocalyptic world of Wasteland has apparently resorted to cannibalism.

  • The police station had a bunch of robotic police officers that were not happy with my picking the lock to their storage room. Gunning them down didn't seem to bother anyone else at the station, though.
  • I've finally given up on the "melee-only" thing. Too many enemies attack from a range. All my characters have sub-machine guns or automatic rifles now. Right now, I have plenty of ammo, but I wonder how long that will hold, especially with the ability to fire off an entire clip at once (when you shoot a gun, you have options for "single," "burst," or "automatic" modes).

Finding places to use skills, attributes, and items has become second-nature to me. At the beginning of the game, I thought this system would drive me crazy, but it's not as hard as I thought. Every time you get some interesting message about the environment (e.g., "you're standing next to a jumbled bookcase"), you try your perception skill. If there's a trap or bomb, you attempt disarm. Locked doors give way to picklock, strength, or (as a last resort) demolitions.

Disarming a trap.

But I could be missing out on a lot. I haven't found any way to directly use dexterity, intelligence, or any of the attributes other than strength, for instance. Someone clue me in if these play a big role.

My next stops will be Savage Village and then I guess I'll have another try at Las Vegas, although there's still that Darwin Village off to the east. I'll try to write some more about combat next time.


  1. The hovitzer actually *improves* your skills (I think Demolition, or maybe AT weapon); also I found it funny to randomly blow up walls, not to mention you can aim it at the hotdog stand and get an appropriate comment from the girl standing there. :P

  2. Based on my (fuzzy) memory, there are times when you can use an attribute. I think there's even one place where you use your Luck attribute. (I think I was stuck on that for a while until I read some sort of hint book)

  3. Toaster repair does have a use, but not until later in the game

  4. And you found the prostitute I was alluding to in my previous comment.

    I find even a lot of games today don't do the combination of open-world and scattered quests well. Mass Effect even had known bugs were you could screw yourself by rescuing hostages before you had the mission to do so.

  5. Oh, a comment from the Lets Play I read:

    They found melee did crazy damage as it depended so much on your skill & strength. They also found there was a tactical advantage to having one character with really good armour draw fire when fighting certain opponents. If you have one character with really good AC and HP or something like that you might want to keep them on melee and experiment.

  6. Toaster Repair has been a running gag among some gamers I know for -years- now. If I recall, you want one guy who's pretty good at it and the rest can ignore it.

  7. Um. No repair toasters serves a purpose. Just think of it like this. It requires 20 intelligence because these are futuristic toasters. Some of their components can be used in other things. That is hopefully vague enough.

  8. I should add that you have misread some of the manual. The Ranger Centre is not in the Texas Arizona area at all. It is the Texas and Arizona Rangers who (From the manual):
    were in the
    southwestern deserts building transportation bridges over dry
    riverbeds. They worked deep in the inhospitable desert valleys,
    surrounded by a number of survivalist communities.

    I also should say I misread xyzzysqrl's comment. I didn't read your last sentence (Serves me right for skimming). 1 person should have good skills in it.

    It is worth noting that many mods now exist for Fallout 3 to add "Toaster Repair" to the skills list.

    I think that you can substitute dexterity for things like climb on things like climbing over counters. Not as successful, but it can work (IIRC. Long years since I played). Intelligence just important for skills it opens up. Luck is just luck. It factors into everything.

  9. Thanks, AD. That was vague enough. Samtam, I'll head back over and check out that howitzer, although I didn't give any of my characters AT skill (I had intended to go all melee, remember, and when I found the library, I gave the automatic weapons).

  10. Toaster repair prevents you from becoming a "dead man walking" when you reach the end of the game minus one of the necessary items.

  11. Reading along with a first play-through of Wasteland, it's becoming more apparent to me how random and disjoint the areas and encounters are ... and this is perhaps one of the reasons I liked it so much!

    Most of the other games I had been playing at the time (granted: they were mostly Sierra adventure games) seemed to only revolve around the main quest. Wasteland was amazing because it had all of these random areas, almost all of which were completely optional.

    It's clear that Wasteland is not nearly as coherent as many other CRPGs of its time, such as the Wizardrys and Ultimas (well, it's probably more coherent than Ultima II at least!). I suppose it's a matter of taste whether or not this is a GOOD thing. You would however think that after an apocalypse everything would be pretty chaotic.

  12. Ahh your reaction to the three legged hooker was one thing I most looked forward to in this play through. If I recall it right there are random std's you can get from he/she/it. I always wondered if three legged was a mutation or a euphemism though.

  13. In a related note, for those of you in the US: Don't worry, the note you will see on the TV and radio next week is not discussing an actual nuclear strike, just a full-scale equipment test of the systems they use for disaster alerts.

  14. I've just found your blog recently (must have been living under a rock :D) when it was mentioned on Retronaughts.

    I am really enjoying this one! I never did get into this game. I thought the combat was too tedious. Now I get to experience the game in some sense without having to slog through the combat system :D Keep up the good work!

  15. re: "bitter piss-water" -> Who knew they'd still have Bud Light after the apocalypse, eh?

  16. Isn't the title of this update a Prufrock reference?

    Enjoying the blog. As a CRPG gamer of probably 30 years, Wasteland happens to be one of my nostalgic all-time favorites.

    -- Adam

  17. Thanks for the tip, Sin. I thought it was a joke. I wouldn't have taken it except for your comment.

    Kennon, Wasteland is a rarity for the era in offering things that feel like side-quests (although many of them with no reward associated). I do like it a lot for that reason. The lack of structure and coherence, as you say, does bother me a bit.

    I'm glad you like the blog, Brad. I hadn't heard of Retronauts before, so I appreciate the reference.

    Good one, 'Nym. I should have thought of that for my caption!

    Good catch, Adam. The rest of my subtitles have been from The Waste Land, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to sneak in a reference to another Eliot poem (my favorite, incidentally) given the subject matter.


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