Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wasteland: Won!

This would be the only meaningful contact I've had with "Ranger Center" since starting the game.
I won Wasteland, but in a way that managed to screw up and miss so much stuff that I'm not sure how it was possible to win. I screwed up just as much blogging about it: the sequence of events that I'm about to describe actually started last Friday, but since then I managed to delete the draft posting that had all of the notes I was taking, so I have to reconstruct a week's worth of gameplay from memory (with the help of a couple of walkthroughs). By the end of the game, I was basically just charging and blasting my way through the base, desperate to get to the end. And yet, somehow, I did it.

The path along the main quest, the game's mysteries, and the endgame started with the repair of Max the Android in the sewers below Las Vegas.

Max had the following to say which I'll reprint verbatim because it raises a lot of questions:

"I came down here to negotiate a peace with the cyborgs and what do they do? They rip me up and start using me for spare parts. Ingrates! I have to get back up to Vegas to help prepare for the next assault, but I've got a mission of great importance for you. Head northeast from here and, across the bridge, you'll find a hidden base. It is a journey you must succeed at. There, you'll find lost technology and information that you can use to stop Cochise before it's too late.

"It's possible you'll need to recover some equipment from Project Darwin before you can complete the rebuilding of the sleeper base. Be careful, though, and rebuild as much of the base as you can before you venture off to Darwin. I don't like the things I've heard about it at all."

So: huh? This is where a few dialogue options would have come in handy. First of all, who the hell is Max? Who built him? Where did he come from, and why is he fighting the other robots?

Second, "stop Cochise before it's too late?" Has the infamous Indian chief returned? That would be a heck of a twist. It later turns out he was talking about the base, which is named Cochise, but the game just drops it in the dialogue here like I was supposed to have heard it before. Maybe I was and just missed it.

Either way, I had a new destination: a hidden base in the mountains to the northeast, in a place where the game had showed me just mountains before.

This completely freaked me out. I assumed that there were dozens of such locations across the game world that the game would now reveal to me slowly, and it would be weeks before I won. But it turned out there was only one more after this: Cochise itself.
I never did find out what the bodies were about.
The base, which only had a few robot guards, had a bunch of rooms indicating that some experiments had been going on. A computer had personnel files on the base's former staff, which helped flesh out the back story a bit (see below). There was a "chopper" simulator in the base at which I could have gained the helicopter skill, but none of my characters had enough skill points, and it turned out that I didn't need it anyway (I could have flown a helicopter to Cochise, but it was easy enough just to barge through the front door).
Would flying this have been cool? Someone tell me.
There was also a library where I learned "clone technology." This gave me the ability, using jugs and clone fluid that I created at a workstation, to make clones of my characters.
Something tells me that cloning isn't so easy that you can just learn it in the library.
I ended up cloning Stetson--calling the cloned character Stetson 2--and I was pleased to find that he had all of the skills and levels (even the rank!) of Stetson 1, and I could control him directly in combat. If I had been thinking properly, I would have cloned 2 more characters and gotten rid of the NPCs for good, but at the time I decided one was enough.
Note the second "me" at the far bottom of the screen.
After the base, I returned to Darwin Village, thinking it had something to do with the Darwin Project that Max had gone on about, although I'm not really sure what he meant about needing equipment. In any event, nothing notable happened there, but only because (I later discovered through a walkthrough) that I missed an entire area. I also missed a host of dialogue options with both the bartender and other characters simply because I didn't know that CHAT was a dialogue command that everyone responds to. It's not in the manual, so I'm not sure where I was supposed to pick that up.
I was a fool.
Oddly, though, missing the Project Darwin base didn't turn me into a "walking dead," but it did leave me bereft of ideas about what to do next, so I decided to assail the Guardian's Citadel. The game still warned me that my armor and weapons weren't good enough, but I pushed forward and did manage to slaughter all of the gun-toting priests and nuns staffing the place, though I had to keep retreating outside to rest and heal. Within the base, I found all kinds of keys and passes that later turned out to open doors in Cochise, but I remain a bit confused as to the relationship between Cochise and the Citadel.
Perhaps they're robots. They're oddly resistant to automatic weapons.
The Citadel also held a fantastic stash of weapons and armor, including "power armor" (I'm guessing the best in the game) and enough energy packs to see me through the end. Eventually, I gave up on picking it all up.

I lost track of exactly where I got the clue that Cochise was in the mountains west of Las Vegas. But, in any event, I ventured there to stop the robot invasion. The base had multiple levels, and it was full of tough robot enemies that, again, sent me scurrying out of the base to rest and heal after every two or three combats. There were a bunch of doors I guess I was supposed to have key passes to (perhaps I was supposed to get them in Darwin), but I managed to get through by just blasting the doors with RPGs.
RPGs: The ultimate key.
There was a workbench that noted I could fix broken toasters there, so I used my "toaster repair" skill on the three toasters I had found (and, in the greatest CRPG tradition, kept with me even though in real life an aventuring party would have ditched them a long time ago). I don't think the repaired toasters themselves had any use, but the act of repairing them got me various parts and items that were stuffed within them. I think I needed one of the items, a power coupling, to repair a computer at the end.
I guess that would be a "hint."
At last, I came to the computer that seemed to be the evil mastermind behind the base and its robotic killers. It told me that its mission was to repopulate Earth with "pure stock" after the robots finished killing all other forms of life. In order to piece together the entire story--which I was clueless about as I actually won the game--I had to look at walkthroughs and journal entries that I hadn't actually discovered. The sequence of events seems to be:

  • Project Darwin, Base Cochise, and Sleeper Base are established in the desert by the U.S. Government. Cochise focuses on research into artificial intelligence; Sleeper Base on cloning and energy weapons; and Project Darwin on genetics. The three bases know of each other but are sort-of in competition. Darwin is directed by Irwin John Finster.

  • Nuclear war. The bases are cut off from each other and the computer at Cochise is damaged. It becomes self-aware during the attack and repairs itself, but somehow corrupts its programming and decides its mission is to scour the Earth of life and replace it with perfect life forms: cyborgs. (I wonder if the game's creators were influenced by V'ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which also featured a damaged computer that corrupted its original programming and became a threat.)

  • The researchers at Sleeper abandon their base and go live at the agricultural center.
  • The Cochise computer allies with Finster and convinces him to become a cyborg. It then takes control of him and starts him producing armies of cyborgs, which it believes will be the only forms of life to survive in the new world. Finster gives diseases to anyone who opposes the plan
  • Cochise starts sending its robots to wipe out the human cities.
The computer gives its villain speech.
The relationship between the human Guardians and Cochise is unclear, as is why the Guardians had the keys to destroy Cochise. Also left unexplained is where the computer found the parts, labor, and technology to create all the cyborgs and other machines.

For a while, I was stuck at this point, because I couldn't figure out a way to go anywhere else in the base. Finally, I found a hollow section of the wall, blasted it open, and descended deeper into the base.
This puzzle was a bit unfair. Nowhere else in the game did you need to test every wall to get through an area.
There were multiple combats with robots and several light puzzles that I needed to solve (e.g., navigating a mine field, crossing a slippery beam) with the help of various skills and attributes (e.g., perception and dexterity) before I got to the lowest level, which was full of computers and robot-assembly machines, as well as a nuclear reactor.
Perception helped me avoid land mines. Some of them.
Through a bunch of trial and error, I repaired the reactor computer, used the keys I had found in the Guardian's Citadel (why did they have them) to activate four switches in a proper order, and entered a sequence of color codes. Again, a lot of trial and error. I was stymied for a while by the fact that once you initiate the process, a wall closes around each switch and prevents you from going to the other switches in the order you need to. Eventually, I figured out the way to solve this was to split up my party into four groups and have them activate the switches in the right sequence. I tried pretty much every combination of sequences before I got it right; I'm sure I just overlooked the clue somewhere.

Anyway, activating the switches caused the base to enter self-destruct sequence, and it gave me only and hour to get out of there. It was dicey, but I made it, and got a series of cut scenes showing Cochise exploding. The world was saved!
Cause what the world needs right now is another nuclear explosion.
Video of the endgame below, starting with my entering the sequence codes (there are a couple of combats as I run out of the base).

Then, when I contacted Ranger Center, they congratulated me and indicated that they'd had some intelligence about what was going on at Cochise but withheld it from me for reasons I don't quite understand.
But you didn't choose to share it with me. Thanks.
On one hand, it was nice that my efforts in the game ultimately channeled into a main mission and a coherent plot. On the other, I can't say that I'm particularly enamored of the plot. It doesn't make a lot of sense. The technology that you encounter towards the end of the game--laser rifles, self-aware machines, full-body cloning--isn't even available now, let alone in the 1990s. Essentially, the game diverges from a post-apocalyptic setting to a sci-fi setting. The idea of machines trying to wipe out humanity is very derivative of The Terminator, released four years prior. Altogether, I find the whole plot a bit goofy.

But I can't ignore the excellent gameplay elements that Wasteland pioneered. I'll cover them in my "final rating" posting tomorrow.


  1. not sure where to begin :( shame you missed out on so much of a great game. I guess its forever tarnished now. Hope you play my next favourite game better (Magic Candle I)

  2. forever tarnished in your mind I mean. I remember the tough stuff in finsters brain..

  3. I don't think anyone really loved Wasteland for the plot (or the combat engine, for that matter). It was really about the innovative gameplay, multiple paths to solve issues and the setting (which wasn't the standard fantasy settings we were used to).

    It probably seems passe now, but Wasteland was ahead of its time in some regards.

    Also, we have Wasteland to thank for the wonderful Fallout games that were inspired by it. That alone makes it worthy.

  4. It's a pity you didn't do the Darwin virtual reality quest. One of the best parts of the game.

    The nuns wear power armor.

  5. Robonun and Power Priest: They fight crime!

    Lets see, Wizardry is next, as is Bards Tale III (redux), so you get to play in fantasy for a while before that evil evil game, Battletech: Crescent Hawk's Interception. Or at least my copy was evil, it destroyed disk drives after letting me play it once for a few minutes.

  6. Congrats! But do none of the materials you looked at explain what the Catholics had to do with the robots and violence and such?

    As for the game as a whole, the abstraction and complexities of the interface got in the way of my imagination and attempts at enjoyment. Then again my only prior experience with RPGs up to this point is very little, all of which have been on consoles, so of course just stepping into a classic CRPG was going to feel like I'm out of place. Plus, my incentive to play is much less than a person who grew up with CRPGs in the '80s without all these sites like The CRPG Addict that at this point in my life are much more fun to read than trying to master these fascinating games.

    Aww, well. Keep going Not(?)-Chet(?), and maybe we will find some CRPGs both of feel right-at-home with.

    PS. I am trying to get my mom to look at Amazon's DnD Anthology (Baldur's Gate to Throne of Baal, Icewind Dale 1&2 plus all expansions, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and the coveted Planescape Torment all for $19.99) to get me for Christmas, but I may just have to fially order it myself Friday night if she keeps putting it off as I don't want the price to rise on me. Hope I love these.

    - Giauz

  7. I hope that when you read tomorrow's final rating, you'll be glad to see that I took the time to go to Project Darwin and meet Finster. There were some authentically good puzzles there.

    Canageek, after a string of sci-fi and post-apocalyptic CRPGs, I am looking forward to getting back to sci-fi.

    Giauz, I honestly have no idea. Perhaps someone else can explain it. The whole Guardian's Citadel bit made little sense--why did they have keys to Cochise? Maybe I missed something in the materials, but I didn't see anything in the walkthroughs either that explained it.

    Wow. I ought to buy that anthology before they're not available any more. For my money, the two Baldur's Gate games are 2 of the top 10 CRPGs ever made, and all of the others are fantastic, too.

    Tell you what: e-mail me with your e-mail address and I'll send you an Amazon gift card that will cover the cost of the game and shipping. Play to your heart's content and then you send me the discs when you're done, at which point I can use them for the blog. How does that sound?

    1. As to the nuns, etc., maybe they were going for literary immortality the way The Lord oF the Rings is supposed to be so great because of ambiguities in what the things in it really mean or represent about humanity (like the ring).

  8. Wow, honestly that is really a very nice thing you have proposed. Not to mention contributing to this project will have been one of the neatest things I have done in about five years. Thank you so much.

    I am going to send the email in just a few minutes.

    Thanks so much and make sure you stay put 'till I get the disks back to you.

    - Giauz

  9. You can also buy them at GOG if you want:


  10. Guardian Citadel is an early version of what would later become Fallout's Brotherhood of Steel. The Brotherhood is dedicated to preserving the technology of yore; I assume the Guardians have a similar purpose, though I don't remember if the game actually said so at any point.

    Looking at the log, it seems you missed VAX, the most powerful NPC in Cochise.

  11. Ah! I wondered what I was supposed to do at the robot assembly facility. Oh, well. NPCs didn't do a lot for me in this game anyway. I think I accidentally killed several of them.

  12. Now see, your writing makes me reconsider whether or not to play the game (it seemed too complex, but perhaps all the stuff to find makes it worth the effort).
    Once again, excellent job. Never worry too much about missing content; the only real way to avoid that is to ruin the game by consulting a walkthrough the whole time you play.

  13. Exactly. As I say in my review today, Wasteland is one of the earliest games to make it possible to win without essentially experiencing all the content. This is very common in modern games, of course. And just as you'll have to forgive me if I don't join all the guilds in Morrowind, you have to forgive me for not meeting every NPC in Wasteland.

  14. I believe that there are several people in random places throughout the game that refer to the Guardians as "preservers of the past," so one would assume they somehow got their hands on the keys over the years and didn't realize what exactly it was they had. As Anonymous above says, they were sort of a precursor to the Brotherhood of Steel.

    It's funny, but Wasteland is one of my favorite CRPGs ever, and I've played through it many, many times, and yet I never realized you could add the clones to your party in addition to your regular party members. For some reason (clearly made up in my own mind) I always thought you could only activate them if the "original" character died. Still learning new things about the game even after all this time!

  15. Just placed the order for the DnD Anthology CRPG Addict. I can't believe Amazon estimates that it will take about TWO MONTHS to get it to me, but, whatever, I am very greatful that you decided to do this for me.

    Also, can't be anxious enough to read your next post.

    - Giauz

  16. The one journal entry I can find on the Guardians says: "You know the Guardians to be strange collectors of old items and as xenophobic fools who would not hesitate to kill strangers without ever seeing the whites of their eyes. You've teamed that the flags are in place to mark the closest an outsider may approach the walls without being attacked."

    If "preservers of the past" appears in the game, I missed it, but of course I missed a lot of stuff.

    Two months!? How could they possibly justify such a long shipping time? I hope that doesn't mean they don't really have it.

  17. Well, Amazon says they usually ship in 4-7 weeks, but I don't remember two other items I have ordered on their site before taking that long. Considering the game just went off pre-order status on the 14th, they probably have to order more stock. Who knows, hope it gets here soon.

    - Giauz

  18. Man, with that kind of delay you'd be better off buying from GoG: http://www.gog.com/

    I'm really sorry I forgot to mention it here, but it was during the posting break, they had a sale with all the Infinity Engine games for $30 or so.
    They go for $10/each right now, no DRM, modified to run on modern computers and fully patched. You just get a disk image you can either mount as a CD or burn to a disk, and no restrictions on what you do with it, unlike steam. No need for net, no sign in, it just installs.
    Also: Unlimited downloads if you lose the disk, and some minor extras: BGII comes with a map, soundtrack, PDF manuals. That kind of stuff. I should also mention, $10 includes all the expansion packs for that game.

    Arcanum is also up there for $6, Neverwinter Nights Diamond Edition is $10.

    Really sorry that I didn't mention that sale, but they do sales once a week, so keep an eye out for RPGs.

  19. Way to remind me I have made some bad decisions Canageek.

    But seriously, I will look into those deals if I do end up really liking the Anthology. As long as it gets to me and sometime later the CRPG Addict I'm fine with the decision the Addict and I made. Thanks for the info Canageek!

    - Giauz

  20. Since nobody else mentioned it, I'll bring it up here. The Guardian Citadel reminds me of the Abbey in A Canticle For Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. The story concerns an order of Catholic monks who work to preserve, collect and restore technology from the time before the nuclear war that wipes out civilization. My guess is the creators of Wasteland read that book and wanted to implement it somehow.
    In a way, Wasteland takes a lot of post-apocalyptic tropes and puts them all in one game.

  21. Thank for filling me in on that, pavo. I've never read the book, so and it's good to know where the major references come from.

  22. I'd say it is a rather loose link. A Canticle for Lebowitz is an amazing book though. I'm somewhat scared to read the equal, titled, no joke, Lebowitz and the Wild Horse Women.

  23. I don't know. I just read the Wikipedia plot summary, and it sounds very familiar, including the location of the base in the American southwest. On the other hand, it doesn't sound that the guardians in the book were so heavily armed.

  24. Personally I was rather disappointed with A Canticle for Leibowitz. I like the idea of the book, but there was just too much emphasis on religion for my taste. I guess you need to be a catholic and/or know latin to get the most out of the book.

  25. @Addict: None of the characters in the book carry weapons that I can recall, being monks, not warriors. They are also more then willing to share their knowledge with anyone interested, instead of violently hording it. Also, the game didn't have the books underlying theme that everything is a giant circle, that we build empires, destroy them, then rebuild them again.

    PetrusOctavianus: Hahhahaha, yeah, not Catholic in the least. To say I oppose their views on almost every issue would be an understatement. I'm your happy, friendly, egotistical, left-wing, sexually open, near-shameless geek would would like certain regions to stop saying my friends are going to hell. Additionally I hadn't formed most of my political views 6 years ago when I read the book (Common, I was just finishing high school!) but I was still far from Catholic (Raised Protestant, and one of the denominations furthest from Catholicism). Don't speak Latin either, though you can actually get a decent bit of it if you know some root words, as so many English words are taken from it: Necro, death. Sol, sun/light, Deus, god, and so on. You should have seen the book I read right after it, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Ecco. That book would have been a lot easier to understand if I spoke Latin!

  26. Its been along time since I read "A Canticle for Leibowitz" but I got the feeling that the monks were not originally a religious order but became that way over time. The preservation of knowledge became so sacred to them that they started taking on religious attitudes toward it. I should read it again and this sequel I have heard mentioned.

  27. Love the site! You are a much better player than I - most of these I never finished on my own without help. In particular I am impressed that you figured out cloning.

    Anyway, a couple of answers and a couple things you missed in wasteland:

    Basically the Guardian Citadel has the keys you need to destroy Cochise. That is the purpose, as well as sending you to cochise via the helicopter.

    The password to the Temple in Vegas can be found by looking at the posters at the entrance.

    Sleeper base has a door that is hard to open, that has armor good enough to face the GC (though not as good as power armor).

    Metallurgy is used on those dead ends in the mines.

    You actually get experience for using skills. setting a macro to climb a hill can give you many, many levels, up to supreme jerk (level 181 I believe).

    You can get a better reception in savage village by returning redhawk to them (he is in the GC). Of course, at that point savage village is rather pointless.

    If you fly the helicopter from GC to Cochise you can wipe out all the robots outside of the base.

    And finally, check out VAX - he seriously has a thing for toasters.

    1. Thanks, Jason. I particularly wanted to know what happened with the helicopter.

  28. Woot! It's out now on Steam! With updated graphics and soundtrack! XD

  29. This was the last game I played on the C64 before moving on to the Amiga. I only have vague memories of it and cannot say how far I was into the game, but what I can remember is that I went out of ammo for the guns (energy and bullets) after buying every clip from every (known) shop and couldn't do any more combats. Unlike with Ultima 4 or Bard's Tale this game feels not like returning home when I start it and therefore I never found the motivation to retry it from the start.

  30. "This puzzle was a bit unfair. Nowhere else in the game did you need to test every wall to get through an area."

    Several walkthroughs I read told me to search for the hidden wall door.

    However, I doubt this is the intended path. The intended path is to chat with the computer console. Eventually, the computer dumps you into the lower level, but in a more difficult position than the wall door. The walkthroughs I read told me not to do this, as it is harder. If you do chat with the computer, later on you find the wall door naturally, and the wall door is merely a shorter path to the lower levels.

    The trick is realizing (or discovering) what to say to the computer to start the conversation. Once you find the first keyword, the chat sequence is pretty obvious. And then the computer drops you into the trap.

  31. One of the features I liked about this game (more when I was younger with too much free time) was that you could easily reset the game and start again with the same characters. They'd keep their levels, attributes, and skills but not their equipment. It was fun to rampage through the game again and find new things, and there were always more levels to be gained.

  32. Two things about Base Cochise that, while beneficial, came a little too late in the game:

    1) There's a place where you can get your Brawling up to 8;

    2) The base contains the best NPC in the game. (I suppose this one isn't too late, if someone dies in the middle of it all.)


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