Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wasteland: Final Rating

Failing to escape the base in an hour still ends the game on a satisfactory note.
United States
Interplay (developer); Electronic Arts (publisher)
Released in 1988 for Apple II, Commodore 64; 1989 for DOS
Date Started: 2 October 2011
Date Finished: 15 November 2011
Total Hours: 33
Difficulty: Moderate-hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 53
Ranking at Game 360: 343/360 (95%)
A lot of people seemed upset that I didn't enter Project Darwin and encounter Finster, so I took my winning party there to see if he'd still be around, and he was. First, I had to leave Darwin Village through a special avenue that just looked like a normal way out of town before:

I had read minimal spoilers--just enough to note the base's existence--so I found it a legitimate challenge. First, I encountered Finster, a cyborg, who fell quite quickly to my energy weapons.

Then, I took his head and attached it to some android body, and one of my characters--Stetson--was pulled into his mind like in Inception or something. There were numeric puzzles, which I love, although I only got the first two. See if you can get these:

  • 2, 4, 8, 16, ___
  • 4, 2, 8, 4, 32, 16,___
  • 4, 6, 8, 12, ___

The answers to the first two are 32 (it keeps doubling) and 512 (it alternates between half the previous number and a product of the previous two numbers), which I got. The last, I guessed 16 and was told no, it was 20. If it had gone 5, 6, 8, 12, I would have guessed 20, but I don't see the sequence in this one.

I had to face a creature called a "night terror" that had thousands and thousands of hit points. It barely did a lick of damage to me, but it took me about 200 rounds to kill. At the end, I got 64,000 experience points, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

This was followed by a bunch of puzzles that involved the use of particular skills and attributes. I confess I cheated at this point; it would have taken me a long time otherwise: many of the skill and attribute uses seemed nonsensical, and I just wanted to get it done. At the end, I killed Finster a final time and got a security pass that was probably what I needed to avoid RPG-ing all those gates. Finster had one last rant and then died.

The puzzles in the dungeon were interesting--some of the first truly challenging puzzles in CRPGs--but it didn't add a lot more to the game's lore.

Let's move on to the rating.

I've been doing this for almost two years, but I don't think people really understand the nature and purpose of my rating system, which I dubbed the GIMLET. The purpose of the scoring system is not to rank how good a CRPG was for its time, nor to assess it's value in the history of CRPGs. It is, rather, to assess how enjoyable it is to play the game today. The "historical value" stuff is hard to quantify, so I don't even try. I do my best to cover it in the text. But the score is supposed to allow you to rank games against each other regardless of the era. If I give Pool of Radiance a score of 65 and Fable II a score of 55, it means I think you will honestly enjoy Pool of Radiance more, even though it's more than 20 years older. I'm sick of people complaining that my scores don't take into account "how important the game was in the history of CRPGs." That's not the purpose of the score. Got it?

On the historical relevance, there is no question that Wasteland is a landmark. Matt Barton notes:

Wasteland remains the favorite CRPG of many gamers who played it back in the late 1980s, and for good reason--it's a captivating and highly innovative game that deserves its place beside The Bard's Tale. It's a testament to the game's enduring legacy that the best-selling Fallout, released in 1997, is in many ways little more than a graphical revamp of the older engine.

No argument. It is the first game that I have played since starting this blog that I felt was truly "replayable," in that different party and skill choices would result in a fundamentally different game. (Demon's Winter is perhaps the closest I've felt before this.) I don't want to replay it immediately, but I certainly wouldn't mind revisiting it at some point in the future. This is game that, I'm sure, improves with second playings, when confusion over basic gameplay elements has been conquered and you can just focus on the story and tactics. It had the first inclusion of skills that advance through usage, the first true splitting of party members so they could act independently, and the first romance (such as it was).

My first major problem with the game was that I feel stories set in the real world ought to be somewhat realistic. It was Aristotle, writing about dramatic structures, who said that "probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities." There are a lot of interpretations of this quote, but I basically interpret it to mean that if you establish at the outset that your novel, film, game, or whatever takes place in a fanciful world in which different laws apply, but remain internally consistent within that world, then you have a better story that if you relate an entirely improbable series of events in a real or familiar world.

Hence, we give a pass to Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or Morrowind because, even though their worlds are impossible, they establish the ground rules at the outset and remain faithful to them (generally). On the other hand, I simply didn't find Inception remotely plausible (as good as it was) because the implications of technology that allows you to enter someone else's dream would have so many reverberations that it would fundamentally change the nature of human society. If Inception had been about psychics, on the other hand, it would have been probably impossible but not improbably possible. I probably would have enjoyed it more.

Wasteland establishes at the outset that it's set in a post-Cold War, post-apocalyptic United States. As much as I'm turned off by the overall scenario, I can accept that as probable. What I have trouble accepting is the subsequent revelations of undead, artificial intelligence, cloning, energy weapons, cures for diseases that we don't have cures for now, mind linking, and entire cities built in the aftermath by starving, scavenging hordes. Entire scenarios, like the Temple of Blood, were just goofy.

I'm not saying it was a game-killer, though. I would have liked a grittier, more honest setting, but I mostly got past it and enjoyed the game.

1. Game World. The game establishes itself in the real world, following a nuclear holocaust, and slowly reveals the back story that constitutes a threat against the current inhabitants of the American southwest. Post-apocalyptic fiction was fairly common at the time, and the game seems to borrow liberally from The Terminator and similar films and books, so I can't quite call it "original," although the specific factions (the Rangers, the Temple of Blood, the Guardians) are somewhat original. Although the main quest isn't clear at the outset, it's not supposed to be, and I admit enjoying the slow revelation of the game's mysteries (even though I didn't really like the revelations). My biggest complaint in this area is the lack of change in the game world. It's not as bad as, say, Might & Magic, where you encounter the same people and quests every time the map resets. But neither is it as good as Pool of Radiance, where the game world fundamentally shifts as you solve quests. For instance, Finster made no acknowledgement that I had destroyed Cochise, and Faran Brygon never wanted to see me again after I finished his mission to find Max. Score: 6.

2. Character Creation and Development. The game is particularly strong here. I mentioned the skill system repeatedly in my postings, and I like it a lot. It is legitimately difficult to determine what skills to choose, but awfully fun to watch them develop through use and additional training. I never found uses for forgery, sleight of hand, confidence, bureaucracy, or several other skills, but that doesn't mean there were no uses in the game. This is also one of the games to allow you to directly use both skills and attributes to try to solve puzzles and get out of problems. This is probably the best aspect of the game. Skills are not just handy add-ons, as in Might & Magic II, but an absolutely essential part of the game. On the other hand, I don't think the character's sex or nationality ever had any effect on gameplay.

Stetson's final character sheet.

Leveling is a fairly satisfying process by which you not only increase in rank, but you can assign points directly to your attributes (including intelligence, which then gives you more skill points). One thing I can't complain about is level caps. My highest-ranked character at the end of the game was a cadet, or Level 22 (which I guess is the first officer rank; below that are sergeant argent and master sergeant). But the game has up to 183 ranks, progressing through a series of somewhat silly-sounding positions that exist in no military: fireteam colonel (81-84), lance commander (93-96), technical general (125-128), imperial scarscalp (139), 1st class Fargo (150), photon stud (161), and, at last, supreme jerk (183). The idea of someone grinding this long is simply staggering, although I suppose you could get pretty high in a normal game if you just played one character. Finally, the ability to clone characters was an interesting (if nonsensical) touch. Score: 7.

3. NPC Interaction. The game has several types of NPCs, and most of them are somewhat interesting. There are those you can talk to in free text, much like Ultima IV, those that give you special encounters in the form of paragraphs, and those that will join your party. I always appreciate free-text chats, but someone please tell me where I was supposed to find out that CHAT was the keyword that prompts so much dialogue! It's not in the manual, as far as I can tell.

This would have been helpful.

NPCs that join you behave much as in The Bard's Tale or even Pool of Radiance: they'll fight for you but won't allow you to direct their specific actions. As far as I could tell, their presence in your party had no bearing on your quests; for instance, Ace asks you to go to Vegas with him to investigate the robot attacks, but having him in your party accomplishes nothing special once you get to Vegas.

I do have to give the game a bonus point for the first NPC sex. We're not yet in the era of truly memorable NPCs, but it's not far away. Score: 5.

4. Encounters and Foes. For foes, there wasn't a lot that excited me. Enemies come in several classes--animal, human, robotic--but within each class, they didn't really distinguish themselves from each other. Harder enemies were harder because they did more damage, but none of them really had special attacks that caused me to adjust my tactics, and even by the end of the game, I couldn't tell you the difference between a steel reaver and a silver strangler, or between a gunman or a desert dweller. I was surprised to find there were hundreds of different foes; I would have guessed less than 30. The one saving grace about enemies is that they respawn and give you plenty of opportunities for grinding.

Encounters are another matter. There are several scripted encounters with bosses in which you have to use various skills and wits to survive (or at least come out on top): deciding whether to kill Ugly John (and risk the booby-trapped Mayor Pedros's wife) or let him go; flirting with the barmaid; choosing between Faran Brygo or Fat Freddie; dealing with the priestess in the Temple of the Mushroom Cloud; deciding whether to kill the brats that mock you in Highpool. There were several ways to role-play these scenarios, and none of your choices seem to hamstring you for the rest of the game. Score: 5.

Incidentally, killing the youths turns Highpool into a ghost town.

5. Magic and Combat. As I covered a couple of days ago, I just didn't like it. It was boring, repetitive, mostly too easy, and not very tactical. I didn't like it in The Bard's Tale II-III, either, of which this was largely a copy. Score: 3.

6. Equipment. I have to give it props for this. There were a huge variety of items to find, test, and carry, including weapons of various types, armor, radiation suits, gas masks (which I never used), canteens, ropes, fruit, machine parts, shovels, keys and passes, and other quest items. It was so difficult to tell what would be useful (I carried a clay pot to the end of the game and never found a use for it) that I had to carry a bunch of stuff around, or at least be prepared to re-buy it from a shop. A lot of the items served as alternate puzzle solutions; you can get through a door by forcing it with strength, picking it with the picklock skill, blowing it up with TNT, or smashing it with a sledgehammer. Some of them are in fixed locations but a lot seemed random. I wouldn't have minded some more armor choices, but it seemed like every area gave me some improvement to a character's offense or defense, which I like. Score: 5.

7. Economy. The dollar-based economy, aside from being a bit unrealistic, never really did much for me. You start off with only a little cash, but you accumulate it fairly quickly. There was one brief period of the game where I worried I would run out, but only because I was using a shop as storage and buying back items for twice the selling price. I ended the game with almost $70,000, which is a sign of a poor economy; on the other hand, I was a bit too conservative with my ammo and demolitions, and I probably could have stood to spend more on rockets. Score: 4.

8. Quests. There is a fairly good main quest with a reasonably satisfying ending. Technically, there are two possibilities to the ending--your party lives or dies--but no real "role-playing" choices that go into it, and you can't decide to join Finster's faction. This is one of the few games of the era to feature side-quests; you don't have to do any of the stuff in Highpool or the Agricultural Station, for instance, and one of the things I love about the game is that you don't have to help anyone--you could just march through every area, guns blazing, killing everyone, taking quest items off their corpses. (This isn't universally true, but generally so.) These side quests offer role-playing opportunities that few games in the era do: witness how I destroyed Savage Village instead of bargaining with its leader. Score: 6.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Inputs. I thought the graphics were good enough. Ultima V was better on the iconographic display, but the monster portraits and end-game cut scenes were good here. Sound effects were very limited and not very good, as is par for the course in the era. I honestly can't think of a game with good sound effects yet except Dungeon Master. I thought the controls were intuitive enough. One element I neglected to cover during my gameplay was the ability to create macros. When I realized the battle with the Night Terror was going to take a while, for instance, I recorded a macro in which my lead character simply (a)ttacked with his proton axe and then said (y)es when the game asked if I wanted to execute that command. I did this about 10 times in a row, assigned the macro to F2, and just blogged while the battle was happening. You can assign similar macros to waiting between combats or trying to use skills multiple times. Score: 5.

10. Gameplay. The game world is fairly small, with a limited number of places to explore, but it's mostly non-linear. If you go out of a specific order, you have to backtrack a bit, but this isn't too annoying, and if I played it again, I might hustle to Las Vegas sooner and rack up my skills and experience against the robots. As I said above, I think it's a very replayable game. I'd like to try it with a single character, or with different skill combinations. It also doesn't wear out its welcome. I know it seems like I was playing it forever, but I had a month-long break in which I didn't play anything at all. Overall, I found it to be fairly fast-paced. One walkthrough I consulted after winning suggests that, if you really know the game, you could win it in less than an hour. That might be worth trying.

The game's use of puzzles is worth discussing in this section, because it was really the best part of the game. There were number puzzles, word puzzles (UQTU), skill puzzles, inventory puzzles, riddles, and passcodes and clues to find. The journal was a nice touch, too, fleshing out the game world and giving hints about the main quest.

Finally, the game allows you to split up your party in ways not available even in modern games. As far as I can tell, you can create as many groups as you have full party members (not NPCs), and those groups can go anywhere. You could have one character exploring each of the major cities simultaneously. This is something I mentioned in my "wish list" posting and didn't imagine was available in 1988.

Aside from the limited size of the world, I only dock points for one thing: I thought it was too easy. I only suffered full-party deaths a couple of times, when I deliberately wandered into areas well outside my level. I only suffered one character death, too, and that was very early on when I didn't know what I was doing. Score: 7.

This gives us a final score of 53. It ties with Ultima IV, Starflight, and Omega for my fifth-highest rated game so far. But I maintain that the two Might & Magics, Ultima V, and Pool of Radiance are better games. You can find pitchforks and torches at your local Home Depot.

Before we go, I want to talk briefly about the adventurer's journal, because it's a lot of fun. Much like Pool of Radiance, it has a bunch of fake entries to lead you astray if you read the journal when you're not told to--in fact, the very first entry is:

You creep up to the window and, in the soft, muted lights, you see a tall woman with long, blond hair. She sits before a mirror and brushes her hair, then stands and walks over to the sunken tub off to her left. She kneels and her blue, silken robe drops to the floor. She turns the water on and steam slowly fills the air. You watch in fascination as she reaches down into the tub, whirls, and points an Uzi in your direction. "Stop reading paragraphs you're not supposed to read, creeps." She sighs deeply. "Next time I'm going to demand they put me in a Bard's Tale game, this Wasteland duty is dangerous."

There are also a lot of fake paragraphs that give you phony passwords to real locations. But the best part of the fake entries is that there's a whole series suggesting that the main quest of the game involves an alien invasion. The fake entry for the encounter with Finster reads:

The Director, a slender, handsome man, stands as you enter the room. "Rangers, thank the heavens." He follows your gaze as you stare out the window behind his desk and study the alien landscape below. The Director smiles. "As you can see, that lurid, red landscape is the closest approximation we have to the surface of Mars. We have Martian raiders coming to our world here and stealing animals and slaves. We hope, by breeding hunter-killer animals we can take the Martian starships and mount a counter offensive against the extra-terrestrial raiders." He nods. "Will you Rangers join our effort?"

Altogether, there are, I think, more fake entries than real ones, including about 34 fake entries from the "alien" storyline. The creators really put a lot of effort into this.

I understand there was a sort-of sequel to Wasteland in 1990: Fountain of Dreams. It's on my list, as is another 1990 game called Escape from Hell that uses the Wasteland engine. But of course the most famous sequel is the game's spiritual descendants, the Fallout series, none of which I have ever played except one attempt to play the first game before I found it too buggy. I look forward to giving it another try, but I hope it does away with the sentient robots.

On to Wizard Wars!

Shantih shantih shantih


  1. Nice review. I agree that it's not as good as Might&Magic 1 a 2, Ultima V or Pool of Radiance, and that the combat is the weakest part of the game.

    You mentioned replayability. Maybe you should introduce a replayability score to your reviews (but not have it affect the GIMLET rating)?

  2. "4, 6, 8, 12, ___"
    "The last, I guessed 16 and was told no, it was 20. If it had gone 5, 6, 8, 12, I would have guessed 20, but I don't see the sequence in this one."

    I don't know the sequence at a glance (I'm not remotely a math person) but 4, 6, 8, 12, and 20 are the faces of the platonic solids, aren't they? That might be the idea behind the puzzle.

  3. You're not a math person but you know what platonic solids are?

    Think of 4,6,8,12 as dice sizes, and the next one is 20.

  4. I try to cover replayability in the "gameplay" section, but perhaps it does deserve its own quantitative measure. I'll think about it.

    Today, thanks to Welcome and Wikipedia, I learned what platonic solids are. The standard set of D&D dice, as Jay points out, represent the five platonic solids (although I'm a bit confused as to why there couldn't be more than 5). I don't know which inspired the Wasteland sequence, but either way I think we have the answer.

  5. The pattern of 4,6,8,12,20 seems to be 4+N where N doubles every step. 4+2=6, 4+4=8, 4+8=12, 4+16=20. But I wouldn't have guessed that beforehand.

  6. Another enjoyable set of posts added to the blog. Most of this information about Wasteland was new to me so thanks. Wizard Wars doesn't ring any bells though...

  7. Speaking of fake paragraph entries, there's a nice easter egg if you use one of the incorrect passwords in the rocket in Needles...

  8. @Jay: The platonic solids are also the shapes of dice. Except for the d10, which is why early d10 were d20s, numbered 1-10 twice.

    Also the platonic solids are the VEPSR shapes of inorganic molecules that have no free electron pairs. Up to a point anyway. The 12 and 20 sided shapes are the shapes of certain electron difficent boron clusters.

    Ah, and I see the Addict also covered the first part of that.

    At least one of the writers (Ken St. Andre) was a gamer (He is more famous for writing an early RPG called 'Tunnels and Trolls')
    Another person to work on the project was, I believe, Micheal A. Stackpole, famous for his Star Wars novels (Among other things).

    I think that sounds like a fair rating; Higher then I thought it would be to be honest, considering you never sounded like you were having fun in your postings.

    I've got to say I'm looking forward to when you get to some of the better non-fantasy RPGs. Arcanum for example. Admittedly, that is going to be a very, very long time away (Game 605 in 2001, at 2.95 games/month (65 games over 22 months), 539 games away, so about 15.2 years at the current rate), but I suspect there are nearer ones that are good. Fallout perhaps (12.3 years)?

    Wait, Wasteland is #81 on your master list. You've not played 6 games before it. That means you've done 75 games...That gives Arcanum at only 13.2 years and 10.6 years for Fallout.

    I expect that if you keep at this, those will be far-outside estimates, once we remove not-RPGS:

    Girlfriend Construction Set, King's Bounty (Was a Turn Based Strategy, though your heroes have levels. There isn't any dialog, and you command armies. Could give it 6 hours I guess. I can hook you up with a copy if you need, it came with my Heroes of Might and Magic boxed set), ZZT (Puzzle game), Discworld MUD (Online precursor to an MMO), Heroes of Might & Magic II: The Succession Wars (Turn based strategy, not an RPG at all, though a good game), Heroes of Might and Magic II: The Price of Loyalty (I think Succession Wars was an expansion for this), Hexen II (FPS), Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia, Magic: The Gathering - Interactive Encyclopedia (Not even a game), Nethack: Falcon's Eye (Could leave it on there, but is just a graphical front end to nethack, same gameplay), Runescape (Bad MMORPG, which I'm amazed is still online now, let alone when you get to it), Heroes of Might and Magic IV, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (Real Time Strategy, units gain levels but not an RPG), Heroes of Might and Magic IV: Winds of War, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, RPG Maker VX (Game construction set, and you don't list any of the other versions).

    Bleh, and that is just the games that REALLY don't sound like RPGs or that I am personally familiar with. I'm sure we'll axe more off as we get closer to them, and that we will hit more 'I gave it six hours, I'm done' games as more come out a year.
    On the other hand, games get longer over time, so who knows? How long have games been taking you in number of hours, anyway?

  9. Screw platonic solids, denubis has the right answer.

    Thanks for the Wasteland playthrough, I enjoyed it a lot. Did you check out Per Jorner's guide? He has some good ones for the first two Fallout games, as well, but you probably don't want to check those out just yet.

  10. While I'm going through the list, I'm going to mark ones I'm looking forward to, see if anyone else are fans:
    Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Princess (Want to see what it is)
    Curse of the Azure Bonds (Gold Box RPG, should be great posts based on how good PoR was)
    Magic Candle (Read the manual as a kid)
    MegaTraveller I: The Zhodani Conspiracy (Have the RPG book for it)

    Secret of the Silver Blades: I tried to play it once, went through a portal and was eaten by Red Dragons in minutes.

    Space 1889: Based on an RPG with a really cool setting.

    Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan: Heard it is a cool tabletop game.

    Moraff's World: 6 hours sure, but at least I'll have played it.

    Twilight: 2000: Cool setting, similar to wasteland. Based on a tabletop RPG.

    Castle of the Winds: A Question of Vengeance: I've beaten it. Will not take you long at all.

    Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace: Spelljammer is awesome. It is D& SPAACEEEEE. Take D&D, swords, wizards, etc. Give them ships that fly through space. Go. Sadly a very buggy game from what I understand.

    Castle of the Winds: Lifthransir's Bane: Also beaten it. Will not take you long either.

    Dark Sun: Shattered Lands: Less cool setting, but I've read some (bad) novels set in it.

    Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep: I think I played this on an old mac in grade 5.

    Al-Qadim: The Genie's Cure: D&D but set it a psudo-arabian setting.

    Elder Scrolls: Arena: I never figured out how to play, my sword never seemed to do any damage. Was on several old computers I repaired, can't remember where.

    Jagged Alliance: I own it on GoG, but haven't gotten around to downloading it. Similar to X-COM from what I hear.

    Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession: Dark horror D&D setting. Not expecting much from it, but interested to see how all these games portray the RPG worlds they are from.

    System Shock: Considered one of the all-time classic games ever made, of any genre. Bioshock and Portal both borrow from it.

    X-COM: I think I've made my love of X-Com clear before, though I do wish someone would make a modern version that still has terrign destruction.

    Diablo: Famous game, I'm not really expecting much though, as it always seemed to me to be rather bland and plotless.

    Rolemaster: Magestorm: Another famous RPG, famed for (in the tabletop version) having to look EVERYTHING up on tables, to the point it was referred to as 'Tablemaster'

    Fallout: Dude, it is Fallout.

    Final Fantasy VII: The most famous JRPG of all time.

    Baldur's Gate/TOSC: The best RPG ever made.

    Planescape: Torment: heard a lot about it, never played it.

    Anne McCaffrey's Fredom: First Resistance: I loved the Pern books, though her political views have tainted my memories somewhat.

    Deus Ex: Another classic.

    Anachronox: An excellent, though underplayed RPG set in an SF setting from what I understand.

    Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura: I've started playing. Amazing world so far, but meh interface. I don't like games where I can't control my party.

    Dragon Riders: Chronicles of Pern: See above.

    Right, and I realized how far into the future I am, and that I'm being a bit obsessive.

    Not RPGS: Roadwar (1990): Is a repackage of Roadwar 2000 and Roadwar Europa, both TBS according to wikipedia.

    Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat, Warhammer: Dark Omen, Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War, Majesty: the Northern Expansion (Expansion pack to a game that isn't an RPG)

  11. Also: You should email your party to no idea if he still updates it, but why not?

  12. @Canageek
    Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Princess (also known as Kult) is more of an adventure game with some random elements thrown in. I haven't played it much but I can't recall anything RPG-ish in it. Nice game though.

  13. Oh, so that last puzzle is just the first number (4) and it's sums when added to the powers of 2 (2^1, 2^2, 2^3, and 2^4 to finally get 20), or
    4 + (2^x)= y; x>0

    All of that information about the platonic solids and how their shapes were used for creating the original role-playing game dice was fantastic. Would it be a stretch to add this to "What Have We Learned From RPGs?"

    - Giauz

  14. On the other Wasteland-engine games: Fountain of Dreams was a bit of a wreck, but I really did enjoy Escape from Hell growing up.

    Watch, this'll be another case where you get to it and my nostalgia was all wrong.

  15. @Canageek:
    I own, have played, and have beaten (multiple times) both Dark Sun: Shattered Lands and Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession. Both are EXCELLENT D&D games. About the only negative things you could really say about them is that there are no branching story paths, and Ravenloft doesn't offer many actual role-playing options (it's a lot like Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder), but they're just very, very good. The Dark Sun engine was supposed to be the replacement for the Gold Box engine, but unfortunately the two Dark Sun games they made did not sell well.

  16. Awesome (if completely geeky) comments.

    On the sequence, everyone is right. Denubis describes the mathematical progression that results in the shapes that make up the platonic solids, and Giauz describes it using similar language. So we have the mathematical progression, the solids themselves, the dice, and the Wasteland riddle. All have a correlation of a perfect 1. What we don't know is the nature of the causation: which influenced the Wasteland team? But in any event, I'm a little embarrassed that I couldn't solve the riddle given that there were at least three ways to approach it.

    Hellboy, that location is one that doesn't reset and let you replay it, so what's the Easter egg? Otherwise, we'll never know.

    Canageek, you need to calm down a bit, man. Just enjoy the ride. But on your comment that the rating was higher than you thought given that I never sounded like I was having fun: I concur. It was higher than I thought, too. If I didn't sound like I was having fun, it was probably because some other things were distracting me from real immersion in Wasteland. Towards the end of the game, I felt an odd, sudden burst of affection for it, and I realized that if I had played it in my youth, I probably would have gushed about it during the replay.

    I tried to cover this a bit during my "I Can't Get Started" posting. Some games have a bit of a learning curve. Sometimes that learning curve is personal to the player. I'm not suggesting that Wasteland is terribly complicated. But there was this long period in which I just didn't "get" it. That's happened with other games, too: I thought that Morrowind sucked when I first played it. Somewhere between the Guardian's Citadel and Base Cochise, I realized that I "got" the game, and if I wasn't facing a list of more than 1,000 games to play, I would have probably restarted.

    The reason for the mismatch between the number of played games on my list and the counts at the beginning of each posting is that I didn't count any of my spring/summer "Backtracking" postings as part of the official count.

    Nikolaj, that was one walkthrough/guide that I didn't see. I'll take a look.

  17. Very fair score. As much as I loved this game when I was 12, and as fond as my memories are, I also have no desire to replay it. You will see a lot of similar things when you get to Dragon Wars, skill system, multiple solutions, paragraph book, etc.

    Also Michael Stackpole was one of designers of Wasteland and he is more known for his fantasy and scifi novels. He is also known for writing the Pulling Report. This was written in response to Patricia Pulling and her group BADD, Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons. Somewhat interesting read.

  18. It's quite tragic that you've never played the Fallout games. 1 and 2 are some of the best RPGs of their time, and 3 and NV are also fantastic, especially with mods and patches.

  19. I was putting off doing chores, so I went through the list. Then again. Um, yeah. I really didn't want to get off my bed & do laundry.

  20. So happy to report that Amazon admitted they derped, and DnD Anthology should get delivered to me by Teusday. I just feel li-HAHAHAHAAAHAAAHAHAAAHAA!!!111!

    - Giauz('s sanity has broken)

  21. Thank you for the thorough postings on Wasteland. Comparing it to my earlier impressions - not that I had read much about it, the plot sounded a little all over the place. I kind of thought it'd be grittier. Sure, there's some gritty stuff in there, with the choices you're allowed to do, such as killing the kid with the dog at the beginning.

    It sounded like you were able to give it a fair score despite taking so long to "get" the game. That in itself is interesting to read about, I thought the "I can't get started" special topic posting was a good one too.

    This is the first game in your blog that I would love to read a replay report on (apart from Nethack's updated versions). Perhaps there's a nice spot somewhere. Just before Fallout 1? Though that's not early enough!


  22. 4,6,8,12 and 20 makes sense to me..

    But you have to consider that as the Wastelands was being developed/released, D&D was going through a massive transformation that was turning the nerd/geek world on fire. D&D 2nd edition was about to be released. It was MAJORLY hyped up.

    To consider that the kind of person that played Wastelands back then would LIKELY have been a D&D nerd too was highly probably.

    Just my 2c there.

    Just for a bit of filler for you (You've completed now. So spoilers allowed.. :P) Gas masks have 1 use in the game. If you refuse Fat Freddy, he throws some knockout gas at you. Anyone who doesn't have a gas mask drops unconcious.

    Clay pot has no listed use (likewise, matches, mirrors and a few other little things). Jugs however do have use.

    As for the technology. You have 3 sleeper bases that were not asleep. They've been researching THEIR technology for quite a few years. Money is no longer an issue as money is well.. not an issue.. Survival is. People and resources would flock to whatever they think gives them the highest chance of success.

    I never really thought of the undead as 'dead'. Rather mutated to the point where other people think of them as looking dead and as such, just NAMED them undead. (My 2c there. No lore to back me up)

  23. Since Canageek was asking about what games we are fans of, I'll just say that the first 4 CRPGs that I played were AD&D Ravenloft Strahd's Possession, Ravenloft Stone Prophet (which I can't find now!), AD&D Menzoberranzen, and Lands of Lore: Throne of Chaos.

    I remember the 3 AD&D (SSI) games being excellent. They had intro movies, a fair amount of voice acting, decent graphics, great music, and no random encounters. Once you killed all the enemies in an area, you wouldn't encounter any others, but got enough experience that you never wished that you could "grind" levels during the games. You also had several NPCs who you could get to join.

  24. "[Wasteland] had the first inclusion of skills that advance through usage"

    Forgot about Dungeonmaster already?

  25. Wow! That number sequence ALWAYS baffled me - and it's dice! I was so into AD&D at the time that I can't believe I missed that! Over-20-year-old mystery solved! :)

    Regarding the level of technology in Wasteland - IIRC, the nuclear war was 10 years in the future *at the point the game was released*. And the game itself takes place many years after *that* (with the research bases continuing to work for at least some of that time). So it doesn't seem too much of a conceit to allow some slightly sci-fi elements. We today wouldn't balk too much at a game set in 2021 having tech we haven't invented yet, much less one in 2041 (c.f. Battlefield 2042 - beam weapons, big mechs, etc)

    Re Fountain of Dreams - sadly, it's a let down in virtually every way. I wouldn't really recommend it. As a huge Wasteland fan, I bought it on release - and even then, it was badly disappointing :-\

    Fallout 1, 2 (and Brotherhood of Steel/Fallout Tactics, but that's not a CRPG) on the other hand, are all superlative games, that should have aged very well. Far far better games than Fallout 3 IMO.

  26. canageek: "Not RPGS: Roadwar (1990): Is a repackage of Roadwar 2000 and Roadwar Europa, both TBS according to wikipedia."

    Gonna have to disagree with the wikipedos here. Having actually played both games, I can vouch that they're definitely RPGs. Just different from the usual "wizards and levels" fare. In Roadwar, your character is your gang, and your gang will have hundreds of members by the end, but otherwise you're still exploring, still solving quests, etc.

  27. Ah. The wiki entry doesn't list any RPG elements. Most of the rest on the list I am more sure of, as I have played them myself (All the heroes of might and magic for example)

  28. "I've been doing this for almost two years, but I don't think people really understand the nature and purpose of my rating system, which I dubbed the GIMLET. The purpose of the scoring system is not to rank how good a CRPG was for its time, nor to assess it's value in the history of CRPGs. It is, rather, to assess how enjoyable it is to play the game today.
    ... If I give Pool of Radiance a score of 65 and Fable II a score of 55, it means I think you will honestly enjoy Pool of Radiance more, even though it's more than 20 years older."

    I don't really see how your scoring system could represent anything. It's composed of arbitrary parts that you have arbitrarily weighed in at the same value, and the result cannot be anything but arbitrary. A game's GIMLET score tells you nothing about the game, other than what it's GIMLET score is.

    If you really wanted it to represent how fun a game is to play today, it would have just one component: "how fun this game is to play today (1-10)". Now it has all sorts of random crap that don't really have anything to do with what you claim the objective of your scoring system is. I claim this is because the true objective of your scoring system is to have a composite scoring system, for its own sake, even if it signifies nothing at all.

  29. Would giving it a score between 1 and 10, based on how much fun he thinks it is today, be any less arbitrary, do you think?

    I think it's pretty clear that the GIMLET represents Addicts opinion, and the elements that matter to him. Why you'd want to make a big deal out of that, as if you're exposing some secret, I don't know.

  30. Whining about the scoring system is retarded. Let the man score the games as he wishes, and ignore the scores if you don't like them.

    To me it seems that historically good games seem to be sorted to the top anyway.

  31. Wasteland will forever hold a special place in my heart. But, reading this review has brought to light that it hasn't aged as well as I might have thought and it probably isn't as good as I remember when I played it back in 1988.

    So, I'm glad I read the review instead of replaying it myself. The disappointment is lessened that way.

    Also, we were far more forgiving of the combat engines in those days. All or mostly text combat engines were fairly common (like what you find in the Bard's Tale series), but damn if they aren't super boring now. Once I played the Gold-Box games, it was hard to go back to non-visual combat engines and enjoy them.

    So, thanks for the review. At least I got to experience Wasteland again without actually slogging through its mundane bits.

  32. I wouldn't have minded it much at all if the controls had been better. Yes, it does have mouse support, but even then there is a hell of a lot of stuff to click through just to manage your party and interact with the world.

    Everything would have been easier if the use menu had just opened a fully clickable screen of all things available to the four main party members' use, and if multiple PCs had the same options the menu would then ask you who would use that option with the level/number of uses next to the PCs' names. It would have been simple and obvious to the player.

    Wishful thinking talking about having a better UI to an old game, I know, but what do you think?

    - Giauz

  33. Selected responses to Canageek's list:

    Moraff's World: CRPGAddict already played one of these Moraff games, right? I think this one is mostly just a SuperVGA remake of the CGA one already reviewed.

    Castle of the Winds: This is basically a graphical roguelike for Windows 3.x. Had lots of fun with the shareware version back in the day.

    Dark Sun: Shattered Lands: Tried playing this a couple times starting around 8 years ago because the setting seemed more interesting than the Forgotten Realms (aka boring vanilla Tolkien fantasy) setting of most D&D games.

    Al-Qadim: The Genie's Cure: Tried playing this too, but it's way too action-oriented. What little I played felt more like an arcade game (with an engine not suited to it) than an RPG.

    Elder Scrolls: Arena: Currently playing this again after failing at many serious attempts in the past (I've never finished a TES game, but have hope since I finally managed to finish Fallout 3 and all its DLC earlier this year). I should mention that Bethesda offers this and Daggerfall (TES 2) as free downloads.

    Jagged Alliance: I tried JA1 and didn't like it because there were too many anachronisms in the controls and overall gameplay. I bought JA2 from GOG and only played it a little, but liked it better. Strategy games aren't really my thing, so they're hard to stick with.

    System Shock: Beat SS2 a long time ago and really liked it (gameplay as good as Deus Ex but the plot is much weaker). I picked up SS1 a year or so ago and had fun with it for a bit, so I intend to return to it eventually.

    X-COM: Bought this on Steam a year or so ago but haven't been able to get into it. Again, it's a strategy game, and the learning curve is high. I watched quite a bit of a let's play that made it look fun, but I still couldn't manage to sink my teeth into it.

    Diablo: This was Blizzard's first attempt at making an action-based graphical roguelike. It was novel and even fun at the time, but it hasn't aged well and is completely superseded by the sequel.

    Fallout: Dude, it's Fallout! I consider the Fallout series to be one of the best video game series ever made, along with Starflight and Deus Ex (can you tell I have a preference for sci-fi?).

    Final Fantasy VII: The most overrated JRPG of all time (not that many JRPGs are better). The mechanics are good, but the story is largely nonsensical, schizophrenic and occasionally downright annoying.

    Baldur's Gate/TOSC: I thought BG2 was considered the best RPG ever made? I've tried beating BG1 many times and have never succeeded (yet). I get turned off early on by the pre-rolled NPCs that impose time limits on completing various quests, and then I get turned off after that by the flood of nontrivial quests (and the useless journal system that is supposed to track them!).

    Planescape: Torment: Couldn't get into this because it felt like an adventure game with an RPG engine.

    Deus Ex: Possibly my favorite game of all time. The graphics are dated, but not nearly as much as those of some of its contemporaries. On the other hand, the plot is still at least as interesting and relevant as it was at the time. Only downside for this blog is that it's really an FPS with RPG elements, but then again so is Fallout 3 and arguably The Elder Scrolls (all of them).

    Anachronox: I got into this one for a while when it was new, but couldn't manage to stick with it to the end. It's really an adventure game with RPG elements running on an FPS engine (in fact, the combat felt very tacked-on). I also stopped feeling guilty about not finishing it after I discovered the plot ends in a cliffhanger, and that no sequel was ever created to resolve it. *Phew!*

    Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura: Wanted to like this since it was marketed as being created by people who worked on Fallout, but I found it frustrating and disappointing.

  34. Castle of the Winds was the first game I know of that took into account both the size and weight of inventory objects. I remember how excited I was to find a really big backpack.

  35. Personally I'm looking forward to Mr Addict playing Magic Candle, Knights of Legend and Chaos Strikes Back.

    MC is a huge game, but it has lots of NPC interaction, time management and you can split you party. I think Mr Addict will like this one.

    Knights of Legend I loved to hate. Even thought I at times dreamed of slowly and methodically strangling the designers of this game, for some reason I liked it enough to finish it.

    CSB is the most demonic, diabolical dungeon ever designed, and is a joy or nightmare to map, depending on if you like mapping or not (I still do).

  36. Moraff's World: CRPGAddict already played one of these Moraff games, right? I think this one is mostly just a SuperVGA remake of the CGA one already reviewed.
    Actually it adds a number of classes and such. Still looks like garbage though. I'm expecting 6 hours and not a second more.

    Castle of the Winds: This is basically a graphical roguelike for Windows 3.x. Had lots of fun with the shareware version back in the day.

    It has a very nice UI, though without the nice keyboard commands of nethack, and not nearly as deep gameplay. Still, one of the few RPGs I've beaten, and wasted a lot of hours on it as a kid.

    Final Fantasy VII: The most overrated JRPG of all time (not that many JRPGs are better). The mechanics are good, but the story is largely nonsensical, schizophrenic and occasionally downright annoying.
    But imagine how much fun it will be watching the addict encounter it for the first time. Now we just have to ensure he doesn't get spoiled till then.

    Baldur's Gate/TOSC: I thought BG2 was considered the best RPG ever made? I've tried beating BG1 many times and have never succeeded (yet). I get turned off early on by the pre-rolled NPCs that impose time limits on completing various quests, and then I get turned off after that by the flood of nontrivial quests (and the useless journal system that is supposed to track them!).
    I was more annoyed that there were no generalist wizards NPCs. I never played BGII because I never finished BG.

    Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura: Wanted to like this since it was marketed as being created by people who worked on Fallout, but I found it frustrating and disappointing.
    I wanted to like it as I'd read its website so much when I was younger & couldn't afford it, but similar experience. However, I want to see what the addict thinks of its world.

  37. I think the last straw for me on Arcanum was that I became a dead-man-walking by the end of the first town. I believe there was some thug in the way of the exit, and I couldn't deal with him because I hadn't specialized enough in my skill selections right from the start.

    I've also always considered steampunk to be highly overrated, although steampunk didn't really become a "thing" until after Arcanum came and went.

  38. Arcanum *requires* the user created patch (Created by Drog Blacktooth).

    I have no idea how you can not get past the guys at the first gate. If you can't fight them, pay them (There is more than enough to sell to get you the cash). Or you could even do their mission and blow up the wood supplies.

    At end of day, Arcanum was a fantastic game, and it puzzles me when people said they found it too hard. You just have to remember 1 thing. There will be combat. So either a) Be good at combat yourself or b) be charismatic and either talk yourself out or have lots of followers who ARE good at combat. Problem solved. I've played arcanum all the way through and managed to complete it without ONCE swinging an attack/offensive spell. I let my followers do ALL combat.

  39. @AD: It's been too long, but I imagine that I was probably unsatisfied with the role-playing options and frustrated that the combat option was not working. I remember failing at the combat approach due to the fact that I had spread out my skill points (or whatever) and was not potent enough in any one combat skill-set.

  40. HunterZ: Why wouldn't Final Fantasy 6 have started the steampunk "thing?" It's entire art-style is steam-punk/some-what gritty, it's been around longer, and has sold many more copies (3.48 million just on the first two systems it was released on vs. Arcanum's 234,000). FF6's artwork had to have inspired at least a few people.

    Then again, only one of the PC's has managed to include the new steampunk tech into his arsenal while the rest use medieval-like armaments. So, maybe Arcanum did draw more attention to the steampunk theme.

    Regarding Final Fantasy 7: I beat it for the first and only time completely by walkthrough back in 2008 (I did it just to experience the story first hand, and to 100% it for whatever reason). The materia system of customization is excellent to be sure as you can make your party perfectly designed to meet all challenges in the game, but I don't like how the Esper system of learning magic was taken from

    Final Fantasy 6 (each battle is worth a few percents of the spells within a PC's sole equiped Esper; all spells share the percentage gains but have a multiplication modifier to speed things up; learn a spell when it's percentage reaches 100)

    and made into the much more grindy materia system (you can now focus on which particular spells and even skills you want to learn, and you usually start with a beginner level spell for your materia; all materia will provide the same spells and skills to any PC equiped with them without each PC having to build up the materia again; materia can be mixed and matched and in some cases junctioned to provide a varied amount of benefits and combo effects; as a bonus, when a materia is fully built up it spawns a starter level copy; THE CATCH: finding and grinding on enemies that give enough points for the challenge to build up the materia, something that can take hundreds of thousands of points, and weapons and arm bands with varying amounts of up to 8 materia slots provide materia growth modifiers of only either x0, x1, x2, and only two character-specific weapons provide x3 with two materia slots on one and three on the other).

    Despite some problems that that make FF7 less enjoyable for me than FF6, FF7 feels like the gameplay is much more varied than in any of 6/12 other single-player, offline Final Fantasys I have finished.

    - Giauz

    1. For future reference.

      Linked from :

  41. @Giauz: GRRRRRRRRR. Steampunk was a *literary* movement. The name refers to the discussion of modern values and society with an anti-authoritarian viewpoint via a Victorian or pseudo-victorian perspective. Compare: Cyberpunk, its precursor, which did the same thing except via the medium of the future. The use of it to describe an aesthetic is a sign that the speaker has a lack of literary accomplishment.

  42. Wow! I had no idea the term had literary origins like that. Still, were most objects, architecture, and technology in those books described like this:

    - Giauz

  43. Or THIS!:


  44. What you should have in mind, is that the computers of that time were very limited. Wasteland came on 8 disc-sides for the Commodore 64. That means it wasn't possible to create a bigger game. The game was extremely huge by C64-standards. The PC wasn't a very big computer either.

    . Andreas

  45. I had always had Wasteland on my To-Do list, but never got around to it. I hadn't liked the Bard's Tale series due to it's combat, so it appears I wouldn't have stuck with Wasteland for very long.

    I'm looking forward to The Magic Candle, same as everyone else apparently, but also to Wizardry and Bard's Tale III, mostly for the Addict's reactions to being thrown back into those games.

  46. @Giauz: The fact that most people think something doesn't make it correct. In fact, in many cases, such as non-scientists talking about science, it makes them more likely to be wrong. I get doubly annoyed when you have very refined, elegant, vicoriana labled as 'steampunk' since that is about the antithesis of punk.

  47. I'm sorry Canageek. I just wanted to know the connection between the literary concept you described and the asthetic that most people think of when they hear "steampunk" (such as I gave examples of in the picture links).

    Also, I have read that "punk" has its origins in being used as slang for a person who gets raped in prison (That guy is the 'punk' of another inmate) or to describe a younger male traveling with an older hobo. Can you elaborate some on the terminology?

    - Giauz

  48. Punk came from a word that meant something young or inferior. It got co-opted in the punk craze likely as a response to being called a young punk and the feeling of yea I am a punk I chose to identify with that which annoys you. So it has been taken as anti-authoritative.

    There is a completely divergent evolution of the word that comes from punk as prostitute, later to be identified with catamite and evolved to being "someones bitch". This is the way it is used in prison or gang slang.

    I always find it funny how the word can mean someone weak and easily submitted in one case. To someone rebelling and fighting, usually with extreme violence and a take no shit attitude, in the other case.

    As someone who identifies with the Punk "take no shit" and if you "fuck with me you will pay attitude" I do find it somewhat annoying that most people into steampunk are attracted by the desire to be refined victorians with nice manners instead of having a fuck you attitude. Oh well I guess being bothered by someone taking your scene and changing its meaning are signs of old age.

  49. On to CRPG topics

    I like the Gimlet not as a rating system but as a means for our addicted one to talk about specific points he looks for in games. For a rating all I want to know is, "did you have fun playing it".

    On that note I am glad you had fun with wasteland which I do remember fondly. Then again you didn't like cresent hawk on your first playthrough which I also remember liking.

    Majesty while not an CRPG is one I highly recommend you play. You will get a kick out of good natured mocking represented by all the fantasy archetypes personalities the heroes have. I rate this as one of my favorite all time games. it is a kingdom building sim where you the king attract heroes to your kingdom and they use their own AI to fight monsters and various other hero type things. Save it for when you want a good diversion.

  50. Inspiration to list games I remember playing and how close our tastes on these things go just hit me so here goes:

    Pool of Radiance - liked this a good deal and loved the gold box games in general.
    Starflight - literally the first game I played on a personal computer and not a gaming system. This game rocks.
    Omega - I was fairly surprised you liked this one as much as I remember liking it.
    Wasteland - as discussed before I have fond memories of it.
    The Bard's Tale - I liked it at the time but I dont think I would be able to play it now unless I had to much time on my hands.
    Bard's Tale II and III - I tried to like these but thinking back I only have good feelings for BT1.
    BattleTech: the Crescent Hawk's Inception - I enjoyed this game but the beginning was always slow for me.

    Looking at that list I'd say I should be able to recommend something with a reasonable expectation that you would like it, with one caveat, I never could get into the ultima series. I know that is probably blasphemy around here, and I never disliked them in as much as I just had an overwhelming preference to the goldbox games or other games I had more fun with the combat or other elements.

    OK I will shut up and let someone else talk for a while.

  51. I do appreciate those of you who defended my GIMLET. It's not arbitrary. I spent a lot of time analyzing what elements cause me to enjoy a CRPG. I didn't "assign them the same score"; I grouped them into categories that all had the same score. If I assigned them the same score, for instance, I would have made graphics, sound, and input separate categories.

    After outlining the system, I tested it against games that I knew well and determined that it did, indeed, rank them appropriately.

    I could just do a 1-10 scale, but the categories of the GIMLET provide a structure to my "final rating" postings, so I'l going to keep it.

    'Nym, I didn't forget about Dungeon Master. I agree that it's similar, but I don't see it as quite the same thing. In that game, using skills doesn't advance those skills in particular; it advances your overall class, which then affects all the other skills of that class.

  52. Wasteland is important to me because, when I was maybe 9 years old (early 1990), my father made a copy of Wasteland and brought it home. I'd just broken the family Amiga, and all I had left was an old Epson QX-10 with a PC bridgeboard. It was a 4.77mhz beast that was outdated by 1984, let alone 1990.

    Wasteland turned that computer into something special.

  53. I've never heard that use of punk before Giuaz. I've always known it from the music.

    Now, punk isn't my genre of choice, so I don't know a wide range of stuff from it, but here are some songs I like:

    Some examples of classic punk;
    I Fought the Law, by the Clash:

    London Calling, by the Clash:

    and a bit more modern:

    Leaving Jeasusland by NoFX:

    The Marxist Brothers, by NoFX:

    and less politically:
    Seeing Double at the Triple Rock, by NoFX:

    Anyway, in the end of the 80s Science Fiction was becoming very safe, very Star Trek. Heroic humans going out and meeting aliens with pointy ears type of thing. Enter into this people like William Gibson, who reject this. They write a bunch of stories set much closer in time to us, without spaceships or aliens, about these new things that were becoming big, computers. The classic work is Neromancer, though I found it rather dense and hard to get through. Anyway, they addressed politics, the changes in society, wealth distribution, that kind of thing. They had working class or outright criminal anti-heroes. They produced a zine called "Cheap Truth"
    A lot of it wasn't good, but it was an important movement, in the same way that I can't stand Nirvana, but am glad it existed to revitalize rock.

    Anyway, even as cyberpunk became popular it was killed by its own success. People grabbed onto the ideas of the fashion and futurism of it, and made it into an aesthetic, while ignoring the underlying message.

    Anyway, some books took the same message, but instead of using the metaphore of the far future, megacorperations, computer hacking and whatnot, set it back in the Victorian period but with more tech. A similar thing happened, but even more so, though it took longer for the fashion to catch on. However, when it did, it did so, so completely, that most people don't even know of the origins of the term.

    There is a very good discussion of it at the start of Steampunk by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer.

  54. While I agree Wasteland has some interface problems, I think not considering a game in the context of its time makes for overlooking some of the best things about it:

    For example: I think you mentioned most 'combat' screens scrolled by so fast you couldn't read them. But as a kid playing this when it came out, it was simply amazing you could explode someone 'like a blood sausage', or 'reduce someone to a fine red mist'. Almost humorous, yet deadly serious. Nowadays, we see this graphically in so many games... but back then, we could only imagine.

    You also mentioned you didn't like the use of guns, which I think detracts a lot from your personal enjoyment. I mean, it says a lot that you'd want to go into a game like this as melee only! Man, it was awesome finding a new assault rifle to try out back then. It would be like trying to play a game using magic and going 'meh, i don't like magic, i'll just use a sword the entire time'. I realize you eventually resorted to guns, but in a game like this, having to 'resort' to it seems counter-intuitive... the fact that it used guns was something amazing about it for its time, not something to be avoided.

    re: roadwar -- definitely a rpg, but not at all typical since the stats are done very differently (i mean, you can have hundreds of gang members).

  55. I loved Wasteland. It's one of the very few RPGs I've EVER finished (twice, if I remember correctly), but I know I missed a lot of things in the game. So it was great to see you play it.

    I was hugely disappointed in the sequel, Fountain of Dreams, but I don't remember why. So I'll be interested when you get to that one, too.

    In Wasteland, you say you would have preferred a grittier, more honest setting. I'm just the reverse, I think. A real world after a thermonuclear war would be no fun at all. So I like that these games - Wasteland and the Fallout games - are so over-the-top.

    Realistic? No, of course not. But these are no less fantasies than games with orcs and dragons. It's just a different fantasy milieu, that's all.

    And how could anyone not love a game with the writing you show in your screenshot above? "A child lies dead at your feet near his Red Ryder hat. A puppy crawls up whining and lays its head on the boy's chest."

    Do you get that kind of result even today, when killing kids in a computer game - assuming the game bothers to show children at all?

  56. WCG: Interestingly I've heard not the opposite, but close: Myself, and a lot of people, enjoy the fallout games the most at the start, when you are wearing a leather jacket, using a pistol or hunting rifle, perhaps an SMG if you've gotten lucky, because that is all you can get. Later in the games when you are wearing power armour and using energy weapons....the scavenging isn't as fun, since you have everything you need, you don't feel as cool as you did when you were running around looking like Fonzy with a gun, and so on.

    I'd love to play a lower-powered game, where you advance, but not never lose that leather-jacket-and-gun feel, if that makes sense.

  57. Canageek, I feel that way about all RPGs, I think. I always enjoy the beginning, where everything you find is valuable, far more than the later part of these games.

    But I think that's a different issue. Really, I can't think of a single RPG where that isn't the case, at least for me.

  58. It isn't so much the power scale, I enjoy how badass I feel at the end of Fallout 3, but the change in 'skinning'. Even if you kept the mechanics the same I'd enjoy it more if I was still a punk with a gun, just a really badass one, instead of a walking death machines in powered armour. I wouldn't enjoy it as much as low levels, but hey, better then I do now.

    Which brings up a pet peeve: WHY do games make gear sets worse then your starting gear? Example: Fallout 3, the Chinese pistol. Inferior in every way to the 11 mm pistol you get in the staring mission, so even if you find it on the first opponent you kill there is almost no reason to use it. THe only time I've see one used, was when my brother ran out of 11 mm ammunition on the way to Megaton. There are a number of games that do this, staring you out with a pretty decent weapon you can use for a fairly long time, while selling scads of junk. I *like* finding new and better weapons, wouldn't it make sense to instead start me at the bottom of the chain? The only reason I can see would be to have opponents that are not too threatening at the start, but in FO3 and most other games like this they are randomly equipped, which negates the point.

  59. @Canageek: I don't know what the deal was with Fallout 3. I think they put a lot of junk in for "flavor" rather than to facilitate progression.

    What really got me was something almost as bad on the other end of the progression ladder: almost all power armor was garbage! Most incurred agility penalties, and most didn't give enough of a strength bonus to make up for their carry weights. I think I ended up using some of the high-end combat armors instead during much of the mid-to-late game and DLC, as they offered almost as much protection and much more interesting stat/skill boosts for a fraction of the weight.

  60. Coincidentally, I'm playing Fallout 3 right now. It went on sale for $4.99 from Impulse (or Stardock, or whatever they're calling it this week), and I finally decided I couldn't pass that up.

    And it's OK, but it's not my kind of game, not like Fallout 1 & 2 were. That bastardized semi-turn-based V.A.T.S. thing, where you can't even move in combat, is pretty depressing, frankly. (As it turns out, I'm also in the middle of replaying Fallout 1.)

    But it's better than nothing. And I'm not sure if my computer could handle Skyrim.

  61. @WCG: I'm one of the weird people who really liked Fallout 1 & 2 and Fallout 3, but then again I've been a long-time fan of Bethesda's RPG and FPS games.

    I do agree that VATS is silly (and buggy as well). Unfortunately I felt compelled to use it more than I'd have liked, as it can often allow you to do more damage or shoot with better accuracy than in real-time combat. Also, it apparently boosts your defense to counteract the inability to move.

  62. Really? I liked FO3 a lot more then Oblivion because it had VATS, so I could take a more planned, tactical approach to battles. I know, I know, I'm a pariah.

    To be fair, in an interview the designer of Fallout said he enjoyed FO3, though he thought they were too loyal to the original games and didn't like the style of humour.

  63. IGN had a paean to Wasteland today:

    1. "Paean" = Retrospective? The former word I'm unfamiliar with. :)

    2. Paean: n. 2. A song of praise or thanksgiving; a shout or song of triumph, joy, or exultation. Also fig.: an expression of praise or admiration; a tribute (to something).

      Most recent two examples:
      1971 Films in Rev. Aug.–Sept. 427/2 Ostensibly a delicate mood piece about, and paean to, male adolescence in the pre-Bomb and pre-Pill days, Summer of '42 is sadly smothered by Legrand's musical treacle.

      2000 K. Atkinson Emotionally Weird (2001) 226 The bathroom was a paean to sixties' taste, from the sickly primrose yellow suite with transparent acrylic taps to the herringbone pine panelling.

      From the Oxford English Dictionary.

  64. And here's a Kickstarter by Brian Fargo to fund Wasteland 2!

    1. Anyone want to place odds on addict talking about how many people mentioned this?

    2. I'm not sure what you thought I was going to say. I think it's great that the original author is getting some support to make a sequel.

    3. I think its great too. What I thought you would talk about is how many times and in how many different threads it has been mentioned in the past week. To me it tends to point to how damn excited people are about this news.

    4. And it's fully funded.

  65. Now that I watched the video, I'm excited too! Once payday comes, I'm going to send them a bit of money, not much... we're kinda broke, so $20 will be more than enough to get me a copy with that quirky skill that was mentioned.

    Wow... Interplay. They have been so hurting for money for so long. They lost the Fallout name totally, after selling the rights to Bethesda and then getting into a legal battle with them. They then started something called Project V13, which was originally going to be their Fallout MMORPG. I wonder if they're retooling V13 into Wasteland 2 (obviously taking out the MMO aspect and adding in single-player gameplay)???

    1. Oops, this was supposed to be a reply to the thread that CSM (Cigarette Smoking Man from X-Files?) started.

    2. Why yes indeed, I am the one and only CGB Spender. Not a lot of people get that reference immediately, kudos!

    3. Thanks! I thought that missile was the end of you though.

    4. Interplay != InXile, the latter is doing Wasteland 2, the former (supposedly) is still doing PV13. Both were started by Brian Fargo, but he left and started InXile like 10 years ago, long before the MMO / rights mess...

  66. 5 6 8 12 20
    Add the double of the previous adding.
    So it's: adding 1, adding 2, adding 4, adding 8

    As for combat, it had macros. these macros ignored any keys for which there was not an on screen option. As such it was possible to program an all-purpose macro for combat. I also had 4 for combat movement, lock-pick, long rest to heal, and so on. I could play the whole game in a few hours, I got to know it so well.

  67. The reason there can only be 5 platonic solids involves the way the faces fit together. For example, cubes (6 sided dice) are formed by arranging squares in such a way that 3 squares meet at a point.

    There's no way to form a solid shape if you try to make 4 or more squares meet at a point. And there's no way to to make any sort of a solid if you have only 2 of any shape meeting at a point.

    You mentioned the wikipedia article, which I thought had a pretty good explanation of why only certain arrangements of the sides work to form a solid. I also liked how the wikipedia article said dice representing all the solids have been found well before Plato even lived.

  68. Ah, I do love the Wasteland game. I'm looking forward to Wasteland 2. Not sure if you are aware of it's success as a kickstarter program, but you should look up. I was definitely an early contributor on that one.

    I'm glad you stuck through with this one, it seemed as if you wanted to quit early on. If you've never played the Fallout games either, you do have a treat in store for you. You may not like them as much as I did, but I expect you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of them as well.

    Perhaps part of my enjoyment is a fascination with the post-apocalyptic setting. Being only five or six when the Soviet Union collapsed, I didn't have any fear of a nuclear war. The concept probably didn't even make sense to me. But now I love movies that cover it, like Day After, Threads, On the Beach, Testament, etc. I similarly have a soft spot for similar literature and games. I do imagine my view of such entertainment would be dimmer if I had to live with the actual terror of that time.

    Sorry I don't have much to add about this game itself. Honestly, the plot is rather misty in my memory, and I just enjoy the gameplay so much that it will always have a place in my nerd heart. Let me know your thoughts on Wasteland 2 if you'd be so kind.

    1. Yes, the existence of the Kickstarter campaign came up in my threads ad nauseum when it was going on. Good for them.

      I never really wanted to "quit"; I just had trouble getting into it. It was a weird time in my life. Lots of other stuff, much of it unpleasant, going on.

  69. Kinda strange that Base Cochise is described in the outro as 'the greatest threat man has ever known', given that most of the world's population was actually wiped out by nukes the century prior.

  70. With the recent release of Wasteland 2 I went through these old posts for comparison's sake. I'm not sure how far I am in the game, but I'm impressed how tightly connected they are. It takes place in many of the same locations, and several of the major NPCs seem to have been the heroes of the first game. It's nice to see how the world evolved.

    There are some other odd spots, though, like one of the aforementioned NPCs saying something like "we've never been able to find evidence that people survived outside our little slice of Arizona", despite having been to Vegas in the last game. The game uses a nice 3D globe for the world transitions, and it's quite interesting to see the Earth in this setting since it shows huge blast marks across most of the world, and clear signs of sea levels rising (Florida's disappeared, Brazil is heavily flooded, etc.)

    Overall, while I know you wouldn't get to it for probably 20 years in your blog, I suspect it's a game you'd quite enjoy, Chet. Immersive world, lots of reactivity and roleplaying choices right out the gate as well as throughout the game, and a dialogue system that would probably reward your meticulous note-taking since sometimes there are "secret" keywords that can help you out. I also suspect there's a legitimate "join the bad guys" path, but I haven't gotten far enough to say for sure one way or the other.

    Also, sorry if this shows up as a weird double-post. I started to write this on another Wasteland entry and I don't even know what happened. My phone wasn't happy about it.

    1. I was wondering how W2 turned out, so thanks for the mini-review. It does sound like a game that I'd enjoy, though it's hard for me because I find the subject matter so bleak and unappealing. I've been enjoying Fallout: New Vegas recently, but I have to consciously put the whole "post-apocalypse" thing out of my mind

    2. I always thought that "post-apocalyptic" is actually the total opposite of bleak and unappealing.

      Sure, civilization just pressed the hard-reset button, but much of the infrastructure and technology is still there. What is NOT there is the large human population; basically what caused an apocalypse will be the insane explosion in numbers of our species.

      So, you might see loss but I see it more as an entire garden seeded after a harsh winter and we can finally see some sprouts coming out of the ground.

    3. I'd agree with you except for, you know, the radiation and mutations. And is there a single clean bathroom in any of the Fallout games?

    4. You can't even BUILD a clean bathroom in the new game. The toilet is already partially broken when you build it, and all the walls are rusty (OK), and have holes in them (really? No one in my settlement can built a wall without holes?)

    5. Granted, that toilet was made with recycled coffee cups and ash trays, and the walls were made directly from dead tree branches and repurposed car doors.

    6. Given that it takes place in Boston, I think the holes in the walls would be less of a concern than a lack of insulation. There's no way that you could sleep in a Boston winter on top of a 200-year-old bare mattress in a shack that had its windows and doors ripped out and not wake up dead of hypothermia.

      It breaks suspension of disbelief that people would rather hole up in crappy shacks and suffer exposure during radiation storms than walk 5 minutes down the road to a nice warm, dry pre-war building.

      I'm looking forward to when they finally get rid of the idea of interior versus exterior cells/maps someday, as it would eliminate a lot of this kind of goofiness.

    7. @Canageek & Chet - I dunno why you'd want to build a commode in the first place. It's not like there's any working plumbing to allow flushing. For gods' sake, there's a bloody farm a few steps away that could do really well with a shit gully as a fertilizer reservoir.

      Anyway, if hole-y walls gets to you, try out metal walls instead. Costly but, hey, no holes.

      @HunterZ - It's not hard to believe, actually. It's post-apocalyptic. Weather's no longer what it used to be. The Commonwealth is the new Peru; in the case of climate. Probably not, but hey, what do I know? I'm no meteorologist and never got caught in a radstorm before.

    8. True, but why wouldn't I put the lid on the toilet tank, or properly attach the seat?

      A nuclear war would have a pretty crazy effect on the environment, plus this is 200 and something years in the future. Suppose a few oil wells were lit on fire during the nuclear war, permafrost melted, or worse, methane/ethane/propane/butane gas escaped into the atmosphere without burning. That could be a LOT of greenhouse effect, which would warm the heck out of a lot of places. Now, I'd expect that nuclear winter would be pretty bad, but it is possible the dirt and grit would fall back to earth well before the carbon is recaptured (and I don't even know how you get hydrocarbons out of the atmosphere...). That would take even longer given the amount of areas that green things can't grow in, etc etc. So I'm sure you could handwave things being warmer easily.

      What I don't get is why you can't build log cabins or something like they did for the hundreds-thousands of years before they had drywall and such.

    9. (Also, yes, outhouses would make a lot of sense. As would oil lamps, hanging tapestries on the walls to reduce drafts, and being able to repair the giant holes in the walls of the houses I'm moving into.

  71. Unrelated to most things but a tiny bit related to this post, your name (well, your "name") definitely came up in a conversation at the Wasteland 2 Release Party. I do not remember the context at all, naturally, but it might have been when I was talking to the guy the RPG Codex sent to interview people.

  72. Good to know I'm talked about at major release parties. Next step: get invited.

    1. You were mentioned specifically for a certain issue; whether the game is color-blind friendly.

    2. Cool! I brought that up in the forums early on. (Also on that note: )

  73. "On the other hand, I don't think the character's sex or nationality ever had any affect on gameplay."

    The bathrooms in the bar are sex specific. The prostitute refuses female clients.

  74. I played Wasteland as a kid when it came out, and I've found time to replay it multiple times since. I've really enjoyed reading through this series of posts, but I think the final rating is a bit low.

    It's clear you didn't appreciate the genre and much of the humor that came with that, but I don't think it's fair to say that the game failed by not being realistic. That may have been your expectation, but the game is clearly not trying to exist in the real world. Yes, it's located in the US south west and there was a nuclear war, but it's clear it exist in a zany alternate reality of nuns with energy weapons and cannibalistic hot dog stands. It's a world where the improbable and outlandish actually happens -- undead, robots, cloning, and Scorpitrons. It's a subjective call, but I'd given it a better score for "Game World". A big reason why I enjoy replaying it is revisiting this distinctive and unrealistic world. It holds my attention more than Forgotten Realms.

    I also have a hard time understanding the low "NPC Interaction" score. It's got a pretty good cast of varied NPCs that will join your party, and I think maybe you missed some of the stuff they can do. And there are a few memorable non-joinable NPCs that you interact with outside of combat. It's definitely not as good as later RPGs, but I feel like Wasteland should rate higher than Pool or Radiance or Curse of the Azure Bonds here.

    I can't argue that "Encounters and Foes" and "Magic and Combat" measures up to the tactical combat of the Gold Box games, though a '3' is pretty low for the latter category. I'd give it at least a '4', as it mostly moves along smoothly, with little frustration, and engages just enough with questions of what group to attack and with how much. I've never found this to be an obstacle when replaying the game.

    It's useful to keep comparing to the Gold Box games, and I think Wasteland boasts a much larger set of interesting "Equipment" and the "Economy" is significantly better, though still far from perfect. At least in comparison to Pool of Radiance, I'm not sure Wasteland got the extra credit here it deserved.

    I think I could make similar arguments for some of the other categories as well, but I'll wrap it up here. I'd rate this game in the low 60's as a peer of PoR and CotAB. The tactical combat is not as good as those games, but it makes up for it in a lot of other areas.

    1. I appreciate your counter-arguments, although in general I don't think it's a good use of time to argue with me about 1-point differences on how I rate things. The GIMLET is an attempt to quantify my own subjective experience with games. That does not make it "objective." Yes, games rate lower on my scale if I, personally, don't like some of the elements. That's the point of both the scale and my blog in general.

      Despite what you feel is a generally negative review, Wasteland currently sits at #14 on my list of more than 200 games that I've played. The scores that you criticize as "low" are actually quite high in comparison to other games. Keep in mind that the GIMLET has to have room for the tremendous improvements we've seen in areas like NPC interaction in the last 10-15 years.

      A theme throughout the entire history of my postings is that while I appreciate humor, I don't appreciate goofy humor--or "zany" humor, as you have it. I never will, and I will always be at odds with other readers about that. It's one of many burdens I must bear.

    2. Except apparently when in Denver ;)

    3. I'm not sure a lot of readers caught the subtext on that one.

    4. Yeah, my post probably came across more argumentative than I intended. I think this is an important website, and I wanted to advocate for a favorite game that seemed underappreciated, even at #14. :)

  75. One of the first CRPG's I bought, and played it on an old 8088 XT in glorious CGA (red, white, cyan, black). Parents and siblings would watch me play it, and go "how can you tell what anything is?!" Then, much later, The Matrix came out, and the guy watching the monitor with code trickling down saying "after a while all I see is blond, brunette, red-head" I laughed hard at. Reminded me of playing games in CGA that looked absolutely atrocious, but your eyes adapted to them and could easily tell what everything was. (Played Ultima 6 on the same XT in CGA, and, boy, that was a slog. Would take the computer a minute to decide how to resolve an attack in combat. And the CGA graphics were headache-inducing to anyone but young me staring at them for hours.) But, I digress. Wasteland was unique in that it let you keep reformatting / resetting the game world while keeping your party. I was a kid with lots of time on my hands and very little money. So, I played the heck out of the games I had. I worked my party of characters through the game a few times. Then I figured out you could attack the Goliath guy at Citadel with guns to vastly boost your weapon skills. Just attack him from a distance, unload Assault Rifles on full-auto, and you'd get 1-2 levels each time. He wouldn't die. He'd just shrug off the damage, and you could keep spamming weapons at him to level up skill. My squad ended up with level 16 in Assault Rifles, SMG's, and 13-14 in hand guns. There were other areas you could cheese skills on, like the dunes in Needles (?). Just keep running characters up the dunes and they slide down. But, they'd gain acrobatics skill or something. Eventually, my party got so good from replaying over and over I ditched all of them except 1 character I solo'ed the game with. She had level 16 H2H and Melee, b/c I decided the game was too easy with guns; I'll just do close-combat going forward. Went to Goliath and had her spar with him for a while and she became god-like. My goal was to try to get her promoted to General. But, they keep spamming "Fire Lieutenant" and other weird ranks multiple times. She needed so much xp to level up that'd I'd have to go through the whole game just to gain 1 level... even with grinding at Base Cochise that had the nastiest stuff crawling around that gave the best xp. With H2H she was a hear. With the Proton Ax she was a God, b/c for some reason the Proton Ax counted as a H2H weapon instead of Melee. (I think that was a bug). So, I'd just head to the Citadel, bust through Goliath, find the Proton Ax, and blast through the rest. I first found out about this game watching a friend play it at his house. He got stuck in a city with his party bleeding to death and random encounters going off that would party-wipe them. He thought all his time was wasted, and would have to start over. There was a location called "Body Shop" near by. I said "what if that's a hospital?" He said "No, it's a car repair shop." I said "so you went inside?" Him "no". I looked at him, he looked at me. He took his party inside.. it was a Hospital. He rolled his eyes hard, but laughed, too. He could heal up and keep playing the game. It's moments like those... a lot of folks play games by themselves. But, some of us went over to friend's houses and watched them play and provided back-seat driving / tips to help out. So, the games were a bonding experience just as much as they were a gaming experience.


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