is a post-apocalyptic RPG which was significant due to its unique plot, open-ended environment, and for being generally considered the spiritual predecessor to the Fallout series. It developed by Interplay Production, produced by EA Games, and released for the Apple II in 1988. The game was later ported to Commodore 64, the IBM platform and at least two other later RPG collections. The basic plot is that America is struggling to rebuild in the 21st century after an apocalyptic nuclear war with the Soviet Union. You're command a group of Desert Rangers assigned to restore order and investigate the local Nevada deserts. Along the way you'll help groups of struggling civilians, fight crime and unearth a plot that could threaten the future of humanity as we know it.
The combat in Wasteland featured a turn-based battle system not unlike the early Final Fantasy games, but with several unique quirks. Ranged weapons were generally ammo based, meaning conserving ammunition and balancing their use with melee weapons was a major concern. There were no instantaneous healing items like potions you would expect in most RPGs. Getting seriously wounded was very dangerous, and required expensive doctor treatment or the use of a party medic to even begin to recover from. To counteract this, you could replace incapacitated Rangers with brand new recruits at any point in the game by visiting your Ranger base. Characters were by no means expendable, but attempting to battle your way in Wasteland without a fully equipped party with a variety of skills was a surefire path to the classic game over screen.
Wasteland was also one of the first RPGs where your allied companions were not all mindless drones- while you always maintained to control of your four core Rangers, other NPCs could join your party and would often act out on their own initiative in combat.They might refuse to equip or give up certain items and would leave or join your party as it pleased them. There were a great deal of recruitable companions in this game, giving you a lot of varied personalities to work with. This trend towards NPC independence continued in many future RPGs.
And then there were the enemies. Mutated lizards, zombie dogs, sand worms, cyborg motorcycle hybrids, robotic scorpions, and all sorts of heavily armed thugs were waiting around every corner, determined to end your existence. Wasteland was infamous for the over the top descriptions of attacks and in-game deaths, such as brutally pummeling a disgruntled dog owner to death with a book or blasting someone apart with a machine gun. It set an attitude for the game which was gritty and rather unique for that era RPGs.
The skill system was a major factor in Wasteland. There were over 30 skills in the game, varying from the practical (Picklock, Assault Rifle, Brawling) to the bizarre (Bureaucracy, Clone Tech, Toaster Repair). Needless to say, some skills were very situational. Aside from having rather obvious implications in combat, skills were also used to solve quests and progress through obstacles in the environment. A jammed gate, for example, might be lockpicked, wedged open with a crowbar, climbed over, or simply blown open with explosives. All of the potential responses to obstacles depended on individual skills of each party member, which could lead to unique strategies being implemented in every playthrough depending on how you built your team.
Amazingly enough, despite having a fleshed out story, a great deal of graphics, and and over a dozen major towns and bases to explore, the entire game could be fit in under 675 kb- less than a single floppy disk. Part of how the developers managed this was by putting all the long dialogue and description strings in the game inside of a physical booklet included with the manual. The game would refer players to specific pages during the game, at which point they would read the appropriate dialogue. To prevent people from cheating by reading through these dialogue quotes without actually playing through the game, several "decoy" quotes were added including an entirely fake (and hilarious) storyline involving the Rangers heading to Mars and dramatically fighting off alien invaders. Because these quotes are so integral to understanding the storyline, copies of the books can easily be found online
This rather fascinating interview
with Brian Fargo gives a fairly good idea of the inspirations behind the game and what role it played in the development of later Interplay titles. Licensing issues appears to be the main reason that a Wasteland 2 was never produced (until now at least) and the Fallout series was created instead. There are many references
to Wasteland which can be found in the Fallout series, even the modern titles like New Vegas.
For those of you simply interested in experiencing the game without playing through it, an extremely well-made Let's Play of the game was posted on Youtube, complete with added ambient music and all of the manual dialogue read out loud. You can find it here
if you're interested.
(credits to MobyGames for the pics)