It has been out for nearly four years now and hit a multitude of platforms already, but that hasn’t stopped inXile from bringing their critically acclaimed Kickstarter-funded RPG Wasteland 2 over to the Nintendo Switch. It brings with it the same in-depth narrative and intriguing world that gamers have loved since its original release too, whilst the combat is just as strategic and fun as ever – it’s the exact same experience but playable from the palms of your hands. Neat, huh?
However, whilst the idea is great and it can be a lot of fun to play, a myriad of technical issues hold the game back, almost to the point where playing on the Nintendo Switch should be more of a last resort as opposed to a recommendation. It’s great to explore the wasteland on the go, but unfortunately it does come at a bit of a cost…
Wasteland 2 takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with a series of catastrophic events seeing it in a state of ruin – it’s a ‘wasteland’ (duh). You take on the role of a team of Desert Rangers in this barren and desolate world, with your main goal not only being to investigate the death of one of your friends and colleagues but also to help those around you too. Of course, there’s a fair bit more to the tale than that, but Wasteland 2 is one of those games where you’re tasked with both discovering and shaping the course of the narrative yourself.
It’s the kind of game where you’re rewarded for investigating the world and its characters, be it through a more in-depth look at its lore or even by giving you additional quests to complete. A lot of these quests aren’t always clearly marked down either, but are instead discovered by taking the time to talk to the characters you meet in the wasteland and by finding out what they have to say.
What’s interesting is that the different characters and factions you meet in Wasteland 2 will have varying (and often conflicting) ideals, which opens up more than a few interesting scenarios during some quests. You might have been tasked with killing someone for example, but when you reach that person you realise that the quest-giver might have had ill-intent and been deceiving you: do you still go ahead and complete your goal, or do you re-consider and maybe give the original quest-fiver a taste of their own medicine? There’s so much to the quests of Wasteland 2 and the scenarios you find yourself in vary between troubling, emotional and the outright ridiculous as you progress through the game – it gives the experience this extra sense of personality though and makes it all the more fun to play.
Seriously, no two playthroughs of the game will be the same and there’s so much to see in the world if you dig deep enough. It feels just like one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ books where it’s worth re-visiting the adventure a few times just to see what COULD have happened if you decided to do something a little differently. There’s a hell of a lot to sink your teeth into in the game and you can expect to spend a ton of hours uncovering it all.
Gameplay-wise, you’re given the freedom to explore as you please, with a goal given to you but a massive open-world in place for you to uncover as you work your way to achieving it. You can wander off the beaten track to find new quests, head out to gather resources, uncover the many sights of the world, or simply get yourself into a bit of a scrap with some enemies along the way. I’ve already mentioned how deep the narrative is and how much there is to see and do, but it’s never compulsory and a lot of it simply comes down to how much time the player is willing to spend exploring. Admittedly, Wasteland 2 isn’t the prettiest game you’re going to play (especially on the Nintendo Switch), but there’s no denying there’s a real sense of grandeur to its massive yet forsaken world.
Combat occurs in real-time in the field, so showdowns with enemies can essentially come from anywhere. Battling is turn-based, with players allocated points which determine how much they can move around and what actions they can make – you’ve got things like your standard weapon attacks of course, but different characters will also have varying skills which offer different effects too.
There’s a lot of things to consider in battle such as your position, the protection you have around you, the location of your enemies, and what resources you have, so you’ve got to put a lot of thought into your each any every move. Enemies are smart and tough too, so it’s never just a case of getting near enough to them to attack and hoping for the best, because that’ll lead you to an early grave in the wasteland. You’ve got to take your time and be methodical in your approach, with strategic thought at the forefront throughout. I probably haven’t sold it well there, but it’s actually a whole lot of fun and there’s a lot of depth and variety to each showdown – it just takes a slow approach that doesn’t focus solely on action-packed skirmishes.
That being said, the setup of combat on the Nintendo Switch isn’t perfect. The same could be said for the game on any console though, with RPGs like this better suited to a mouse and keyboard with their slow-paced movement and focus on working through menus and allocating actions. It’s never terrible by any means, but there’s a feeling of clumsiness to the camera controls and performing each action – it’ll certainly take some getting used to before you figure it all out. There’s just a heck of a lot going on in Wasteland 2’s combat, and being limited by the restrictions of a controller can feel a little awkward at times.
At least there’s a bit more flexibility in how you manage your team though, with the player given the freedom to sculpt their skills and stats exactly how they please. You aren’t restricted by fixed classes in Wasteland 2, but can actually level up your characters to fit your playstyle and have them each play in a specific way that suits you. As mentioned, there’s a lot of strategy involved in the game’s combat but there’s no right or wrong way to play – rather, you determine how you want to do things and roll with it. Whilst this might mean a balanced mixture of classes, it can also mean focusing on tough fighters and making a team of melee-based warriors who get right up close to their enemies and take them out. Alternatively, you might go for a team of ranged-based sharpshooters and focus on picking off your enemies from afar. There’s a trial-and-error approach to it at times, but when something clicks for you it’s satisfying to be able to advance through the game focusing solely on that. Want some advice though? Have at least one medic on hand.
In all, Wasteland 2 has everything in place for it to be a fantastic RPG for the Nintendo Switch. However, it suffers from a myriad of technical issues that really hold it back – you’ll see the frame rate drop throughout, input lag on menus and in combat, sketchy visuals (though they’re better when playing docked), game crashes… it’s got it all. There’s nothing that makes it unplayable by any means and I’ve put hours into the game and enjoyed it, but these problems definitely see the Nintendo Switch version of Wasteland 2 feel like the weakest of them all.
Wasteland 2 is a great RPG with a fantastic world, an intriguing narrative, enjoyably deep quests that you can determine the outcome of, and strategically satisfying combat mechanics – seriously, there’s a lot of quality to be found throughout the entire experience and it’s easy to lose hours on end working through it all.
Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch version of the game has quite a few issues with the technical problems and some sketchy controls being the worst offenders. There’s nothing here that makes the game horrible or unplayable, but it’s certainly clear you’re playing an inferior version of inXile’s epic RPG.
There’s a really enjoyable RPG experience to be had if you can look past these flaws and being able to play through the adventure on the go is great. However, if you’ve got an alternative means to play through the game I’d probably recommend that, with the PC version of Wasteland 2 probably being the definitive way to play the game.
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: inXile Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux