Wasteland 2 is the sort of enormous, complex PC RPG that you can lose yourself in for weeks. You will smell bad. You will forget to eat, and hurriedly make up for it with poor dining decisions. It's fantastic.
It's also intimidating. Being confronted with the party creation screen feels like landing a space shuttle that has its buttons and readouts printed in dwarven runes. There are a ton of opaque choices to be made, and you don't have enough information to make most of them.
What follows are a few things I wish I had known when I began playing the game for review. For the record, this isn't one of those facetious articles that completely abandons the premise after a few lines. These are real tips.
- No matter how you decide to spread out your attribute points, you will want each character to have at least a 12 in the Combat Initiative derived stat. Anything less and enemies will frequently get their turn before you. They will use their turns to shoot you in the face. This is bad.
- How many skills do you want to focus on with a given character? With average Intelligence you can handle three or maybe four skills, just like real life. If you want five skills you'll have to stretch and invest in more Int. The breakpoints are 4 Intelligence for 3 skill points per level, 8 Int for 4 points per level, and 10 Int for 5 per level.
- If you want to free up attribute points, you can drop Luck to 1 without suffering consequences like stepping on rakes or having post-apocalypse psychos find out your cool spikey armor is made of pleather. If you don't care about recruiting NPCs, feel free to do the same with Charisma. Normal quest-solving dialog checks are handled by dialog skills, which are wholly independent of Charisma.
- Speaking of Charisma, when the game checks the stat it looks at the average of your entire party. This means that using Cha as a dump stat with three characters and having one super charismatic guy/girl with really great hair is effectively the same as having a party with fairly low Charisma. It's sort of an all-or-nothing proposition where your entire party must give up a bit of combat effectiveness and/or access to other skills. You'll have to decide if the tradeoffs are worth it.
- Take the Perception skill. It spots alarms and traps. There are a lot of these things because making lethal traps is apparently the national pastime in blown-up America. Disabling them grants a significant amount of XP which really adds up. I'd suggest putting the Demolitions skill (which disables traps) on your main character, to save yourself the hassle of constantly switching between characters.
- Most of the outfits (and, let's face it, character models) are pretty ugly. Don't worry, you'll spend most of the game with the camera pulled way out, and will find all sorts of cosmetic items as loot. Unfortunately, I have yet to come across the hockey mask that defines my trademark style in real life.
- Energy weapons are incredible against armored enemies, but otherwise fairly weak. You might want to pair them with a backup like SMGs or shotguns, which are both inherently strong against opponents with low armor. I shouldn't have to tell this to you if you spent any time in the Boy or Girl Scouts.
- Remember to use your Z key while exploring. It highlights interactive objects, and there are all sorts of little details you'd probably miss with the naked eye. For instance, there's dirt and rust all over the place!
- In combat there's a button labeled Ambush. It's not explained at all, but this is basically Overwatch from XCOM. It ends the selected character's turn by telling him/her to attack any enemies that make a move within weapon range. There is no button to brush a hand along other unit's arms and laugh suggestively when they make a move.
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The rest of this review will come in fragments at a steep price every six months for several years, at which time you will find out that I think 6/10
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For every fiddly or opaque mechanic there are a dozen hours of Fallout 1/2-ish adventuring and XCOM/Shadowrun Returns-ish combat, which means there are many dozens of very fun hours. 9/10
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