So after adding some more hours in Wasteland, I have to admit, that the leap back to a more ‘older’ style of game & play is a challenge. And not a small one at that. Most of all, I am so used to what a modern AAA or AA game already provides a player to ‘smoothen’ things up. Too often, I have a hard time twisting my brain around to understand what is expected from me in Wasteland. Slowly and steady I start to better manage and read the game, but sometimes I am still amazed, what depth the game is offering.
In the last decades, my mind has somehow been set on ‘belittling’ older games, as being ‘not so complex or fleshed out’ and ‘they were more simple in gameplay and story’.
While the first claim is already far from the truth, the second is clearly and tremendously underestimating what this game is dishing out so far. So, in my last hours of play I was hard at work to get rid of my misplaced high-nose-thinking and more focused on valuing the game for what it is.
With that being said, I have to report, that I still feel lost and aimless within the game so far. And I clearly ‘blame’ the over-styled ‘modern open world design’ for that; showing me markers, hints, question marks, and basically pulling my head constantly in some direction of interest. Backtracking in a game is never cool, but backtracking in the way you play a game is terrible.
So no visual directions here in Wasteland; just text. I will try to write up my meandering through the game below.
Into the Wasteland
After leaving Highpool and the ‘Bobbie Incident’ behind, I started looking for the Nomad’s Camp somewhere to the North. On my search I found two other places of friendliness & interest. First, the Guardian’s Citadel, which seemed to be some dark and brooding place; it was also clearly indicated, that I should not be there. I mean they literally told me to “Go Away! Leave!”. And I did.
Second, I found another place to the North-East and died before I could arrive there. Obviously by radio-active pollution, which was visually indicated after I was in the middle of it. Well, I could have also read the info at the bottom, step-by-step describing my horrible death by radiation.
I found the Nomad’s Camp after the reload and was greeted by the Brakeman, who invited us to visit him before we leave again. One caboose was owned by some Dr. B. Bilious Balfour who is into Snake Squeezins (some strong alcohol), so he can have his oracle visions. Also, no entry to the three tents here, so I went to the Brakeman and he gave me a quest to deliver a Visa Credit Card to some dude named Head Crusher in Quartz. No directions where that may be, so I left and explored more of the surroundings.
More to the North-West and over a bridge I found a place called Needles and a bunker with a sign ‘The Servants of the Mushroom Cloud’. Seems like more the religious types with a smiling bishop rubbing his Ruby-Ring. He had a quest for me and asked to help solve the murders here in Needles: His second-in-command has already been sent to do that. “Mkay!”, I said, and moved out to look around.
Needles is a rather large place to explore with a lot of Leather Thugs hanging around constantly attacking. And clearly I am not strong enough yet, as they did grind me down with their constant assaults. Between some buildings I find a woman called Christina, and being so surprised by this named character I press ‘hire’ as an option. And! – She is joining my party! She is way better equipped and skilled than I am, and oh so suddenly, with her UZI-power, everything becomes way more smoother and life a bit easier. After lots of fainting, I at least found some Snake Squeezins and lost my hope to survive any longer in this place. I returned to Dr. Balfour, who gave me a prophecy. “Beware the man who has lived longer than the Wasteland.” Wow. What a revelation.
Although, I have not found Quartz yet; but Las Vegas to the North. I entered there and got another quest called ‘Trouble in Las Vegas’. Again, I felt that being here is a bit too early and wanted to complete the Quartz quest first, so I left and looked more to the South.
Quartz itself is located west behind the mountains of the Agricultural Center. I could have guessed, that it should not be too far away from the starting area, but … well… now at least I know my surroundings.
In Quartz are lots of buildings to explore and lots of the same buildings at that. After entering four of these ruins, with all in the same layout, no loot and bitten by Scorpions and Snakes, I stopped and looked for more remarkable spots in the village and soon found Scott’s Bar. I entered and everybody stopped talking and looked at me. In the Remastered version there is some surprisingly cool background music loop running there.
After the crowd has acknowledged my ranger-supremacy, they continued minding their own business. The bar is huge (did not look like that from the outside) and I found the counter at the South-West, with some punks blocking my way. They try to be strong, but I am stronger. The barkeeper is too far away for contact.
In the South-East corner there is some private card game happening, and when I approach them, they just attack. In good defense I cleaned up this round of illegal gambling, looting some money and ammo. But no sign of Head Crusher except a graffiti on the wall. There are other graffities on some tables too like ‘DRINK’, ‘URAQT’ and ‘URABUTLN’.
Some teenager is threatened in the toilet, and after helping him, he told me that Quartz has been taken over by ‘Ugly’s Gang’. They have also captured the mayor. I can ask him something, but I cannot find a keyword that triggers. Also, I have already overheard some conversations in the bar mentioning this dire situation.
Another strange guy wanted to play riddles with me and mentioned the waitress running around being busy. I solved his riddles, with the last one being the solution to ‘URABUTLN’ – You are a beauty Ellen and ‘URAQT’ – You are a cutie. Who would have thought…
Tying up two nots
Clueless, what to do with that information, I found Head Crusher sitting in the South. I gave him the credit card and he told me to go to Atchisons Tent in the Nomad’s Camp. The password is ‘Caterpillar’.
Stepping out of the bar I saw the Courthouse building. When I approached the goons at the door asked for a password. Well, I thought … I have a password, but ‘Caterpillar’ was – obviously – not it. So I used ‘My Gun” as a password, attacked and killed the whole first floor in a frenzy. On the second floor another goon asked for a password. I decided that it could be better to go for the story and the real password first and not butcher my way through here. No, clue where to find that though.
So first, let’s finish this other quest from the Nomad’s Camp, as more riddles await in Quartz. So back to the camp, but which tent could it be? The first one won’t let me in with my password. The second one did and as we sat in the tent smiling at each other, they started pulling out their weapons. Still smiling they attacked me. Still smiling, I died in there. They obviously were quite happy about this.
Reloading and into the third tent. They were not smiling, but just happy with my help in Quartz and gave me a hint for their thank-you-treasure-stash. I just needed a shovel to dig it up, kill the six guys that waited and ambushed me, and loot.
**Time-warp here, because I really struggled at this stage for almost an hour. Also, I looked that hint up; I was so frustrated.**
To talk to Ellen or the barkeeper in Scott’s Bar, you have to split(!) one party member from your group so you can approach the counter. When you tell Ellen ‘URAQT’ she will give you a key to a room at the Stagecoach Inn with the words: “You will know what to do.” Well, right.
Took a while to find the Inn, which was… larger from the inside, than the outside. I found the kitchen, broke some eggs and robbed the cook by incident. He complained but… Ranger’s business. I then found Ellen’s room and Laurie, her sister in a wheelchair. They are both planning on getting rid of Ugly’s Gang and she provided me with the password to enter the Courthouse: ‘Muerte’. Seems like my solution at the Courthouse and the password were not so different after all.
It turns ugly
Back to the Courthouse then. At this stage I learned how to use Crowbars (oh the possibilities) and what a Mangler is good for. Ignoring the hint from Laurie to bypass the goons, I went in and killed everyone on sight (and saved my Manglers for later). I also met Huey, Louie, and Dewey who all had a bracelet with a number inscribed on it, that I inspected after I have axe’d them to death: Huey 11, Louie 27, and Dewey 16. Again, no clue what that could be good for.
Finally I reached the third floor and the grunt guarding the prison, acknowledged my Ranger-supremacy and left without a fight. Must have spotted the bloody axes. In the prison I found a graffiti “Darwin = Proteus” and a guy who ran away without a word after I freed him. The latter triggered a quest update and left me even more confused. And Ugly’s Gang is still in town and I have no idea where they are.
So I started backtracking, if I missed something along my aimless trail of blood & confusion.
- Back to Scott’s Bar. Overheard another conversation about Ugly’s Gang. They were seemingly fleeing from the desert and took over control. Interesting.
- Back in the Courthouse in the Mayor’s Office I found a piece of paper about a hideout called Thanatos. But there seems something to be scratched out and ‘kaput’ has been scribbled below. Also some loot: four leather jackets (AC 1, finally!), 400$ and some ammo.
- Back, and frustrated, to the Nomad’s Camp. Being there I wanted to sell my stuff, and saw that you can buy an engine here for Highpool! Brought it south and fixed the engine. Quest completed. Happy teenagers all around.
- Back to Quartz and back to my problems. While I strolled around aimlessly, running into cactus (cacti?) and crawling through sewers I finally found…
Actually I found the Alleyway first. Sweet mother of… this was just behind the Courthouse! Excited I entered and found a way up to the roof with my rope. Running around there were glass windows and I burst through them into the building, which is the long sought hideout from Ugly’s Gang. There is an army of Pistoleros in the building and I killed all of them. And some of Uglys’ ugly dogs.
Running through all rooms I found another cellar with a prison and a dude in there called Ace. Named NPC? Let’s try hire and he joined us, so now we are six. He also would appreciate our help in Las Vegas, because he was looking for help in Quartz to fight a war up there. Seems like my next place to wreak havoc without a clue.
In Ugly’s office I found a map of Quartz. Several buildings were marked on it and one was interesting, labeled as SEKRET. This building lies diagonally to the Southwest. Better take a look later.
Next, I – finally – found ugly Ugly and he held poor Felicia (where is the mayor?) hostage with a bomb in her lap. He demanded we let him flee and he would give us the code to defuse it. I denied and killed him quickly. While still wondering how easy the fight has been, the bomb still kept ticking and Felicia became a bit nervous. When checking the skills of my party, Ace seemed the most proficient with Demolitions so he did it in his first try.
Felica was saved, she was pretty happy about this positive change of circumstances and I wondered if I can hire her – to test the named NPC rule. It worked, but she was so weak, I kicked her out of the party again. Forever, the game let me know. Ok. Maybe I should have pooled the money first…
Still missing the mayor though. They said he was a prisoner. So I backtracked once more to the Courthouse, the only prisons I have found so far, and up to the third floor. I opened all cells and there he was in the last cell – the mayor. Interesting, that I could see the guy-who-ran from the outside of the cell, but not the mayor. Anyway. Lost & Found.
Happy End! Quartz has been freed from this Ugly episode.
Party? Let’s go to Vegas!
Time played: 7h 12min.
At this stage I have more the feeling of ambling around aimlessly and finding or solving quests more by pure luck or coincidence.
The games’ world feels very close to more modern open world games, just with missing question / exlamation marks. This is really a challenge for me, as I have to re-learn this understanding of what you can do within the game with your skills.
I hope that I will find more of a main story in Las Vegas, because I am not really sure what this is all about so far. Just the experience of non-interlinked quests in several hub locations?
Or is there a main story at all?The Incompletionist