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Wasteland 2: Director's Cut Review

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★★★★★

You wait millennia for an apocalypse, and then two come along at once – although this top-down classic style RPG and the full 3D bells and whistles of Fallout 4 have an intertwined past. Wasteland 2's director, Brian Fargo, produced the original Fallout games before Bethesda bought the property and transitioned it to an action-RPG, making this a tonally very similar tale of post-nuclear America and a look at what a traditional-style Fallout 3 may have been.

Originally a Kickstarter success, this console iteration resurrects Fargo's first Wasteland (which predated Fallout by a decade). Set in a far harsher world than its better-known successor, you take command of a Desert Ranger in a gritty, irradiated American South. The initial premise is a simple investigation - looking into the murder of Ace, a character from the 1988 original - but soon spirals off in.... well, whichever direction you want it to. Decisions are key, and how you react to conversations or choose to complete missions can skew progression through the game considerably.

Such freedom is laudable, but it can also be a tad crippling. There are plenty of times you'll be left with either no idea what to do next, or too much. Wasteland 2 is an unforgivingly tough game, too. From its intensely detailed stat-based character creation to its surprisingly difficult turn-based combat, this is a game that cries out for a hardcore audience - ideally, one with experience of similarly detailed tabletop RPGs to serve as a grounding for its often bewildering complexity.

It's a much stronger game than it was a year ago, though. The Director's Cut improves on the original post-Kickstarter release by adding in over 8000 lines of spoken dialogue, richly evolving the world and its inhabitants, new gameplay tweaks - which, for better or worse, include even more specificity at almost every level - and a new targeting system, allowing you to strike enemies' body parts. Porting it to consoles helps too, with detailed commands working impressively well on controllers.

Wasteland 2's biggest failing will, for many, be its own daunting level of ambition. Players willing to plumb its incredible depths will be rewarded with a game that's equal parts challenging, thought-provoking, and darkly funny. Many others will be deterred at the prospect of learning multifaceted rule-sets and turn to Fallout 4 for their post-apocalyptic thrills.

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