A diary of sorts, wherein I moonlight as a games writer. Under haphazard construction.
Previous bit here! https://shinkemuel.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/wasteland-2-the-story-so-far/
It’s been a few weeks since I last played Wasteland 2, so to keep the journal rolling I’ve had to take glance through my characters’ attribute screens and quest log to remind myself just what’s been going on. Steam tells me I’ve been playing for about 30 hours now, but I’ll be damned if I can remember half of it. Looking at my to-do list has been.. educational. Apparently I have an ongoing quest to collect shit for someone.
“Dog shit, cat shit, cow shit, bat shit, it don’t matter; the rangers need some ammonium nitrate ASAP!”
Apparently someone also rewarded me handsomely for finding them a functional Phillips CDi for their retro console collection. Huh. That ones does ring a bell. Stuff’s coming back now.
I’d been playing for about 12 hours when Element’s team were first welcomed inside the Ranger Citadel, returning from their mission to find the killer of one of the order’s elites and to set up radio beacons to establish the source of some disturbing radio transmissions which were apparently related. In our pursuit of tall places to affix the beacons, we had prevented the spread of a mutagenic plague, picked through the ruins of what had been a major water reservoir and began scouting out (read: getting our asses repeatedly kicked around) a raider slave commune, all of which the top brass apparently wanted to reward us for.
It should go without saying that there are some very broad plot points which could be considered spoilers below.
This is what happened next:
After meeting some notable characters, requisitioning a bigger knife for Slick and listening to a lengthy summary of the entire plot of the first Wasteland game, we released a dangerous criminal back into the wastes for giving us his radiation suits, got conned out of nearly all of our money by a shady arms dealer, spent most of the remainder on a pile of explosives from a Korean guy with no eyebrows, and realised why the first 12 hours of play had been so bloody difficult.
After leaving camp we then promptly forgot all about the radio signals to go exploring, spurred two feuding clans to start ethnically cleansing one another (after a bout of failed diplomacy), got our asses kicked again by the Red Skorpions on their hellish plantation (thanks to an impassable plot-barrier that I will need to return to), and ruined the attempts of a heavily-armed paramilitary organisation to take out a canyon full of nuclear suicide-monks. Now we are going to attempt to free the settlement of Damonta from a robotic menace, but honestly, at this point? I’m not gonna hold my breath.
I’ve been trying to work out why it seems like we’ve fucked up just about everything we’ve touched so far. While there’s been a degree of wilful haplessness for comic effect, it feels in a lot of cases like the scripted path has been one of either pyrrhic victory or a choice of different failures, with no opportunity to succeed unless my characters possessed exactly the right skills. While I was weak to begin with because I kept trying to balance combat and non-combat skills (and to be fair, knowingly built a full quarter of the party to be hilariously useless in a fight), I struggled further down the line for the opposite reason when my hard-assery, kiss-assery, smart-assery and alarm-disablery just weren’t up to scratch. There’s a balancing act here that I’ve evidently not been performing very well, and ultimately I blame it all on Angela.
Or more specifically, my failure to spot Angela. Angela’s partial concealment.
It turns out the reason I struggled so much through the first handful of quests was because I somehow missed a rather important person standing just off-screen next to the Citadel gate: Angela Death. If you’ve played Wasteland 2 you’re probably torn now between laughing your ass off at how I could miss such an important character and prostrating yourself in awe at the fact that I managed to make it so far without her assistance.
I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.
For everyone else’s sake in the meantime: she’s a returning party member from the first game who was a friend of the murdered veteran Ace. You can pick her up immediately when you leave the camp at at level 1, and she’s level 14! She’s well-armed, with a pile of ammo and weaponry that was just about still passable when my party finally met her, six ranks in assault rifle proficiency straight off the bat and the ability to break down these infuriatingly impassable fences which had been keeping me out of certain secret areas. She starts with 143 HP, (at level 1 we all had between 20 and 30!), and she gawps at how General Vargas is sending out a party of babies, offering to look after you in exchange for a shot at Ace’s killers.
Angela’s the (somewhat narrow) safety net that I haplessly started the game without even noticing. She allows you to build a party like mine without having to suddenly start desperately investing in combat skills just to stay afloat. To sink points in skills you don’t immediately need rather than focus solely on your immediate survival. Once Angela joined, I started putting ranks more heavily in social and utility skills again, but to some extent the damage had already been done. Conversation options were requiring skill ranks of 4 or 5 where the best we could manage was a 2 or a 3. Element was gambling on 15% repair chances and causing toasters to violently explode. Slick was finding locks that were physically impossible for him to bypass. Bear wasn’t enough of a Hard Ass to scare anyone. Fights were definitely easier for a time, allowing space to develop our other skills, but at the point of Angela’s departure some 4-5 xp levels later, things were levelling out again and there was still a lot to be done.
So, this is how we all stand after a few hours back on our own again:
Element remains the joker in the pack, as should be evident by the amount of random shit he still has in his inventory.
Since he’s learned that weapons are made up of parts which can be separated from one another and stuck to other weapons, he’s started hoarding them. He has a tendency of breaking things, so it’s handy to keep spares. Theoretically, one of his shotguns is for range and the other is for spread, but in practice he can never remember that he’s got the second one with him. I forget why he has a TNT plunger. Probably best not to ask. The toast came out of a toaster he repaired. I fucking know, right? What is this world coming to?
Speaking of Toaster Repair, Element has had to start working harder to maintain his superiority in the field. After becoming preoccupied for a while with such fanciful endeavours as weaponsmithing and firing shotguns at people’s heads, Element began to encounter toasters which were distressingly far beyond his abilities. It’s fine, everyone said. We’ll come back for them later, everyone said. They’re probably just full of enigmatically non-sequiturial bullshit anyway, everyone said. Then Ralphy joined the party.
Ralphy is a kid from one of the feuding Rail Nomad clans, and despite being infuriatingly starry-eyed and naive about literally everything, was initially Element’s Toaster Repair superior by two whole ranks. At 5 ranks, it was his strongest starting skill! While the master was resting on his laurels learning how to kneecap people, a cocky young upstart had arrived to make him look bad. Element was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch whilst Ralphy effortlessly repaired two toasters in the nomad camp that were completely beyond his ken. Two excruciating toasters. Ralphy is the reason Element now has five ranks in Toaster Repair as well, and only three in shotguns. He hates the little bastard and has spent almost every level putting some points towards getting even.
Ralphy’s starting combat skill was Brawling, and he was as physically strong as Angie, so it’s not like Element could do much else. I don’t know what half that shit he’s carrying is. I think most of it has either come out of repaired toasters or broken robots. Thanks to his strength, he’s become the de-facto pack mule since Angie’s departure. Element gave him both a LAW rocket launcher and the party’s unclaimed sub-machine guns to practice with in the hopes that he’d somehow kill himself, but it’s yet to happen.
Despite lacking in experience, little Ralphy’s become a surprisingly useful addition to the party. He needs a little babysitting , but once he puts another attribute point in strength he’ll be able to wear that heavy armour he’s lugging around, which should help keep him safe. Much to Element’s disappointment.
Slick now wields a pickaxe, because someone over at inExile apparently has some ranks in Smart Ass themselves. Yes, I suppose it is technically a “bladed weapon”, but you probably wouldn’t bring one to a knife fight. Or maybe you would? Perhaps that’s just the kind of psychopath you are. It’s the kind that Slick is. In his defence, there’s been a distinct absence of actual, decent blades for him to wield, so this is kinda just what it’s come to. I think the cheap AP cost of bladed weapon attacks is meant to compensate for their low damage, encouraging you to make up the difference with repeated weak strikes, but in practice it just hasn’t worked that way, and Slick’s felt underpowered for a while now.
He guards his Banana Pudding jealously, saving its promise of a mysterious “Banana Pudding” buff only for a true life-or-death situation. Despite primarily wielding his pickaxe, he still likes to keep his knives with him for reasons best left unexplored. The weapon mods he’s carrying are ones Element couldn’t work out how to attach. I’m not sure what he thinks he’s going to do with them, or that weed sprayer, but it probably won’t work out the way he’s expecting. Nobody knows quite when he got hold of a LAW, but he’s started talking to it in his sleep and now they’re too scared to ask for it back.
Despite his abject psychopathy Slick remains the party’s smoothest talker, but chances for him to use his silver tongue are few and far between. The top hat will only win over so many of the Wasteland’s denizens. His low intelligence has left him without many skill points to spend, which has made every level a tough choice between utility and strength. It wasn’t such a problem in the early game, but now the deficit is slowly mounting and he’s noticeably lagging in terms of overall usefulness. Six ranks in blades isn’t nearly as good as six ranks in rifles, even when you’re swinging a pickaxe around, and his pistol’s an unreliable fallback. Maybe the chancer’ll find a magic sword of epic awesomeness or something and enjoy a return to grace. With anything less he’s gonna continue to struggle.
It’s going to be hard to find anything humorous to say about Pills, because ultimately, Pills still just does her fucking job. She snipes with lethal accuracy and save Rose from having to surgery people back from the brink of death. She’s gotten so sick of Element and Slick blowing their hands off trying to open blatantly booby-trapped doors and safes that she’s started checking them first to save on medical supplies.
Unless you’re Slick, 6 ranks in a skill is about the baseline for excellence in this party, so it should be no surprise that Pills has two at that level. The spare sniper rifle she’s carrying’s one we haven’t found any ammo for yet, but once we do it’ll only make her more useful. She also has some dynamite, since it was decided that no one person should be entrusted with carrying it all. She has twice as much as Element.
Not much more to say, really. Her pistol only takes 2AP to fire, which sometimes allows her to take both a long-range sniper shot and a couple of pops at a fool who’s getting too close. There’s next to nothing this girl can’t do, although her accuracy does take a dive when enemies start crowding her. Since Angie left and Element’s taken over her combat responsibilities her supply of medkits has been running worryingly low. Soon she’s gonna start giving him painkillers and just let him get on with medicating himself.
I really hadn’t intended for this party to follow the trope of despairing women with their incompetent menfolk, but that does appear to be the way it’s turning out. Like Pills, Bear has also proven to be a complete rock. Her wilderness survival skills still allow us to save resources by avoiding pointless random encounters, and her assault rifle damage is almost as reliably good as Angie’s was. None of her other skills have proven particularly useful, though the chance to charm the odd cow still crops up every now and then. Unlike Slick’s ass-kissing, Bear’s ass-harding is of a rank where it can actually work from time to time.
Once again, little else to say really. Her affinity for animals borders on weird, and both Rose and Pills refuse to waste medical supplies on keeping her goats alive, so she’s a bit of a loner within the group. They’d miss her talents if she were gone, but probably not the smell. Bear was going to take over Angie’s role as designated Brute Force fence-smasher, but she literally broke her foot on her first attempt and has never made a second. Ralphy gets to do those honours now. I like to think Bear’s smart enough to realise her limits and stick to what she knows. She may not excel with quite the same focus as Pills, but she doesn’t waste as much time dabbling as the boys.
Most of Bear’s inventory is quest items, since generally she can be trusted not to get herself killed. Besides her guns, practically all she’s carrying are the vital radio transmitters, some toxic waste canisters and some psychotropic mushrooms. I can’t remember which quest the last ones are for, and I should think Bear probably can’t either. For some reason it seems like everyone in this party’s ended up carrying some of Rose’s energy cells, which is weird, because they’ll be of far greater use in her hands. Why?
Well, Rose found a Meson Cannon. No more shitty lasers for this old scientist, she’s now packing the bastard child of a missile launcher and a particle accelerator. Also pistols. So many pistols. Why the fuck does Rose have that many pistols?
The answer is because if Rose ever runs out of ammo, the whole party is screwed. Like Pills, she just excels. Her insanely high intelligence has provided her with such a number of skill points that she’s not simply better, she has become the best. The Meson Cannon’s terrifying and all, but she was doing perfectly fine without it.
She looks at Element’s potential, wasted on toasters and boomsticks and just despairs. She fears humanity’s next generation may prove to be its last if all the finest minds squander themselves in such a pitiful manner. She has at least one pistol for every type of ammo that’s been found so that she’ll always be able to keep shooting, and refuses to throw her obsolete laser weapons away for fear that they may hide vital technological secrets within their construction. She won’t let Element’s smashy hands anywhere near them, though. Not until she can find duplicates at least.
So there they are. Rookies no more, growing ever hardier. I’m not sure how much more of their story we will see, because as I say, it’s been weeks since I last touched the game. The combat has gotten very stale by this point (which I suppose was always to be expected from a game whose actions don’t go far beyond single attack, burst attack, ambush and use explosive), but the world and the stories within it remain interesting enough that I think I’d like to continue exploring them. If only to see where my characters end up. The apocalyptic landscape has so far contained a decent mixture of old tropes and fresh ideas, with enough humour and eccentricity amid all the dark moral quandries to prevent it from becoming entirely miserable, it’d be a shame to not see at least a little more of it.
Maybe I’ll give Hearthstone and Risk of Rain a miss this evening..