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Wasteland (1986)      

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Electronic Arts
Adventure / RPG


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Your Reviews

TextFiles.com (Unknown)   19th Jun 2012 03:31

What a refreshing change. Instead of applying the role-playing formula to yet
another fantasy world in which steel and spells battle the Zog Monster from the
Land of Qzw'glllk, we have here a scenario much closer to current reality. In
addition, its design attempts to advance the art of role-playing adventuring,
rather than merely re-work successful approaches of the past.

This is progress, and enjoyable progress, at that!

WASTELAND is an Interplay Productions scenario published and distributed by
Electronic Arts. You'll recognize the basic interface as very similar to that of
THE BARD'S TALE, a game created by the same folks. However, there are some major
changes here, many (but not all) of which add to the playability and realism of
the game. This review is based on the Apple II version of WASTELAND; Commodore
64/128 and IBM-PC version notes follow.

The scenario places you in the American southwest, some time after World War
III started under unexplained circumstances. You belong to a group of Desert
Rangers (modeled after the Texas Rangers) who are setting out to investigate the
area, help re-establish Law and Order, and figure out What Is Really Going On

Although this closely parallels the motivation of your typical fantasy quest
hero, WASTELAND's world has more in common with the film "Mad Max" than sword
and sorcery: Magic doesn't exist here. The best weapons are guns and ammo,
although brawling with fists is surprisingly effective. Instead of spells, your
team must develop and apply various skills, ranging from climbing and weapon use
to cryptology, medicine, and metallurgy. Intelligence is much mor important than
brute strength in this world.

The mechanics of this game fit nicely with its world. You have an overhead view
that's very reminiscent of ULTIMA and its imitators, but whose shifting scale
allows more detail in city and building interiors. The passage of time and
healing vary in relation to the physical scale: It takes more time to move one
square in the open desert than to move one square inside a store. The display
uses pop-up windows as needed, and there are several keyboard shortcuts that
keep the game moving nicely. One unrealistic element: There's 24-hour clock, but
no need or provision for sleep.

In puzzling situations, you'll be required to use items, skills, or your
attributes. For instance, early on you're faced with a pile of machinery; if you
use your intelligence, you can figure out what the machinery does. Later, you
must deal with a locked safe; if a player has the safecracking skill, you may
not need the combination. In situations requiring a lengthy text discourse,
you're referred to a "Paragraph book." This has the distinct advantage of
reducing note-taking time and saving disk space for the scenario writer. Lest
you think it's just a hint book, however, you should know that half of the
paragraphs are red herrings and will lead you into trouble. Reading the
paragraphs ahead of time is of no help.

My only criticism of the game involves the combat system. It includes some
excellent features, such as allowing for ranged weapons, and taking weapons
skill into account. However, you are generally invincible, especially in the
early game. If all of your players are reduced to zero hit points, they're
unconscious, and the monsters merely wait around for some of you to recover
before attacking again. Although this makes it very unlikely that one of your
players will die (thus saving you the trouble of using your backups), it does
detract markedly from the game's realism. (To be fair, there are some situations
in which your players can be seriously wounded, and if your Medic skills are
inadequate, that player will deteriorate and die.)

All in all, Interplay Productions has put a great deal of thought and hard work
into WASTELAND. The scenario has no single "walkthru path," and the game system
has incorporated the best ideas from most of the successful RPGs on the market.
I've already put 20 hours into this game, and I'm heading back for more right
now. Give it a 9 out of 10 and a stainless-steel Uzi.


The C64/128 version of WASTELAND is every bit as wonderful as Ken Franklin
noted above. Interplay Productions, which is responsible for THE BARD'S TALE III
and NEUROMANCER, has gone to great lengths with WASTELAND. The results are
obvious: This is one great and innovative game.

Commodore owners will need four blank disks. WASTELAND will recognize only
those disks that have been copied from the copy program in the Utilities Menu.
You'll need the WASTELAND master disk in order to boot the game; the copies can
be used thereafter.

Like THE BARD'S TALE III, WASTELAND can be saved virtually anytime and
anywhere. I should be noted, however, that WASTELAND saves itself periodically:
This is a process utterly different from any save a player might perform.
Changes that take place during play are permanently recorded on the disks, hence
the need for copies. On the other hand, a player-chosen save, instigated by
typing "S" at any time other than during combat, saves the current position and
party status, which can be reloaded for a later play session.

The C64/128 version is entirely keyboard controlled; the first letter of a
command is used to select that command.

There are several different graphics displays. Desert and dungeon exploration
offers an overhead view of the terrain; entering a new location, which doesn't
necessarily have to be a building or a cave, opens up a new and usually more
detailed area. As in THE BARD'S TALE III, combat and communication screens
consist of a message area, an animated picture, and the names and stats of the

The C64/128 WASTELAND package contains two double-sided disks, a Command
Summary card, an instruction manual, and the "Paragraph Book," another neat idea
from Interplay.

Although WASTELAND looks and plays more or less identically to THE BARD'S TALE
and its sequels, it is far and away its own game. The post-nuclear holocaust
scenario is more than enough to recommend it, but since the game itself is so
good, I must therefore recommend it in a loud and emphatic voice


As Ken Franklin and the Doctor have already pointed out, WASTELAND is a
marvelously different and superbly detailed computer role-playing game. The
MS-DOS version was a long time coming, and I'm pleased to report that the game
does not disappoint. It is, if anything, slicker on an IBM (or compatible) than
in its Apple II and Commodore 64/128 versions. There's no doubt that any future
ports will be further improved under Interplay's touch. Only one rather serious
flaw besmirches the release.

The requirements: an IBM-PC/XT/AT, PS/2 family, Compaq, Tandy 1000 series,
3000, 4000 or IBM compatible with 256K. A CGA, EGA, or 16-color Tandy is needed,
although a VGA in EGA mode should work beautifully. The program supports a mouse
but no joystick (more on that later). It also supports a hard drive; you'll need
at least 850K free on the hard drive to install the program. If you don't have a
hard drive, the game will run with one or two floppy drives. A second floppy
drive is strongly recommended for this game, as you'll be doing a bit of
disk-flipping even _with_ two drives.

The IBM version of WASTELAND isn't copy-protected. If you're using floppies,
you'll need three blank diskettes to create the actual playing media. There's a
lengthy installation procedure no matter which kind of drive you use. And unlike
nearly every other CRPG you've ever played, this game writes all changes
_permanently_ to your working disks (or WASTELAND subdirectory if playing from a
hard drive). What this means is that, if you ever want to start the game over,
you'll need to pull out your master disks and run one of the four "reset"
programs. This is somewhat of a pain, but it's a progressive move, and progress
can be painful. Fortunately, as Mr. Franklin mentions, it's not easy to die in
this game; thus, you don't need to start over nearly as frequently as you might

Another example of intelligent progress: The game box includes both 5-1/4" and
3-1/2" disk formats. And the greatest new amenity, to my way of thinking, is the
macro function. You can create up to 10 macros using the function keys in
conjunction with the CTRL key; the process is as simple as can be, and very

In most other ways, WASTELAND plays much the same as the other versions. The
game saves itself each time you enter a new location, or whenever you care to
save it yourself -- even while inside mazes. You can also quit and exit to DOS
without saving and without the need to reboot.

The stunning graphics are, as mentioned, reminiscent of THE BARD'S TALE.
They're an incredibly crisp 640x200, and the use of color and shading in the EGA
version is nothing short of delightful -- even more impressive than THE BARD'S
TALE's in the close-up windows of the characters and monsters. The overhead
graphics are tile-style like ULTIMA's, and a bit less compelling, but still
artfully executed.

The major flaw I mentioned earlier involves the mouse interface. On the
surface, the interface is extremely elegant. The mouse can run nearly the entire
game, and adds immeasurably to the ease of play. Unfortunately, the mouse also
causes the game to freeze up intermittently, necessitating a system reboot.
Install the game without the mouse and the problem vanishes, but the you have to
play from the keyboard -- a much less intuitive way to play. Electronic Arts is
slowly looking into this problem, but I fear we're a long way off from seeing a
solution. EA has had problems in the past supporting other than genuine
Microsoft mice; mine is a compatible. If you have a Microsoft mouse, you may not
encounter the problem. But even so, don't count on being able to use the mouse.

Interplay has described some very minor changes in the area of stat development
in the IBM version. These changes were borne out of players' experiences with
the previously released versions, and they can be considered refinements. The
net result is a game of enduring challenge that reeks of sophistication in its
graphic quality and its compelling gameplay. If the interface worked as smoothly
and trouble-free as it ought to, you'd have one absolute gem here.

WASTELAND is published by Interplay Productions and distributed by Electronic

*****DOWNLOADED FROM P-80 SYSTEMS (304) 744-2253

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This title was first added on 11th September 2010
This title was most recently updated on 19th June 2012

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