Ah, Wasteland. Another milestone of videogame history. Of CRPG history, to be precise. One I regretfully never played, and that's quite odd, because I was really into CRPG at the time. But hey, those were pre-internet times. It wasn't so unusual that a game, even a great game, went completely under your radar.
The only source of gaming-related information were specialized magazines. One specialized magazine in my case, since I couldn't afford more (ZZap! first, The Games machine later). Living in a remote town, it wasn't unusual that some issues of my magazine simply weren't delivered to the local news-stand. And don't even get me started on videogame stores. There was only one, about 50 km away, so I managed to make pilgrimage there once a year tops.
Ok, now I'll stop making excuses for this shameful lack in my gamer history and go on.
The dev team during a hard coding session?
Wasteland is a 1988 sci-fi themed RPG set in a post-apocalyptic / post-nuclear world. Initially developed for the Apple II, it was later ported to C64 and MsDos.
What makes Wasteland so special? First of all, its setting. Does a post-apocalyptic America destroyed by a nuclear holocaust and reduced to a mutant-infested radioactive desert ring a bell? Of course it does. The Fallout bell, to be precise. The setting is basically the same.
Sequels were planned for Wasteland, but for various reasons none of them were made (the InExile kickstarter is another story). The fact that Interpaly chose to start a whole new franchise based on the same setting means only one thing: that it was too good to let go.
Think of a situation somewhere between the first and second Mad Max movie, where everything blew up, but civilization hasn't completely gone to hell yet. In the southwestern part of the United States, a small regiment of the U.S. Army survives, calling itself Desert rangers. They're all that remains in terms of law and order. Your party is a Desert Rangers team assigned to investigate strange happenings in the area. Investigations will get the party to explore the remaining enclaves of human civilization. That's probably where the most fun comes from. Meeting and having to deal with various examples of desperate, derelict, barbaric and hopeless humanity, where no hope for a better future is possible and present very close to a living hell.
RPG elements are quite pervasive: we have an interesting skill system that allows characters to face problems in several different ways. You can pick a locked door, kick it down or blow it to hell with a rocket. Your choice. And considering that freedom of choice is what makes an RPG good, we are definitely on the right track here.
Wasteland was also one of the first games featuring a persisting world; considering there were no HDD at the time, this meant that you had to save the state of each location you visited on the game disk. So the first page of the game manual asked you to make a copy of the game disk before playing. How cute is that.
The manual requires you to make a copy of the game disk before playing
So there's plenty of good reasons to have this retrogame in your collection.
After a quite long search, I finally tracked down a C64 edition at a reasonable price.
Wasteland box insides. Nice artwork and a great costume picture of the dev team.
The box has a strange form factor; it's a cardboard envelope folded in two, very slim. In the right half, a pocket contains the two 5,25" floppy disks. Not an ideal way to store disks if you ask me, because taking them off the box requires a little too much flexing for my tastes.
Wasteland box contents
The other half of the box contains the retrogame manual, the paragraphs book, cluebook ad, and registration form. All of this in slipped in a side pocket just like with a vinyl LPs. Again, I'm not sure this helps preserve the manuals in good conditions. On the other side, this kind of packaging will take very little space on your shelf.
In case you're wondering, the paragraphs book contains several pages of text the retrogame requires you to read at different moments during play.
This was probably useful to save some precious bytes of memory and also served as a crude copy protection system. I personally miss the interaction with feelies, so I won't complain about this choice.
From a collector point of view, the overall feel of this box in my hands is good, despite its strange form factor. It is carefully crafted using quality materials, and the game manuals are well written.
As a final note, Brian Fargo, one of the retrogame creators, never let go of the hope to create an official sequel to Wasteland. The opportunity presented itself with the advent of crowdfunding. A hugely successful Kickstarter project was launched and funded in 2012. So Wasteland 2 was finally born.
But we'll talk about this in another post.