Review: WASTED

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For a lot of people, exploring vaults in the recent Fallout games was the best part. They had interesting stories and secrets, as well as plenty of lockers and wastebins to rummage through. Well, some genius took that specific gameplay element and made an entire game out of it, looting and mutants and groin shots at all. Not only that, but they added some clever ideas and hilarious writing of their own to make something way more fun than just hunting for bobbleheads.

So the bombs fell and the world looks like an English gravel quarry now, and the best and brightest that survived ended up being a bunch of booze-swilling idiots. That’s literally all they do now, they go spelunking in the old vau-I mean, coolers in search of irradiated brews to get good and fucked up on. There are a bunch of factions duking it out over who gets to drink what, from the feisty Cervezmen to the hard-assed S.O.B. soldiers. And you’re no better than any of them, descending into the underhalls to gather janky guns, stretch pants, fanny packs, and all the swill you can swill.

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In gameplay terms, it’s a first-person sci-fi dungeon crawler. Each cooler is a labyrinth of nearly a dozen randomly-generated floors to shuffle through, full of strange enemies and stranger loot. Most of your time will be spent scouring lockers and containers and fighting against your limited inventory space. The rest of that time goes to finding your way through the maze-like levels and killing any weirdos you meet. Managing your resources like different ammo types, healing items, and unlocking tools will be key to surviving the deep dives into each cooler.

If this sounds like Fallout boiled down to just exploring vaults, you’re right on the money. However, there are a few key features that add a level of urgency to your jaunts. For one, it’s a one-way trip. You can’t return to previous floors, and the only way out if you don’t think you can go the distance is to find a bottle of radioactive booze and chug that shit ’till you black out. This returns you to your home base where you can stash gear, and depending on the booze you can get a permanent buff or debuff for future runs. You’ll definitely need to consider this if enemies get too tough or you keep getting caught by the S.O.B., an absurdly deadly hunter that starts stalking you if you tarry too long on a level. Your time limit is pretty strict too, so you’ll have to be quick about your looting.

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There’s a wealth of junk to find in the halls of WASTED, and very little of it useless. There are weapons divided into melee, pistol, rifle, revolver, and other types, each with their own damage and armor penetration and other attributes which will be important when battling the varied raiders and mutants and robots in your way. You’ll find head, chest, and leg armor that boosts your character stats, along with fanny packs and other terribly 80s storage solutions to expand your paltry inventory. Then there are food and medicines, throwable objects, crafting materials, and so on. With limited space you’ll need to consider your options carefully, both in what you need to survive and what you should escape with to stash at home or sell in town. A handy mailbox system also helps you get useful junk out without having to bail or lug it around forever.

I was enjoying the game just fine while looting and killing, but reaching town elevated it to a whole new level. The kooky 80s wasteland vibe comes alive in the characters, who have some of the funniest dialog I’ve ever seen in a game. They’re brash, they’re rude, they’re foul, and they’re absolutely endearing about it. There’s a Richard Nixon knockoff, a terrifying weeaboo, a valley girl shopkeep, and a mail clerk that’s all too happy to philosophise on fart metaphors. Even the incidental characters have laugh-out-loud moments, and the item names and descriptions fit right in with the insane atmosphere of the retro apocalypse.

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With plenty to see, plenty to loot, and plenty to kill, WASTED is extremely gratifying to progress through and build a deadly wasteland adventurer with. And then they’ll eat a spectacular crit or a devious trap, and they’ll be gone forever. Poof, all your buffs and weapons and gear, gone. That’s because WASTED is actually a roguelike, and a pretty wicked one at that. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you need to be prepared to lose hours of loot and character building at the drop of an ugly hat. Thankfully it’s designed pretty intelligently for this, with scads of loot to replace lost goods, the home base and mailbox systems for saving stuff, and shortcuts you can pay for in town to get back up to speed. It means you need to be careful and you need to pay attention, and you always need to prepare for the absolute worst.

I had kind of an odd experience with WASTED, because I beat the first cooler on my first try. I don’t think that’s supposed to happen, you’re probably supposed to fuck up a few times, then learn to booze out for buffs as you assemble a solid set of gear, then get to the bottom a few hours in. It gave me a skewed view of the game that made dying halfway through the second cooler sting a lot more than perhaps it should have. But I put in the time to work out the cadence of the game, and now I can do quick runs in cooler 1 to gear up a fresh waster for cooler 2, and attempt it as many times as I want. It’s still hard as hell, and I die a lot, and sometimes it feels like forgetting to save in Fallout and having to re-do 30 minutes of exploring, but once you warm up to the random levels and crazy combat it provides hours of entertainment. Coupled with the excellent aesthetics and hilarious writing and characters, I would encourage anyone to give this wild adventure a serious try.

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