As I imagine it, the developers over at Mr. Podunkian were passing around pints as they philosophized Wasted’s underlying premise: What would the lore-rich post-apocalyptic environment of Fallout: New Vegas look like with Borderlands‘ art style and zany story line?
The result is an in-depth action RPG that exists to mock how seriously the Fallout franchise takes itself with over-the-top quests, surreal characters, and a shift from hoarding bottle caps or working under factions to drinking rare radioactive beers and stuffing your pockets with as much toilet paper (the game’s currency) as you can find. If you’re reading this and think that the concept is sacrosanct, I can only assure you that the attention to detail they spent in understanding the respective games they reference makes the genre-bending aspect seem tasteful.
When it comes to the game’s art design, it’s all done in that Borderlands-y cell-shaded look. I happen to love this style when it comes to more humorous games, but I get that it doesn’t work well with everyone. I find that its choice adds to the game’s bizarre environment and quirky combat style you’re going to read about.
The story is set in the aftermath of a 1980s simulation of a cold war nuke-out. The fortunate paid their way into underground shelters that are called (and strangely look like) Coolers. In the same vein as Fallout 4, people were supposed to be cryogenically frozen – but it backfired. Many died due to radiation poisoning, and the few became radioactive zombies. Those that toughed it out on the surface were brawling brutes that lacked any significant intellect. Oh, and in keeping with a recurring Adult Swim trend, the culture is continually stuck in the 80s.
So, what gets these characters to wake up in the morning and live out their seemingly-dull existences? The pursuit of radioactive alcohol rumored to exist in the darkest depths of the Coolers. The player takes on the role of just another wastelander in America’s west coast on the same mission with the same purpose as everyone else: to go spelunking for epic loot. As you traverse spin-off cities in California and Nevada, you are destined to meet compellingly-comical characters whose dialogue, spot-on voice acting, and quest details will gladly make-up for their shallow depth.
I should also mention that Wasted contains a rogue-lite twist to it. Death is permanent and will cause you to lose whatever loot you carry. But another lone wanderer shows up out of nowhere to replace the one that died, so don’t become too fixated on your character’s appearance. However, there is a TP (toilet paper) bank for gear shops and chests at your house to store your gear. There’s even a mailbox system where you can store or take out gear at the post office or in mailboxes found in the Coolers. The games doesn’t make it any easier for you if you find yourself dying a lot – take it in stride and play more carefully.
Down in the Cooler, the objective is to go from one section of the map to the next. For every three levels you clear, you will come across a room that has glowing beer – you can only drink one, and once you do, it will send you back to your home. You cannot leave the Coolers without taking a beer with you. You ingest these toxic tonics in an effort to gain a buff or debuff that lasts as long as your character stays alive. You may also find mystery flasks that contain temporary player effects without knowing its effect unless you drink it. Buffs range from kills causing enemies to explode, health regeneration, or knockback reduction (a hilarious mechanic where explosions, baseball bat attacks, or minigun barrages will knock you high up into the air and into a corner.) On your quest for magic alcohol, you should also pay attention to your skill system that’s called S.H.O.T.S (for Fallout fans: S.P.E.C.I.A.L). Loot you find and things you drink play into your ability to dismantle traps, run fast, and increase output damage.
The enemies themselves are diverse in their difficulty, and there are types that appear early on that you’d do best to simply outrun. Despite the seemingly quick pace of combat, you have to also watch out for traps that can devastate your run. Don’t worry, it was also a common occurrence that enemies fell into their own traps and fought each other. If I saw damage ticks on the screen that weren’t coming from me, I would just wait out the battle. The rapid loss of health cannot be quickly cured – both food and healing supplies have de-buffs to ensure that you can’t spam items. As a result, I was more conscious of the battles I wanted to pick.
While enemies can get tough, weapons can also get powerful. The game accommodates both melee and gun play styles (to expand: you will have access to pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, etc.) at the cost of a highly-limited inventory section. You start off with 10 item spaces, which includes the apparel you wear (top, pants, hat). You can pick up fanny packs that increase your space by three to a max total of 19 spaces, but they’re hard to find. In your inventory, you can hotkey items to certain spaces which remain even if the item depletes in your inventory and you find some later. This was a mechanic Fallout 4 didn’t even have.
A high point of contention surrounding this game is the limited time you have to loot a section. After a few minutes, you will receive a warning on your mini-map that there is a a juggernaut of a soldier roaming the halls with a chain gun. If he sees you he will shoot you high into the air. I’m sure you could beat him on higher levels, but for me, he would just pin me into a corner of the wall and instantly turn me into swiss cheese. So don’t take your time if you’re the slow-down-and-hoard type – there’s even better loot (with even funnier item descriptions) in the future levels.
Now for the bad stuff: The map design is based on a set series of rooms that are randomly connected. Their contents change sporadically (the same room design may now have traps instead of loot), but the structures of them stay the same. This leads to an incredibly boring map design that can be a bit hard to slog through, especially since the music never changes and going through the same levels and bland rooms over and over is part of the grind. Though the combat will keep you engaged, I hate the feeling of being in the same room I was just in two rooms ago. During some battles, the game will slow down ever so slightly when you melee someone to register critical attacks. There are also some clipping issues where you can hug the wall and see into other rooms. I noticed the same thing for particle effects that leaked into other walls.
Aside from questionable level design, the game has also spent a great deal of time on how the game sounds, and it shows. Voice acting is diverse, hilarious, and certainly memorable. The music and songs you will hear from in-game boom boxes is reminiscent of off-brand 80s songs that range from dreamy pop to electronic. The soundtracks of Kung Fury or Hotline Miami spring to mind. Level scores felt a bit more nostalgic in the electronic genre – much like the level music you’d get from the original Deus Ex. Of course, there’s also some ambiance that feels like it was taken from Fallout: New Vegas.
With its unique rogue-lite twist and tasteful relation to two successful franchises, the only confusing aspect of Wasted is why it’s not visible on Steam’s best seller list. While I’d like to think that Fallout devs would call their lawyers over how many mechanics Wasted rips from their game’s play style, I’m sure it just came down to an underfunded ad campaign. Aside from stiflingly predictable level design, the game contains an overwhelming amount of key variables for it not to be a hit with the FPS crowd.
Its core mechanics are fluid with plenty of diversity in the weapons and enemy divisions. The writing is hilarious. The quasi-permadeath adds an addictive itch you’d be hard-pressed to leave alone. Despite the 25% off launch sale, the game is well worth the full price of $15USD. Even though I’ve never heard of Mr. Podunkian until now, they’re a development team to look out for.
Wasted was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer.
Developer: Mr. Podunkian | Publisher: Adult Swim Games | Genre: FPS, RPG, Rogue-lite | Platform: PC | PEGI/ESRB: 18/M | Release Date: June 7th, 2016