Wasteland (video game)

Wasteland is a science fiction open world role-playing video game developed by Interplay and published by Electronic Arts at the beginning of 1988.[4] The game is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic America destroyed by nuclear holocaust generations before. Developers originally made the game for the Apple II and it was ported to the Commodore 64 and MS-DOS. It was re-released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux in 2013 via Steam and GOG.com, and in 2014 via Desura.

Wasteland Coverart.png
Cover art by Barry E. Jackson[1]
Developer(s)Interplay Productions
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Brian Fargo
Producer(s)David Albert
Designer(s)Ken St. Andre
Michael A. Stackpole
Liz Danforth
Programmer(s)Alan Pavlish
Artist(s)Todd J. Camasta
Bruce Schlickbernd
Charles H. H. Weidman III
SeriesWasteland Edit this on Wikidata
Platform(s)Apple II (original)
Commodore 64
Microsoft Windows
ReleaseJanuary 2, 1988[2][3]

Critically acclaimed and commercially successful, Wasteland was intended to be followed by two separate sequels, but Electronic Arts' Fountain of Dreams was turned into an unrelated game and Interplay's Meantime was cancelled. The game's general setting and concept became the basis for Interplay's 1997 role-playing video game Fallout, which would extend into the Fallout series. Game developer inXile Entertainment released a sequel, Wasteland 2, in 2014. Wasteland 3 is planned for release in 2020.


A screenshot of an encounter in the DOS version of Wasteland

Wasteland's game mechanics are based on those used in the tabletop role-playing games, such as Tunnels and Trolls and Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes created by Wasteland designers Ken St. Andre and Michael Stackpole.[5] Characters in Wasteland have various statistics (strength, intelligence, luck, speed, agility, dexterity, and charisma) that allow the characters to use different skills and weapons. Experience is gained through battle and skill usage. The game generally lets players advance using a variety of tactics: to get through a locked gate, the characters could use their picklock skill, their climb skill, or their strength attribute; or they could force the gate with a crowbar or a LAW rocket.

The player's party begins with four characters. Through the course of the game the party can hold as many as seven characters by recruiting certain citizens and wasteland creatures. Unlike those of other computer RPGs of the time, these non-player characters (NPCs) might at times refuse to follow the player's commands, such as when the player orders the character to give up an item or perform an action.[6] The game is noted for its high and unforgiving difficulty level.[7] The prose appearing in the game's combat screens, such as phrases saying an enemy is "reduced to a thin red paste" and "explodes like a blood sausage", prompted an unofficial PG-13 sticker on the game packaging in the U.S.[6]

Wasteland was one of the first games featuring a persistent world, where changes to the game world were stored and kept.[7] Returning to an area later in the game, the player would find it in the state the player left it in, rather than being reset, as was common for games of the time. Since hard drives were still rare in home computers in 1988, this meant the original game disk had to be copied first, as the manual instructed one to do.[8]

Another feature of the game was the inclusion of a printed collection of paragraphs that the player would read at the appropriate times.[9] These paragraphs described encounters and conversations, contained clues, and added to the overall texture of the game. Because programming space was at a premium, it saved on resources to have most of the game's story printed out in a separate manual rather than stored within the game's code itself. The paragraph books also served as a rudimentary form of copy protection; someone playing a copied version of the game would miss out on much of the story and clues necessary to progress. The paragraphs included an unrelated story line[7] about a mission to Mars intended to mislead those who read the paragraphs when not instructed to, and a false set of passwords that would trip up cheaters.


In 2087 (a hundred years after the game's development), generations after the devastation of a global nuclear war in 1998, a distant remnant force of the United States Army called the Desert Rangers is based in the Southwestern United States. A team of Desert Rangers is assigned to investigate a series of disturbances in nearby areas. Throughout the game, the rangers explore the remaining enclaves of human civilization, including a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas.[10]

As the group's investigation deepens, the rangers discover evidence of a larger menace threatening to exterminate what is left of humankind. A pre-war artificial intelligence computer operating from a surviving military facility, Base Cochise, is constructing armies of killer machines and cybernetically modified humans to attack settlements with the help of Irwin Finster, the deranged former commander of the base. Finster has transformed himself into a cyborg under the AI's control. The AI's ultimate goal is to complete Project Darwin, which Finster was in charge of, and replace the world's "flawed" population with genetically pure specimens. With the help from a pre-war android named Max, the player recovers the necessary technology and weapons in order to confront the computer at its base and stop it by making the base's nuclear reactor melt down.


Released after five years of development,[11] Wasteland was originally released for the Apple II, Commodore 64, and IBM compatibles. The IBM version added an additional skill called "Combat Shooting" which could be bought only when a character was first created.

Wasteland was re-released as part of Interplay's 10 Year Anthology: Classic Collection in 1995,[12] and also included in the 1998 Ultimate RPG Archives through Interplay's DragonPlay label.[13] These later bundled releases were missing the original setup program, which allowed the game's maps to be reset, while retaining the player's original team of Rangers. Jeremy Reaban wrote an unofficial (and unsupported) program that emulated this functionality.[14]

On November 12, 2013, the game was re-released for Microsoft Windows and OS X on GOG.com, re-branded as Wasteland 1 - The Original Classic.[15] The next day, the game was also re-released on Steam for the Windows, Mac and Linux.[16] As the game suffered in the re-released version still from a critical timing bug,[17] a fan developed an unofficial patch which was included November 2013 in the official patch 2.[18][19] The patch from April 2014 fixed a Linux-specific bug and added another soundtrack.[20]


Computer Gaming World cited Wasteland's "ease of play, richness of plot, problem solving requirements, skill and task system, and graphic display" as elements of its excellence.[21] The magazine's Scorpia favorably reviewed the game in 1991 and 1993, calling it "really the only decently-designed post-nuke game on the market".[22][23] In 1992 the magazine stated that the game's "classic mix of combat and problem-solving" was the favorite of its readers in 1988, and that "the way in which Wasteland's NPCs related to the player characters, the questions of dealing with moral dillemas, and the treatment of skills set this game apart."[24] In 1994 the magazine mentioned Wasteland as an example of how "older, less sophisticated engines can still play host to a great game".[25] Orson Scott Card gave Wasteland a mixed review in Compute!, commending the science fiction elements and setting, but stating that "mutant bunnies can get boring, too ... This is still a kill-the-monster-and-get-the-treasure game, without the overarching story that makes each Ultima installment meaningful."[26] Another writer for Compute! praised the game, however, citing its non-linear design and multiple puzzle solutions, the vague nature of the goal, and customizable player stats.[27]

Computer Gaming World awarded Wasteland the Adventure Game of the Year award in 1988.[28] The game received the fourth-highest number of votes in a 1990 survey of the magazine's readers' "All-Time Favorites".[29] In 1993 Computer Gaming World added Wasteland to its Hall of Fame,[30] and in 1996, rated it as the ninth best PC video game of all time for introducing the concept of the player's party "acting like the 'real' people."[31] In 2000, Wasteland was ranked as the 24th top PC game of all time by the staff of IGN, who called it "one of the best RPGs to ever grace the PC" and "a truly innovative RPG for its time."[10] According to a retrospective review by Richard Cobbett of Eurogamer in 2012, "even now, it offers a unique RPG world and experience ... a whole fallen civilisation full of puzzles and characters and things to twiddle with, all magically crammed into less than a megabyte of space."[9] In another retrospective article that same year, IGN's Kristan Reed wrote that "time has not been kind to Wasteland, but its core concepts stand firm."[7]


Sequels and spiritual successorEdit

Wasteland was followed in 1990 by a less-successful intended sequel, Fountain of Dreams, set in post-war Florida. At the last moment, however, Electronic Arts decided to not advertise it as a sequel to Wasteland. None of the creative cast from Wasteland worked on Fountain of Dreams. Interplay themselves worked on Meantime, which was based on the Wasteland game engine and its universe but was not a continuation of the story. Coding of Meantime was nearly finished and a beta version was produced, but the game was canceled when the 8-bit computer game market went into decline.

Interplay has described its 1997 game Fallout as the spiritual successor to Wasteland. According to IGN, "Interplay's inability to prise the Wasteland brand name from EA's gnarled fingers actually led to it creating Fallout in the first place."[7] There are Wasteland homage elements in Fallout and Fallout 2 as well.[6][7] All games in the Fallout series are set in the world described by its characters as "Wasteland" (for example, the "Midwest Wasteland" in Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel or the "Capital Wasteland" in Fallout 3). A recruitable character named Tycho in Fallout is described as a Desert Ranger who is a descendant of an original Desert Ranger, who had taught the previous survival skills. A major part of the Fallout universe is the military organization Brotherhood of Steel, whose origins are similar to the Desert Rangers and the Guardians of the Old Order of Wasteland; a group called the Desert Rangers actually appears in Fallout: New Vegas.

Wasteland 2 was developed by Brian Fargo's inXile Entertainment and published on September 19, 2014. The game's production team included the original Wasteland designers Alan Pavlish, Michael A. Stackpole, Ken St. Andre and Liz Danforth, and was crowdfunded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.[citation needed] InXile Entertainment announced on September 28, 2016, that it was crowdfunding on Fig to develop another sequel, Wasteland 3. The game is expected to be released on Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2020.[32][33]


  1. ^ "Limited and signed art print from the grandfather of post apocalyptic RPGs... Wasteland". wasteland.inxile-entertainment.com. inXile Entertainment. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  2. ^ "Wasteland 1: The Original Classic". www.gog.com. GOG. Archived from the original on June 22, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  3. ^ Barton, Matt (February 23, 2007). "Part 2: The Golden Age (1985-1993)". The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. Archived from the original on March 27, 2016. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Nutt, Christian. "Wasteland : Developing an open-world RPG in 1988". Archived from the original on February 7, 2018. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  5. ^ Tringham, Neal Roger (September 4, 2014). Science Fiction Video Games. CRC Press. p. 203. ISBN 9781482203899. Archived from the original on March 9, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Plunkett, Luke (February 17, 2012). "Why People Give a Shit About a 1988 PC Role-Playing Game". Kotaku.com. Gawker Media. Archived from the original on May 28, 2016. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Why Wasteland 2 is Worth Getting Excited About Archived 2012-02-24 at the Wayback Machine, IGN, March 16, 2012
  8. ^ "Commodore 64/128 Wasteland Reference Card" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 26, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Retrospective: Wasteland". Eurogamer. March 25, 2012. Archived from the original on March 28, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "The Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. July 17, 2000. Archived from the original on June 8, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2010.
  11. ^ Barton, Matt (January 23, 2011). "Matt Chat 90: Wasteland and Fallout with Brian Fargo". YouTube. Google. Archived from the original on January 25, 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  12. ^ "Interplay's 10 Year Anthology for DOS (1993)". MobyGames. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  13. ^ "The Ultimate RPG Archives - PC - GameSpy". Uk.pc.gamespy.com. January 31, 1998. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  14. ^ "The Unofficial Wasteland Reset Program". Wasteland.rockdud.net. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  15. ^ "Release: Wasteland 1 - The Original Classic". GOG.com. November 12, 2013. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  16. ^ "Now Available on Steam - Wasteland 1 - The Original Classic". Steam. November 13, 2013. Archived from the original on November 16, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  17. ^ Known Issues FAQ Archived 2015-05-21 at the Wayback Machine on wasteland.inxile-entertainment.com
  18. ^ Brandt, Kasper (November 27, 2013). "Fixing frequent freezing of Wasteland 1 when using mouse". The Gödelian Knot. poizan.dk. Archived from the original on December 1, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013. UPDATE2: This has been incorporated into patch 2. Wasteland (the original) has a problem where it randomly freezes after playing for some time.
  19. ^ Wasteland Patch 2 Archived 2015-05-21 at the Wayback Machine on steamcommunity.com
  20. ^ Patch 3 Released Archived 2015-05-21 at the Wayback Machine on Steam, April 2014
  21. ^ Kritzen, William (May 1988). "Wasted in the Wasteland". Computer Gaming World. pp. 28–29. Archived from the original on April 5, 2016.
  22. ^ Scorpia (October 1991). "C*R*P*G*S / Computer Role-Playing Game Survey". Computer Gaming World. p. 16. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
  23. ^ Scorpia (October 1993). "Scorpia's Magic Scroll Of Games". Computer Gaming World. pp. 34–50. Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  24. ^ Sipe, Russell (November 1992). "3900 Games Later..." Computer Gaming World. p. 8. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  25. ^ Yee, Bernie (April 1994). "Too Much, Two Late". Computer Gaming World. pp. 62, 64. Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  26. ^ Card, Orson Scott (June 1989). "Light-years and Lasers / Science Fiction Inside Your Computer". Compute!. p. 29. Archived from the original on March 10, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  27. ^ Trunzo, James V. (November 1988). "Wasteland". Compute!. p. 78. Archived from the original on March 20, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  28. ^ "Computer Gaming World's 1988 Game of the Year Awards". Computer Gaming World. October 1988. p. 54.
  29. ^ "CGW Readers Select All-Time Favorites". Computer Gaming World. January 1990. p. 64. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  30. ^ "Induction Ceremony!". Computer Gaming World. February 1993. p. 157. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  31. ^ "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Archived from the original on April 8, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  32. ^ Dornbush, Jonathon (September 28, 2016). "Wasteland 3 announced, will include co-op". IGN. Ziff Davis, LLC. Archived from the original on September 28, 2016. Retrieved September 28, 2016. Wasteland 2 developer InXile Games has announced a sequel to the 2014 RPG, Wasteland 3, and the developer is using Fig to raise funds for the game. The campaign will launch on Fig on October 5 with a total goal of $2.75 million and a planned release on Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  33. ^ Brown, Fraser (June 12, 2019). "Wasteland 3 is coming next spring". PC Gamer. Retrieved June 24, 2019.

External linksEdit