I really wanted to make jokes about how WASTED is a wasted endeavour for developer Mr. Podunkian. Or to say things like "was the developer wasted while making this?"
The sad truth is, WASTED is actually pretty good. (I say sad, it's not actually sad.) While it's not breaking any rules, or doing anything crazy and new, WASTED is a fun little game with a few quirks; both good and bad.
The game is set in a post-apocalypse where nuclear war has wiped out all of the intelligent people, and the survivors are dumb due to radiation. The cause, Booze, is also the fuel of the land; and toilet paper (TP) is the new form of currency. There is a good reason for TP being as good as money -- because of the radiation, everyone has the runs.
Yep, childish humor is the name of the day, as WASTED is littered with both intelligent jokes and some very childish ones. As someone who isn't really impressed by toilet humor, it actually works rather well in the WASTED.
You play as a Waster, the least braindead survivor in the Wastes. Zombies do make an appearance, and they explode when they die. WASTED is a roguelike with RPG and dungeon crawler elements, where you scavenge for Booze, guns, armor, and radioactive buffs. Down a bottle of Booze, and you'll get a banging hangover, plus a mutation which grants you extra resistance to damage, speed, strength, or damage output. To get these, you must take on a cooler run, which involves going deep underground into a cooler.
Combat gives you a surprising number of options with melee, guns, or stealth. Take a DUZI (WASTEDs version of an UZI) and breeze through ammo, but also kill rather quickly -- killing is made a duzi. You can also take the longer range approach with rifles, or be a dumb John Wick and use pistols. If you prefer looking at your prey directly in the eyes, take a knife, baseball bat, or your fists and hit things. Wind up for the most powerful of hits, or spam attack to get fast but weak hits in -- you can even break down locked doors with explosions, blunt force, or by tinkering with them (lock picking).
The final option is to make your enemies feel stupid -- which is hard to do with enemies this dumb -- and ninja it up. The stealth feels a lot like that in Skyrim or Fallout 4, where you have a hidden meter and attacks on unaware enemies nets you a damage bonus. If the attack doesn't instakill your target, you become detected -- just like in BethSofts' most lucrative franchises -- and every enemy in the immediate area attacks. Winding up your melee attacks is a nice touch, shooting works perfectly well. But in spite of these touches, the combat isn't a walk in the park. So you will die.
Cell Shading has kept some games from looking like crap years later, with Borderlands being the game which came to mind as soon as I was shunted into the Wastes. WASTED screams that it was influenced by Borderlands, albeit with a lower poly count. From the crazy characters, to the art style, even the slightly dodgy AI -- which as everyone is so stupid, it actually works. If a random weapon generator were to be added to WASTED, I would call it a roguelike Borderlands with less RPG elements. But I don't tend to like dungeon crawlers, as they boil down to 'get the biggest number and win' unfortunately WASTED is no exception to this rule.
The inventory interface reminds me of both Borderlands and The Elder Scrolls (TES)/Fallout games, with computer screens which feel Fallout inspired, to the multiscreen inventory feel of Borderlands, and the simple swapping out of what you are wearing of TES, WASTED should be a game I like.
But, being the loot-heavy, number-driven, decision-making dungeon crawler this game is, I don't see myself playing it more. That's not to say WASTED is a bad game, it does its thing very well -- just without doing anything new.
When I think of small budget games, I often think that the voice acting will be serviceable at best. WASTED actually does a really good job with both the writing and voice acting. While some characters are very "so like, totally, right, like this is like very like annoying right?" Others speak very slowly, others gruffly, or nasally. There is a range of cardboard performances and eccentric characters, but each one works very well in the game. You as the protagonist are a voiceless character, though -- think Skyrim/Fallout 3 style, where you have dialogue options but are not voiced.
Trade TP for armor, weapons, ammo, or consumables, and shopkeepers will talk to you and fill in the backstory. One of the lines which sticks in my head is "we will split the profit, 50, 50, 50 between us 3." While WASTED isn't The Witcher 3 level well-written, it has some very good lines of dialogue. It does exactly the job it needs to do, without being terrible. However, some dialogue did go on for a bit too long.
The roguelike aspect boils down to random appearances and different names, with enemy and weapon spawns changing. Each time you die, you wander across a shack -- the player's house -- and the name of the previous occupant falls off while your new name is stamped on the top. It's a nice touch, which I didn't expect the first time.
You have quests, which again I didn't expect, but the roguelike nature makes these feel repetitive. If you complete 3 quests, and die on the 4th, you become a new character. All of mine generated as female for some reason, which has no real effect on anything. If you then get a brilliant run and complete 7 or 8 quests, but die on the 9th, you'll have to do those first three quests again as another character. If you die, you do everything again. I feel like there needed to be some more quest randomization to cut down on the repetition, but unfortunately I think the budget made this impossible. If a larger budget were thrown at this concept, I think it could really work.
It's unfortunate that the dungeon crawling aspects don't appeal to me. There are so many lovely touches in this game -- from heavily armored, and lethal enemies hunting you down in the Coolers, to delivery boxes which serve as global storage containers. WASTED is a solid game. I wish I liked this type of game more, but in terms of performance, stability, and even moment-to-moment gameplay this is a good game.
While WASTED doesn't do anything new or redefining for its genre, it has wonderfully surprising touches and some funny dialogue. It's definitely worth a look at if you are into this sort of game.
WASTED is out now on Steam.
[Note: Publisher Adult Swim Games provided a copy of this game for review purposes.]