An amazingly inventive and detailed game that still manages to stun me when I play it.
Wasteland, seemingly, isn't too special when you first look at it - lots of guns. Radiation. Funky monsters and robots to slow you down. Like Bard's Tale after the Evil Wizard pushes the Big Red Button. So what IS it about Wasteland that makes it a game that I still get urges to play, even after beating it 5 times?
A big aspect is the setting. Even with outdated graphics, the setting sets one's imagination aflame, using familiar elements from life and including them in the game, but overlaying the horror of nuclear war on top. While some of the darker elements aren't as evident, it's still very obvious throughout the game that there is a detailed, thoughtful, and even meaningful post-apocalyptic theme everywhere.
Another element that makes Wasteland such a great game is the character development system. Most RPGs have a player select a class for a party member - but what IS a class? Does it let YOU role-play? No, the class tells you what and how to role-play. Does it enhance the game? Perhaps, but once the class is defined there's no real development OF the character - A level 1 knight has the same desires, goals, and value systems as a level 18 knight. Wasteland uses a skill and attribute based system, periodically giving a character 'points' to use on attributes and skills, as well as having skills increase through use. But moreover, the character development doesn't stop when you use up the points - many places in Wasteland allow a character to separate from the rest of the party and engage in some solo activity - maybe hooking up with a prostitute, or venturing into a cat-and-mouse game within the mind of an android. Stuff like this builds the character individually, and thus, the party. By the end of the game, I look at my characters and not only see what they are (level 20 Corporals, demolitions dude, charismatic leader, tech expert...) but what they went through... their individual victories and tribulations. This makes for a very powerful gaming experience.
In other areas, Wasteland does quite well. Graphics are average to outstanding. The play balance is nearly perfect - the advancement from one area prepares you quite well for the next, neither too hard nor to easy. Not many sounds are included, fortunately they are simple and do not get repetative. Overall, even without the character development, Wasteland is just plain fun.
With such a positive personal slant on Wasteland, it's hard to define problems with it. In some places, the appearance of enemies is too 'generated' (they pop up out of nowhere, Bard's Tale style) and are seemingly endless. Some enemies and situations are a little too 'weird', but Wasteland isn't supposed to be about realism. Some plot elements are a little cliche, but most are handled quite well.
The Bottom Line
Wasteland is an amazing ROLE-playing game. The setting is thorough and detailed, your characters can get into all sorts of trouble, as individuals and as a party. This makes Wasteland a unique experience every time. A typical moment in Wasteland often has me saying "Kick ASS!" either from a cool plot twist, unique enemy, or unique item. Playing Wasteland works extremely well on many levels. The only way I can think of that one wouldn't like Wasteland is if one demands the game hand the player exactly what happens - i.e., if one plays a game to read a story, but hates to be curious about what just would happen if, say, I really ticked those mutant gangsters off with plastic explosive in their vault...