Wasteland 2 Survival Guide: Tips for rookie Desert Rangers

Wasteland 2 is a big, in-depth game with a whole lot of skills, attributes, mechanics, options, and decisions. It’s the sort of thing that might well paralyse those who haven’t played things like Fallout, or the original Wasteland. Hardened RPG players will largely be fine, but those who’re coming to this sort of thing fairly fresh? Well, I thought they might want help.

Hence this guide, offering some very simple tips for starting off. There’s a brief discussion of what stats and abilities might come in useful early and which ones you can probably ignore for a little while, either because early companion characters will have levels in them or because you simply won’t need them for awhile. There’s some talk about a few simple points you shouldn’t overlook, the early major decision you’ll be forced to make, a particular quest that had me stumped for awhile, and a few other little tips that will hopefully make your first few hours a little bit easier.

With that in mind, this obviously contains a few spoilers for the first couple of hours of play. This really isn’t anything major (indeed, these are the same “spoilers” that were in Peter’s preview of the game) and the game is long enough that the first couple of hours really are just the very beginning, but if you want to go in completely fresh then you might want to avoid reading this until you’ve spent a little time wandering the wastes on your own.

Wasteland 2 - 11
You, too, can create horrifying weirdos with which to wander the wastes.

A touch of character

Character creation is the first area likely to make you go “huh-buh-wuh,” particularly when you see the plethora of attributes, abilities, and proficiencies available. I’ve got some bad news for you: practically everything is useful.

At the very least, you’re going to want a starting team with a mix of skills. Leadership is useful both for giving general aiming bonuses to nearby allies, and for preventing your non-created allies from doing whatever they want instead of following your orders, so having someone with a point in that isn’t a bad idea. Lockpicking, safecracking, and toaster repair (yes, really) all let you open different types of locked container that you’ll find in the wastes; toasters are the rarest of the lot but generally have unique loot, so it’s not a bad idea to chuck these skills onto somebody. Demolitions and Perception are also incredibly helpful, being that one will let you spot locks/alarms/traps/mines, and the other will let you disarm traps and mines.

And, obviously, you want someone to act as a medic, because that’s really the only way of healing up in the field. It’s not a bad idea to have a couple of people with a point in Surgeon, too; if your only person with points in that skill drops to zero HP, you need someone else who can bring them back to consciousness.

Wasteland 2 - 08
Just say yes. Seriously. She’s level 14, and has more health than the rest of your party combined.

All of which is probably telling you stuff you already know. So here’s something a little more useful: right at the start of the game, the starting area contains an experienced character who’ll offer to join you. She’s got a solid array of skills and is a vastly higher level than you, and will stick around for a rather long time. As such, if you’ve got her with you, you don’t need to worry too much about Outdoorsman, Hard-Ass, and Brute Force for the foreseeable future.

If it helps, you probably won’t need the ability to disable alarms for quite some time, and Animal Whisperer can also be skipped for awhile. You can use this at the start to get a goat to follow you (giving the Animal Whisperer a bonus to Awareness until the goat dies, if I remember rightly) but it’s not something you urgently need.

In terms of stats… actually, I don’t have much to suggest about this, but I will say that more action points is really great. Whopping up Coordination helps out with this a lot, particularly on a character focusing on ranged weapons, and it’s not a bad idea to give someone else high Strength and use them as a pack-mule. If you really can’t decide, Intelligence is a good place to put a few points just because of the extra skill points it’ll earn you every time you level up. In short: yeah, most of these are useful too, although if you’re looking for stats to avoid you can probably stay away from Luck and Charisma on most characters.

Finally: I haven’t seen nationality or smoking make any difference to the game, so far, barring that choosing a brand of cigarettes means the character starts with a pack of those cigarettes in their inventory.

Wasteland 2 - 10
This is the screen that will make min-maxers cry, both with delight, and with horror at the realisation that they’re not going to actually start playing Wasteland 2 for another six hours.

Weapon of choice

Speaking of action points, the other tough part of character creation is choosing what weapons your team specialises in. You are going to need weapons – unless there’s something I’ve missed, there’s no real “stealth” skill and plenty of combat, so you can’t necessarily go the Fallout or Planescape: Torment route of going around without weapons and sneaking or talking past fights. Plenty are avoidable through these methods, but you’re the law, and you’re going to need to crack some skulls.

Excellently, each weapon fits a very different niche. Assault rifles are the “standard”, being pretty accurate and doing pretty good damage. Pistols, sub-machine guns, and shotguns are all fairly close-range; shotguns do damage in a cone, while pistols require very few action points to effectively use, and sub-machine guns dish out a lot of damage but chew through your ammo. Again: having people specialised in different weapons isn’t a bad idea, although I’ve generally found assault rifles to be the best general option. Decent range, decent damage, decent accuracy, multiple fire modes, and ammo is relatively common and/or cheap.

My starting lineup was one person with assault rifles, one person with sniper rifles and pistols, one person with melee and heavy weapons (later switched over to sub-machine guns), and one with shotguns. This was then followed up by companions specialising in assault rifles, sniping, and melee, giving me a relatively balanced combat line-up.

Also, everyone can throw explosives with pinpoint accuracy, so don’t worry too much about that.

Wasteland 2 - 07
That thing highlighted in green? That’s a shovel. PICK IT UP.

Shoveling on

Right, so you’ve assembled a team that can handle most situations in and out of combat. First things first: pick up the damn shovel.

Directly in front of where you start, there is a shovel (and pressing Z highlights everything usable on screen, in case you can’t see it). Take it. With a few points in Perception you’ll regularly spot little mounds on the ground where something has been buried; using the shovel from your inventory lets you dig up whatever’s contained within, which can normally be sold for a bit of cash. It’s not much, but it adds up, and this is an incredibly common source of loot, so take the damn shovel. Assign it to a hotkey (by right-clicking on the hotkey bar). Get some loot.

You can also use this to dig up graves, but shh. I didn’t tell you that. You definitely won’t find some half-decent loot and at least one really solid joke by doing that.

Wasteland 2 - 02
Remember, Rangers: whatever choice you make is the wrong one, according to everyone you speak to afterwards.

Decisions, decisions

One of the very first quests you’ll embark on forces you to choose between two distress calls: one in Ag Center, one in Highpool. You can only save one of these towns. You’ll still have to go to the other one for the sake of your main quest, but it’ll be a deserted shell of a place with no shops, very few survivors, and not much to do.

Personally, I did Highpool. My colleague Peter Parrish, when previewing Wasteland 2, did Ag Center. He told me it was quite annoying. I’ve got to be honest, though: Highpool has a few lows itself, most notably a sewer maze (sort of) involving open and closing doors remotely. It’s not bad, exactly, but it is a little long.

I can’t tell you which is the better decision (and the internet seems pretty divided, but people seemed to approve more of Ag Center back in Early Access), but Highpool does have a pretty good shop, a couple of okay-ish quests, and a companion character with a lot of points in Outdoorsman, Sniping, and Animal Whisperer. So many points in Outdoorsman, in fact, that thus far I don’t think I’ve ever had a world map encounter I haven’t wanted. The choice is yours, though I’m quite happy to have chosen Highpool – it’s in a fairly central location for your early quests, and it offers free healing. It’s probably not a choice worth agonising over too much, though.

From what I’ve seen, it looks like you’ll be making a lot more painful decisions than just this. Get used to it.

Wasteland 2 - 02-2
Are you seeing this message? Then read on.

Feeling low in Highpool

If you do opt for Highpool, then there are a couple of things likely to stump you. First: do I really have to go along that arduous journey to the crane, and then raise that up, and then walk into the town every time I want to go there or leave? Second: how the bloody hell do I get the mayoral election going?

Both of these are tied together, because getting Kate Preston elected opens up a much faster path to and from the town itself. To actually get enough people on-side for her to start the election, you’ll need to do basically every quest in town.

If you think you have done basically every quest in town but still can’t get the election rolling, there is one very, very easy thing to miss. In the town hall building at the very far end of Highpool, you’ll find both a trader and a doctor. Despite the doctor declining your help, what you have to do is have your party Surgeon heal up the people lying on the hospital beds.

If you don’t have at least three points in Surgeon you may perform a bit of accidental euthanasia, so you might want to save first or come back later, but chances are good that – if everyone in town seem to love you, but Kate still won’t start the election – this is what’s missing. There’s also one quest outside of the town itself which you may have missed, but I don’t think that affects the election, instead simply opening up another store.

Getting Kate elected as mayor results in her opening a little sewer door next to the crane, and going through this plonks you right next to the world map exit. Bingo: fast travel between Highpool and the map exit.

Wasteland 2 - 01-2
Not that sort of gun control, but… okay, yes, being able to aptly control your guns in a firefight helps too.

The importance of gun control

Once you’ve started to get settled into the world proper, you’re probably itching to earn a bit of cash. The best place to do this, honestly, is the Ranger Citadel, which you can access once you’ve dealt with both Highpool and Ag Center.

Most of the shopkeepers at the Citadel will happily trade certain items for huge stacks of cash. The quartermaster will trade “weapon makings” (read: broken weapon parts, acquired by chance on stripping down armaments with Weaponsmithing) and these are a very, very easy way to make money. If you don’t get a weapon mod when you pull apart a weapon, you’ll instead end up with maybe five weapon parts, each of which he’ll buy for around $15. This is generally more cost-effective (and carry weight-effective) than selling the weapon itself, particularly considering the number of poorly-equipped raiders you’ll fight. Doesn’t matter whether you’re selling parts from a high-end plasma rifle or a crappy revolver. They all go for the same price.

Other items to keep an eye out for are painkillers (for the doctor) and, uh, shit (for the explosives guy). Don’t forget that you can also hand over old relics to the museum, give map data to the cartographer, and tell a guy in the mess hall about your new companions to get additional bonuses, either to cash or experience.

The shops in the Citadel seem to update pretty regularly, and it shouldn’t be too long before you can get some half-decent armour and weapons and a nice stash of ammo – particularly if you strip down every spare blade, cudgel, and gun you find.

Wasteland 2 - 05
That little box just below and to the left of the words “Radiation Protection”? That’s the one.

Rads, rads, go away

By this time you’ll likely have bumped into a number of irradiated areas, which block you off from the rest of the world. Walking through them results in everyone in your party taking damage (2x the radiation level of the area every couple of steps, from what I can tell) and this is obviously a Bad Thing.

The way to survive this is to find yourself some radiation suits. Getting some half-decent suits is actually one of the major early quests, so I’m not going to tell you how to do that, but if you fancy doing some early exploring you can likely buy a cheap one from the Citadel quartermaster or the shop outside the Citadel. The better the quality of suit, the higher the level of radiation you can stroll through without taking damage, and do note that you only need one suit for the entire party. Simple!

Unfortunately, I’m also simple, and I couldn’t work out how to equip them. They’re listed as a quest item and they have no right-click options, so I assumed my party automatically got the benefit. I assumed wrong.

On the character sheet that lists the clothing, armour, and weapons you have equipped, one of the equipment bars is “Party” – that’s where your water canteen is located, in case you can’t quite see it. Directly next to the canteen is another empty little box. This is where the radiation suits go.

You can’t accidentally take them off or downgrade them, so once you’ve put a suit in there you’re basically good to start strolling around the lower-level hot zones.

Wasteland 2 - 03-2
If only I’d saved some points for levelling Surgeon before attempting surgery. Oh well! On the plus side, this screen shows where the Highpool people who need healing are hiding.

Healing hurts

One last little tip: you probably don’t need to spend a fortune on healing items, for two reasons. The first is that you will find loads of the bloody things dotted around, from antivenom to suture kits. The other is that each character gets their health back every time they level.

Note: that’s every time they level up, not every time they can level up. You regain the health when you actually call Ranger HQ, so if someone’s on full health and you don’t urgently need those new skill points, you can actually not phone home for a little while. Maybe make them set off a few traps, or go for a stroll through a minefield, and then call back to base to get your promotion and your free health refill. This does also mean that, if a character is low on health but about to gain a level, you can save yourself a few medical kits by keeping them safe and getting a bit more XP to bring them back to combat readiness.

By the same token, unless you’re roleplaying you shouldn’t feel the need to instantly spend all of your skill points. If you’ve got someone specialising in Safecracking, Lockpicking, and Demolitions, and you’ve got enough points to raise one skill… don’t raise any of them. Wait and see what the next challenging skill check is, and then raise that. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from hoarding your points until you actually need them, so take advantage of it.

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  • Tim McDonald

    Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he’s willing to admit. He’s written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion – in all its various incarnations – for over a decade. When not writing things about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning some really terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He’s also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man’s only professional games journalist.

    • Anthony

      Awesome tips. The is very well written and very useful tips for those who are new to Wasteland type of game.
      Thanks.

    • kemazon

      Just as a small note on the side.

      The higher the difficulty level, the less health regained upon leveling up.

      Anyone who plays lower than Ranger difficulty is not ready for outside world.

    • Randall

      Good advices there. Already completed the AG Center and Highpool. Did AG first and it was pretty interesting. Foes not dropping ammo was pretty bad though.

      One question: is animal whisperer skill a must or it can be skipped with no worries?

    • fitri

      Already completed the AG Center and Highpool. Did AG first and it was pretty interesting. Foes not dropping ammo was pretty bad though. download games

    • Kuildeous

      Thanks for a spoiler-free guide. I remember the original Wasteland where skill points were such a pain. Looks kind of the same here. Of course, in the first one, you could just reroll the character until you cheesed out Intelligence. I’m sure that isn’t possible
      in 2.

      A couple of questions. Do skills progress on their own through usage, or is it entirely point driven? It sounds like the latter.

      Also, I’m considering starting a group with a variety of gun types so that I can make the best use of the ammo I find. If I give everyone Assault Weapons, for example, then I would have to sell any pistol rounds I find to keep myself stocked up. Does diversifying your armaments work?

    • Kecaw

      As a person that knocked 85h in the game the answe is actually no, my main 3 have assault weapons and 1 is a sniper ( i have on a CNPC energy weapon that she is rocking now but early? it was pistols for her) and the bullets for the assaults is quite easy to find/buy , it dosnt chew throw much of ammo and you can quite easy make it so that everyone that uses them has 100 ammon in reserve on them. And dose diverifying works? well you can save more ammo that way, but there are traders with ammo around the corner like 80% of the time, the only time you will have ammo problem is at the begining of the game when you hit AG or High after it? just run to the citadel to stock up on the goodies ( since then you will have around 1k in scrap) and its a smooth flow from that point.