WASTELAND / Electronic Arts / PC
If EA hadn't been such a big butt about squatting on IP they had no intention of using, the Fallout series might be known to us today as Wasteland instead. Co-designer Brian Fargo went on to become lead designer of Fallout (after he had moved on to Interplay/Black Isle) and made it as spiritually consistent as he could legally get away with.
So it's set hundreds of years after a nuclear war, in an apocalyptic U.S. only sparsely populated with settlements and with a lot of mutant creatures and bandit assholes roaming around making life tiresome for everyone. It doesn't really have the retro-futuristic kitsch that Fallout would end up having, but it does share Fallout's love of gory combat deaths. Only here it's in florid prose instead of graphics because, y'know, mid-80s computer games.
Not to complain about the graphics, as it actually has some pretty cool character and monster portraits that are fairly well-detailed and animated for the time. It's sort of a hybrid of Ultima's overworld/town map style with the combat of the pre-Gold Box SSI RPGs of the 80s. Unfortunately, monster portraits are about the only thing that hold up at all well here graphically.
The graphics are a bit of a barrier to the modern player coming back to this one, but the gameplay even more so. Wasteland does have an interesting and unique world to explore in the vein of Fallout, and even some pretty good characters and writing, but it's locked off behind absolute heaps of tedious, entirely text-based combat. A rather obtuse inventory system that makes it needlessly hard to use items or figure out who can equip new weapons doesn't help anything either. Oh, and its one of those games that came packed with a manual that describes the quests - it periodically tells you to turn to a certain page to learn what's going on rather than just give you in-game text.
Wasteland is another case of fun and innovative back in its day, but kind of insufferable to try to play now. It doesn't deserve a bad rating, but you'd probably be better off just skipping straight to Fallout or Wasteland 2.