Game Review: The Waste Land

When indie game developers go retro, they tend to either create a Rogue-like, a basic side-scroller, or a “Metroidvania.” Metroidvania is a subgenre of side-scrolling action-adventure games that employ the mechanics of the Metroid and Castlevania series. Lone developer Michele Caletti (AKA Fledermaus) has taken inspiration from 80’s world design and the poet T.S. Elliot to create The Waste Land.

Waste Land Fledermaus The Waste Land post intro credits

In The Waste Land, players become a king who has made a grievous error. King Zyron III has to go on a quest to repair the damage he has done, guided by a mysterious figure’s insight. Before everything goes wrong, there’s a tutorial for the basic weapons and power-ups you need to progress. This is where the Metroidvania level design becomes important. Certain weapons and power-ups make the difference between the king being stuck and him carrying forward.

The Waste Land special item The Waste Land a mysterious guide The Waste Land a villager

Rocks may be blocking your path, for example, so you need something strong enough to blast through. Or you may need an item that allows you to reach or walk across certain territory. Some items may make your time easier against, say, giant, fire-breathing rats. Yes, the monsters and creatures go from realistic woodland denizens to enormous nightmares. While fighting these enemies, I knew for sure that Caletti has captured the feel of classic action-adventure games. The swarming of winged insects, the dread felt from slimy tendrils dangling above you, bats out for your blood- it is a pitch perfect retro reminiscence.

The Waste Land map  The Waste Land killed creature The Waste Land falls area


As someone who lived through the 8 bit era, I can enjoy playing a game like this. That is not to say that The Waste Land is perfect. This game is maybe a bit too retro, at least when we are discussing options. I’m fine with the save point system, but I would still like modern conveniences to be included in a retro-style game. The music, while fine, is limited. You will hear much of the same tune throughout, and it might lead you to forgo listening to any sound at all. Not that you can choose to turn off the music, because the options menu has no change of volume, display, etc. Also, although it’s a minor shortcoming, screenshots don’t even work  correctly. I know that The Waste Land team of less than a handful of people, but I hope that there is at least time down the line to update and refine things under the hood. They have Steam achievements and trading cards! I am a spoiled 2014 gamer, but other retro games allow me the trappings of the current day. Don’t cheat me out of my tweaking!


Waste Land TS Elliot One Waste Land credit

The Waste Land has learned well from the classics. It is challenging, beautiful, and it doesn’t have any bugs, to my knowledge. Retro game nuts will have a great time with it, and those who’ve never played 8 bit games will learn just how trying a time their elders had with the open world games of yesteryear. The Waste Land is out now on Steam, for $9.99/£6.16/7.72. You can go there, or on the Digital Tribe Games website to learn more about The Waste Land.

Rating: 4.5/5

Reviewer: Vichus Smith


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