Badlands is heavily influenced by the computer games Fallout (Interplay Entertainment) and X-COM (MicroProse), deriving its setting from Fallout and its mechanics from X-COM. The game is set in the post-apocalyptic USA along the California-Nevada border. Characters exist in a largely lawless frontier that is full of environmental hazards and nefarious actors.
Characters have five attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Agility, and Constitution), one class (Soldier, Survivalist, Medic, Rogue, Mechanic, or Scientist), and several skills. Characters gain experience and levels. Combat occurs in fairly traditional rounds, with initiative, armor class, and damage rolls. A streamlined combat round for "Cannon Fodder" is provided. Characters depend heavily on equipment and especially a wide variety of weapons.
The "Version 1.1" edition of the game varies from the "Version 1.0.1" edition in minor corrections, copy editing, and formatting. Some minor organizational changes were also made.