Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday

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Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday
Countdown-to-doomsday-cover.jpg
Amiga Cover art
Developer(s) Strategic Simulations
Publisher(s) Strategic Simulations
Series Gold Box Edit this on Wikidata
Engine Gold Box
Platform(s) Amiga, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Sega Genesis
Release 1990
Genre(s) Tactical role-playing
Mode(s) Single player

Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday is a role-playing video game released by Strategic Simulations in 1990, set in the Buck Rogers XXVC game setting.

Versions of the game were sold for the MS-DOS, Sega Genesis, Commodore 64, and the Amiga. Matrix Cubed is a sequel to Countdown to Doomsday; it came out in 1992.

Description[edit]

At the beginning of the game the player creates a party of six characters from a choice of five classes (Rocketjock, Warrior, Medic, Rogue, and Engineer) and six races (Human, Desert Runner, Tinker, Venusian, Martian, and Mercurian).

The game has five view modes:

  • Solar System View: The map shows the positions on the inner planets and major asteroids from an "overhead" perspective. The player's spaceship can be moved around in relation to the planets. Ship-to-ship combat is started from this view.
  • Overworld view: This is another overhead view, where the player can move the party around on the surface of a planet. Land combat can be started from this view.
  • Adventuring view: This is a 3D view that shows the party's environment form their perspective. Land combat can be started from this view.
  • Land Combat: This is an overhead isometric view of the area that the party is in. Individual characters, NPCs, and enemies are displayed in scale.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: The player sees the enemy space ship. Controls are limited to menus at the bottom of the screen.

Plot[edit]

The game centers around a longstanding war between Earth and Mars, more specifically between two organizations, the Earth-based New Earth Organization (NEO), and the Mars-based Russo-American Mercantile (RAM). The militaristic and dictatorial RAM, backed by a powerful army of genetically engineered soldiers, has been laying siege to Earth for years. NEO, effectively an organized resistance movement, is forced to operate out of secret bases on the surface of Earth and in orbit in its uphill battle for human freedom.

The game begins as the player-created party joins the ranks of a desperate NEO. After an introductory briefing, the NEO facility is discovered and attacked by RAM rocketships and troop transports. The actual gameplay begins and the player's first goal is to repel the RAM attack. During this first level of play, NEO NPCs join the party during combat with the RAM invaders. When the player successfully locates and activates the anti-aircraft defenses of the NEO base, the RAM attack is finally driven back.

Now considered valuable NEO operatives, the party is summoned to NEO's headquarters, a hidden space station in Earth orbit called Salvation III. Disguised as space junk, Salvation manages to elude RAM detection and serves as the NEO headquarters. For their first mission as a discrete unit, the party is assigned a small shuttlepod and instructed to sweep the nearby area. During the patrol, a derelict spacecraft is discovered and the party is ordered to board and investigate. Upon boarding, the airlock malfunctions and the party's pod disengages the derelict and drifts away, leaving them stranded on the seemingly abandoned spacecraft. Through a search of the derelict, the party realizes that the previous crew had been killed by an infectious brain parasite. The ship is also infested with violent, genetically engineered creatures which randomly (but consistently) attack the party. As the time spent on the derelict grows, members of the party begin to show symptoms of parasitic infection which, if left untreated, causes the infected to go berserk and attack other party members. Additionally, the scavenging creatures begin to evolve into larger (and more powerful) forms. The sole survivor of the ship's original crew, an artificial intelligence (or DP, digital personality) agent named Scot.DOS living in the ship's computers, assists the party in subduing the monsters by flooding the ship with argon gas, which is toxic to the gennies. The infected team members can also be cured with Scot's help—provided they have not already become psychotic. After the brief reprieve, Scot.DOS informs the team that one of the gennies has managed to survive the gas attack and is attempting to initiate a self-destruct sequence. The situation climaxes as the party races up an elevator shaft and combats the last surviving gennie—which has evolved into a humanoid form and is equipped with a relatively heavy armament—and disables the destruct mechanism. With the infection and gennie threats aboard the derelict removed, the party is able to return to Salvation with the salvaged Maelstrom Rider for debriefing and to enjoy the spoils of a mission accomplished.

At this point in the game, for the first time, the solar system view is used, allowing the player to travel to any of the inner planets or asteroids. While exploring space, the player's ship occasionally encounters other vessels, which by and large are hostile. The player may encounter vessels from the RAM navy, but also occasionally meets space pirates and Mercurians. Enemy vessels may be destroyed in space, or boarded for ground combat.

The party is given some leads pointing them towards the Ceres asteroid in the asteroid belt that encompasses the inner solar system planets featured in the game. A RAM base on the asteroid is awaiting the arrival of the pirate "Talon", who has been sent to rescue the staff from the base due to a series of experimental gennies that have escaped and overrun the base. The team can bluff their way in and claim to have been sent on Talons behalf. In the depths of the base the team discovers that the scientists were attempting to replicate the ECG's first encountered upon the Maelstrom Rider, in addition to working on an unusually powerful laser.

After their mission on Ceres, the party's ship is unavoidably crippled, boarded, and captured by space pirates. Conveniently, the party meets another prisoner, the titular Buck Rogers and manage to overthrow their captors. Buck then returns with the party to Salvation and assists them in their escape (largely through advice and direction).

Following this, the player is sent on a mission to Mars itself, to infiltrate the RAM base, Gradivus Mons. On Mars, the player meets the Desert Runners, a slender, athletic, warrior-like people who have been genetically engineered with canine and feline attributes in order to more easily adapt to the Martian desert environment, and live without the assistance of most technology. Prior to the meeting, the player becomes aware of an impending RAM attack on the natives' city, but is unable to earn their trust before the attack begins. In a parallel to the beginning of the game, the party must repel the RAM attack, and fights alongside Desert Runner NPCs in combat. The RAM troops engaged in this battle are much tougher (and more numerous) than the NEO attack at the beginning of the game, and growing enemy numbers begin to become a theme of the game. The party earns the trust and respect of the Desert Runners, and their leader, Tuskon, helps the party infiltrate Gradivus Mons and destroy the Doomsday Laser prototype along with the entire base.

Clues uncovered on Mars then lead the team to Venus where RAM has constructed another base and convinced the local population of Lowlanders, (genetically modified humans who can exist on the surface of Venus without specialised equipment and who are responsible for the production of Gravitol), to construct components for a super weapon. The player finds that the Lowlander village has been destroyed by RAM troops and only a few Lowlanders survive who assist the team in infiltrating the base and halting further attacks on the Lowlander population.

Ultimately, the party discovers RAM, along with the corrupt Mercurian government, is building its ultimate weapon, the eponymous Doomsday Laser, in orbit of the planet Mercury with aspirations of destroying Earth entirely. After managing to land on Mariposa Three, an orbital city near Mercury, the party makes its way through a military complex and fights through a series of increasingly difficult battles. Finally finding themselves at the command center for the Doomsday Laser itself, the members of the party successfully destroy the weapon and manage to escape the massive explosion. The defeat severely damages RAM's ability to make war with Earth. NEO is, for the moment, victorious.

Differences between versions[edit]

Most versions of the game display the Adventuring view from the point of view of the party (i.e. the display is first-person), and have a simple text menu for spaceports.

The Sega Genesis version of the game shows the Adventuring view as an isometric view of the area indicating the characters behind the party leader (i.e. the display is third-person), and uses the Adventuring view in spaceports. Most of the text is replaced by icons.

The available races and classes are also more limited on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version. The player may only select from Human, Desert Runner, and Tinker as races, and may select only Warrior, Rocketjock, Medic, or Rogue as a character class. There are also significantly fewer skills and equipment types available to players as compared to the PC version. In addition to this there is a reduced selection of weapons and ammunition is no longer required for weapons.

There are only two known versions for MS-DOS:

OS Version Language
MS-DOS V1.00 Turbo Pascal 5.5 (exepacked)
MS-DOS V1.3 Turbo Pascal 5.5 (exepacked)

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
MegaTech 91%[1]
Mean Machines 91%[2]

SSI sold 51,528 copies of Countdown to Doomsday.[3] At the time, Brian Walker of Strategy Plus wrote that the game "sold like there was no tomorrow", despite receiving "some pretty indifferent reviews".[4]

Scorpia of Computer Gaming World in 1991 called the story "very satisfying" and the game "fun to play". She concluded that Buck Rogers was "good, light adventuring and a nice change of pace from the fantasy line".[5] In 1993, she called it "a surprisingly enjoyable little game" and "a quick-playing game, but fun nonetheless".[6] In 1991, Dragon gave the game 4 out of 5 stars.[7]

Strategy Plus's Theo Clarke found Countdown to Doomsday's engine and mechanics dated, noting that its graphics, limited on-screen text and statistics-heavy gameplay were "far behind" the advances of Ultima VI and other games. He argued that its literal interpretation of AD&D mechanics was "sluggish and artificial", and hoped that the game would spawn a Buck Rogers module for tabletop gaming, so that players could "enjoy the inventive plot without the intrusion of the obstructive computer mechanism."[8]

MegaTech magazine praised the absorbing gameplay. Mega placed the game at #39 in their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, page 78, May 1992
  2. ^ "Megadrive Review – Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday". Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Maher, Jimmy. "Opening the Gold Box, Part 5: All That Glitters is Not Gold". The Digital Antiquarian. 
  4. ^ Walker, Brian (January 1991). "1990: A Walkthru". Strategy Plus (4): 29, 32. 
  5. ^ Scorpia (January 1991). "Buck Rogers Continues". Computer Gaming World. p. 72. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Scorpia (October 1993). "Scorpia's Magic Scroll Of Games". Computer Gaming World. pp. 34–50. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  7. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (July 1991). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (171): 57–64. 
  8. ^ Clarke, Theo (December 1990). "Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday". Strategy Plus (3): 20. 
  9. ^ "Top Mega Drive Games of All Time". Mega. Future Publishing (1): 76. October 1992. 

External links[edit]