Awakened from centuries long sleep in the 25th Century, Buck Rogers becomes an ancient military hero and symbol of earlier times. As he is brought up to date, he decides to join the New Earth Organization (NEO), to fight for his home planet.
Once he had fought in the cold war, a pilot sent into outer space to destroy a Russian weapons platform. He was successful, but his success destroyed the planet, as nuclear war was launched, and you went into a centuries long cryogenic sleep, abandoned by the people who could not retrieve you. In the centuries that he slept, Earth colonized the solar system. There are large groups of people on Mars, Venus and Saturn. The colonies once existed to bring resources back to an Earth that had problems sustaining itself.
But the intervening centuries brought a power shift. Now Earth is at the Mercy of the interstellar alliance RAM—formerly the Russian-American Mercantile, but now the superpower, based on asteroids surrounding the planet Mercury. Mercury exploits the Earth for resources, at the expense of Earth's population. Earth has fallen into barbarism, except for one small light—the New Earth Organization (NEO).
These "rebels" consider themselves freedom-fighters, and they are fighting for Earth's freedom from the interstellar powers. Call it patriotism, if you will, but Buck joins them—the only person alive who can remember when Earth was supreme and healthy.
Your first task is to create a party of six characters. Then, these six new NEO recruits are trained, and are thrust into the battle for Earth.
Buck Rogers is a comic book hero of the future, from a distant past. It was during both world wars that Buck Rogers was born as another comic book hero. In fact most super heroes (like Superman, Batman, Flash Gordon…) were born in that time.
Buck fell into a coma only to reawaken in the distant future, where he fights to save Earth, which has been turned into a galactic dump during his absence. You've heard of these heroic efforts and wish to join Buck Rogers, so you join NEO, a team that fights to put the Earth back to its deserved position as the cradle of civilization.
In this role playing game you are one of the cadets who witness the attack of the RAMs, which wanted to destroy the NEO training facilities. Along with your fellow cadets who survived the attack and some disorganized troops left on the planet, you need to prevent a disaster and make sure further troops can be trained here and that an army which will eventually save the Earth can be forged strong enough.
You can select a team of players from various races. Each race has its own qualities (some can not become warriors, but they make excellent mechanics or medics, while others could become engineers, but that would be a waste of their leadership and fighting abilities). As with any RPG you get some experience points to distribute and much more to gain (and distribute later on in the game) in order build up your character.
In this respect the game is a typical RPG. The interface is also very familiar, so if you played other SSI's role playing games you ought to feel right at home. The same goes for graphics and sounds. In fact, the game engine is the same as the one used for the Krynn games.
But there is off a difference. Buck Rogers is the first RPG game I actually played that is not placed in medieval or fantasy worlds. You're not crawling through dungeons, you're not exploring castles and you're not in a mystical magical forest surrounded by dragons.
OK, it's still not a realistic scenario, you're in the future and in space, but it was a nice twist, to be able to fight with lasers, fly off the planet and explore metallic containers in stead of chests (never mind, there are chests I'd always prefer to games ;) if you know what I mean).
So all in all a solid RPG with nothing really new or revolutionary (gameplay wise), but still it had a fresh feel to it.
Although SSI's Advanced Dungeons and Dragons games are critically acclaimed best-sellers, the fantasy context of the AD&D world tends to exclude many gamers. While we might enjoy the role-playing aspect, the idea of roaming a medieval world of orcs, elves, dragons, and wizards just doesn't interest some gamers. But what if the role playing mechanics of the series are left unchanged, and a new world is substituted for the usual AD&D settings? That's exactly what SSI did with Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday, and that simple change of venue is enough to give even the most avowed dragon-hater a chance to enjoy SSI's intricate role-playing system.
The plot may not be Star Wars material, but it is fascinating in attention to detail, basing as it were on the well-known universe of Buck Rogers the comic book series. The year is 2456. The Earth is a polluted ruin, having been abused through centuries of heavy industry and warfare. The interplanetary megacorporation RAM (Russo-American Mercantile) has risen to become one of the greatest powers in the solar system in the 3rd Millennium. Only a few relatively small resistance groups try to oppose RAM's rape of the Earth, but they are hopelessly outclassed in nearly everything. The game begins as your party join one of those resistance groups - NEO (New Earth Organization) to fight for Earth and restore it to its former green glory.
Countdown to Doomsday plays like the other Gold Box games in many respects, but is definitely more thought-out than the other fantasy-RPGs from SSI. For one thing, the plot thickens much faster than its fantasy counterparts, and whereas the fantasy-games have fixed classes, CtD offers you a skill-based system where you can invest skill points on your own, thereby giving you a far greater flexibility. Rather than travelling by foot or horse from game location to game location, you will travel via a medium cruiser among the various stellar objects. Random encounters while travelling from location to location in space means that you encounter hostile ships and these fights can be very tricky-- only go up against a RAM Heavy Cruiser if you know exactly what you are doing, or if you're feeling especially suicidal. Even encounters of ships equal to your own can be devastating if you haven't got characters that have advanced to the maximum level the game allows.
You will meet several of the famous characters from the Buck Rogers universe, like Wilma Deering, Turabian and even Buck Rogers himself. There is a lot of combat, but not as much as other games in the genre. Still, because the combat system is well-programmed, the number of combat scenes is more bearable. This is definitely a game that will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment. Even playing on the easiest level offers seriously difficult encounters at times, such as when you go up against RAM Combat Robots, and (surprise!) ship-to-ship encounters aren't affected by adjusting the difficulty levels.
Compared to other in the genre during the early 90s, CtD looks somewhat drab. But what it lacks in glitz it more than makes up for in substance. The story is the real star here, as is the excellent application of the tried-and-true Gold Box engine. If you like games of the Gold Box vein, this is the king of them all and is a fantastic addition to any RPG collection.
People who downloaded Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday have also downloaded:
Buck Rogers: Matrix Cubed, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Dark Queen of Krynn, The, Champions of Krynn, Dark Sun 2: Wake of the Ravager, Gateway to the Savage Frontier, Pool of Radiance, Death Knights of Krynn
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