SSI released tons of RPG’s in the 90’s using their standard engine (which I don’t know the name off). Most of the games played out in the forgotten realms but this one is one of the few with a scifi theme. Buck Rogers: countdown to doomsday is set in the 24th century and the solar system is pretty much being ruled by RAM, the former Russian American xx. There is a small band of rebels called NEO, new earth organisation, which fights for freedom and protection of earth. Your journey starts when you’ve just enrolled into service and you’re about to be briefed.

You can create your party yourself or add the premade ones, you can even load the primary savegame which already has a full party with a good range of classes. If you do choose to create characters there are plenty of choices to make, there are six races which come from all over the solar system like Martian and Venusian. There are also five classes which are pretty straightforward like rocket jock (pilot), engineer and warrior each of which comes with the standard D&D abilities like strength, dexterity etc. The things that sets this game apart is the sheer number of skills that you can learn, each class has a number of primary skill for instance a rocket jock obviously has primary skills like pilot rocket and drive jetcar but every character can learn the same skills altough they will never be able to be as skilled as with their primary skills. Some of the more obscure skills are singing, befriend animal and planetary survival. Believe it or not these skills are of use in the game though some are needed more often than others, befriend animals for instance will often yield allied animals in battle on the surface of a planet. Each level you can only gain a limited number of new skills but every new skill has bonus points that will be added immediately upon learning that skill so it’s usefull to use that to your advantage and gain as much different skills as possible.

The game starts after you enroll in NEO and you are given a briefing, unfortunately you are trust into combat soon afterwards when RAM attacks the base and you are tasked with setting up defences. RAM uses genetically engineered creatures called terrines for combat but later on you will find out they have much more up their sleeves than that. The main game is seen with a small 3D screen in the upper left, your party on the right and a description window on the bottom which is the standard SSI interface. Once in combat the game switches to an semi-overhead view which is basically a grid where all the characters are. The interface will allow you full control of your troops or you can use the Quick combat option which will set that character to autofight, a nice addition as the random battles can get a bit tiresome at points. This first mission is fairly simple and you have to activate the air defences which you need to find after which RAM is easily defeated. As in all levels if you do more than just the needed quests you will often gain loot and experience which always helps.

Speaking of loot there are tons of different items in the game ranging from your standard bolt gun and spacesuit at the start to laser rifles, plasma launchers, shielded Mercurian amor and much more. The interface might need some getting used to but soon you’ll be dividing the loot among your party and selling / buying whatever you want from the shops. The one thing you need to keep your eye on is ammo because each gun carries a maximum of 255 charges and you cannot fill up in the field so try to take an extra gun with you or use guns dropped by your enemies.

After your first combat experience you are quickly tasked with salvation of space parts but soon you will come across a RAM craft. From here on the story really begins and you find out what exactly is going on. You’ll come across secrets on the ship which you keep in your log and many clues are given in it so keep an eye out. Once you finish this mission you can keep the ship to go on your travels in the solar systems where you can visit Mars, Venus and even the asteroid belt surrounding the solar system all to gather clues and to stop RAM. You can even come across other spacecraft and you will have to face them in interstellar combat.

Most of the SSI RPG’s were pretty much the same so it’s nice to see a theme other than fantasy, the changes made in classes and the space combat have been fairly well implemented. The sheer number of skills is mindboggling and you will find it difficult to select the proper ones if you’ve never played the game before, over time you will find out which skills are needed more than others. My favorite improvement in the game is after combat there is an autoheal sequence where your medic or anyone with the first aid skill will heal up the party, this is a great deal better than the other SSI games in which you had to rest and use spells to heal which was quite a chore. Unfortunaly the main problem with the game is the graphics which simply put aren’t very good, there are some nice static screens once in a while but it’s mostly text and such. If you don’t mind that then this RPG is definately worth the time and you will take quite some time to complete it.

Overal rating: 8/10

Erde Kaiser

This game was released for several different systems here are some notes:

Amiga Released in 1990.
Unfortunately the game only uses one drive so there’s loads of diskswapping. The save disk is the third one btw. Other than that it’s the same as the DOS version.
C64 Released in 1990.
This version has six disks so you will need to swap a lot as well. Other than that it’s very true to the other version.
DOS Released in 1990.
The best since it plays fast and doesn’t require anything special. The only thing you need to do is edit the file called ‘buck.cfg’, there is a line that says c:\buck\save which is the save dir. If you put the game in another folder than edit the line.
Released in 1991.
Much of the text has been replaced by icons which makes the game look silly and doesn’t make it any easier to get into. The most noticable change is that you don’t walk around in the 3D mode but in the grid mode in which the others only do combat.
Date added Mar-30-2007 22:59
Name Buck Rogers: Countdown to doomsday
Developer SSI
Publisher SSI
First released 1990
Genre RPG