A beginning is a very delicate time. So, how to start? With some dunes, which shall be stabilised by planting grass on them? With megalomaniacal visions for a cinematic realisation of a highly sophisticated science fiction novel? At the source of a flood of real time strategy games, or one step further at the archetype, which got copied ad nauseam? All of this led, on more or less direct ways, to Dune 2000, a remake of its predecessor Dune II: Battle for Arrakis, with an updated interface, strongly inspired by Command & Conquer, and aesthetics that look like taken right out of Lynch‘s take on the space opera. A melange of many great examples, but does it live up to them? Does it dare to step out of its source’s shadows? Does it offer anything new? Or is it just an unoriginal rehash, simple cash cow cosmetics for a classic game? Let’s take a look!
Being a declared non-fan of roleplaying games, but a bit of a fan of Buck Rogers (the 1930s serial being somewhat forgettable, but the first season of the 1970s series being totally excellent), this game always had me torn. I gave playing it many serious attempts, sometimes not getting anywhere, but gradually getting better at it. Time to have another go!
Countdown to Doomsday, from the outset, makes a couple of very good design decisions. First of all, the player is not allowed to play Buck Rogers himself or even have him in the party. Given that character's status as an immortal icon in this universe, it would have been unthinkable to have him fail at comparatively simple tasks at the hands of a less than perfect player. Second, the game opening is simply excellent: the party of new recruits of Earth's military is immediately thrown into battle when during their welcome, their base is attacked. So the game begins with a tense, action-packed scene (sort of a "quest 0") even before letting the player take a breath to really take inventory, visit the bar for some rumors etc.
In the year of 2453, the secret organisation SAROS (Search And Research Of Space) tasks an undercover agent to destroy the Arcadian supercomputer. Without this central "brain", the Arcadians will be helpless zombies who cannot exert their power over Earth and its space colonies anymore. In the disguise of an space trader, the player takes over the agent's role in order to liberate mankind from its oppressors.
This game is based on the role-playing book of the same name published in the year 1985, which was ported as an Adventure game to the C64 by the Englishman Stefan Ufnowski a year later, and shortly after was ported to all other home computers under the label U.S. Gold.