Ok guys, what if I have mystical powers? Last week I reminisced about Ogre, an ancient C64 game and two days later I was playing a modern beta remake of it. I figured I should take this week’s Fond Memories article a little more seriously. What ancient game would I most want remade?
You’d think it’d be tough to think of one given how many fantastic games came out for the system. But it wasn’t at all. I want to play Roadwar 2000 (well, Roadwar 2030 to maintain the same level of futureness). Tell me you wouldn’t back a kickstarter with these features and kickass cover:
- open world post apocalyptic map covering all of North America (even Canada!)
- lead a gang of mad max style maniacs in search for a cure
- loot, maintain and upgrade dozens of realistically modeled vehicles
- deal with local factions and take control of cities: Renegade National Guardsmen, urban gangs, mutants, cannibals. Some will join, others will die.
- detailed turn based vehicle combat – speed, acceleration, maneuvering, ramming, firing angles etc. Put your disposable needy (just more mouths to feed!) on the outside. Sure they’ll die quick but they might get off a volley first.
- followers rise through 5 levels – from useless to powerful Armsmasters
- food, medicine, fuel, tires – you must provide it all. Will you cram a massive gang into buses and 18-wheelers, consuming everything in your path? A tiny band of elite commandos, light and nimble in motorcycles and sports cars?
- permadeath, procedural – no two games alike
The game would absolutely hold up today with a modern skin. Turn based vehicle combat is somehow still fresh. Darkwind is the last game I played that touched on the idea. If you add modern conveniences, some crafting, a bit of CYOA – the game practically makes itself.
The set-up wasn’t original even in 1987. Virus -> mutants -> fall of civilization -> Mad Max. But some settings are cliche because they’re awesome vehicles for storytelling. I don’t need an excuse to wear chain-mail and run around with a sword and I don’t need an excuse to loot crumbling cities and maintain a fleet of deteriorating station wagons (don’t laugh – they have the best fuel efficiency to cargo ratio).
There’s something extra chilling in playing such a game on an actual map of your continent. Making it across the states and into Toronto and then settling in to liberate the city makes it personal. Roadwar did a good job of imbuing each place with a bit of its real world flavor. Looting Detroit rewarded you with a fleet of powerful cars and ready access to body shops to upgrade them in.
The whole thing was deliciously grim. Games tend to have barriers on their failure states. Darkest Dungeon is a very hard game but losing an individual mission can’t derail the entire campaign. At worst you’ll lose 4 replaceable heroes and face a grind leveling up new ones. Roadwar can cascade from relative comfort and success to total failure in depressingly short time. A powerful gang with 6 upgraded vehicles bristling with warriors and weapons can fail when a minor encounter damages the 18-wheeler that carries their supplies.
Stranded they can try to loot the sparse countryside for a replacement vehicle, every hour bringing them closer to nighttime and possible mutant attacks. They can abandon it and the all the carefully looted supplies it contains, their other more nimble fighting vehicles having small trunks already full with extra fuel.
By morning the scouts have failed or died without finding anything sexier than a tractor. Mutants threw themselves at you all night until ammo was depleted and your men were reduced to knives and bats. When daylight breaks you’ll consider yourself lucky to limp out with a single vehicle and a handful of survivors, no better off than you were hours of gameplay ago. The basic choice – giant, safe gang that consumes too many resources or small maneuverable gang that can fall prey to larger numbers never really gets easier. Your crew level up but only in ranks, not in specific skills. They never become as deadly as regular RPG characters do and so you can only concentrate so much death dealing into each unit. And they must eat and take up space which is you need for fuel, ammo, spare tires and so forth. You never settle down and build fortifications and farms, there is no comfortable safe state.
Tying it all together and making sure that most of the failures truly felt like your fault and not the game’s harsh and pernicious RNG was the agonizingly slow, detailed tactical vehicular combat. All the careful maneuvering that serves you well in other hex games goes out the window when dealing with units with momentum. What seemed like a brilliant 70Mph strafing run with your prized corvette a few rounds ago can end up as heartbreaking hood ornament for a barely noticing 18-wheeler.
While you’re trying to track vectors across a dozen intertwined vehicles the game tracks facings and cover levels for the occupants. Finding yourself next to a yellow school bus laden with psychos makes for a crew shredding broadside.
Like many commodore games of the era, I never finished it despite sinking hundreds of hours. To even activate the story required tremendous success. Once the player controlled a number of cities they would be contacted by the last remnants of the government forces trying to cure the virus. From there they must find and ferry 7-8 scientists across the world. I’m not sure I ever managed to return even the first one to where they were supposed to go.
So there you have it vague universal entity that might be listening. Road 2000 (2030) with light crafting, more RPG and license real world vehicles so I can ram BMW’s with my Jeep.
If you don’t fully trust my direct link to the divine you can play the original, it’s easy to find on any of the abandonware sites.
<update: I don’t fully trust my magical powers either. I want to play Roadwar now. I was going to emulate the C64 but I’m going to try the Amiga version instead – should be quite a bit nicer and have mouse support. If you feel like doing the same you’ll have to download an emulator (I used FS-UAE), a kickstarter Rom and the actual game file. I’ve never tried emulating an Amiga game but the instructions are pretty clear, it took about 5 minutes for the entire process. And since it’s 1987 there is not tutorial or tooltip in sight – read the manual.>