Monday, June 20, 2011

Game 59: Scavengers of the Mutant World (1988)


Post-apocalyptic films and games have always held a certain joylessness for me. I grew up in an era in which the threat of a thermonuclear war, while waning, was very real. No film has ever scared me as much as The Day After, which I saw when I was 11. I remember a teacher speaking about the TV movie afterwards, and his basic thesis was that a) having already discovered and built nuclear weapons, the world would never not have them again; and b) although the odds were low in any given year that a nuclear missile would be launched, every passing year increased the cumulative probability, making it ultimately inevitable. (My schooling in these years, if it is not immediately clear, was in Texas.) Thanks to him and the movie, I was not only convinced that a nuclear war would happen in my lifetime, I desperately hoped I would die in the initial blast. Other films like Def-Con 4, The Road Warrior, and The Terminator were equally bleak in their promises of a a grimy, radiation-poisoned, brutish aftermath.

For years, thinking about nuclear war was my personal version of The Game (sorry, everyone). I would go as long as possible, try to muster some enthusiasm about life, make plans for my future, but ultimately my brain would remind me, "Oh, hey--nuclear war!," and I would descend into a depression that might last several days or several weeks. Fortunately, when I was a sophomore in high school, I read a horribly uninformed newspaper column about why we shouldn't worry about nuclear war, and it was somehow enough to convince me to stop thinking about it long enough for the Soviet Union to collapse. I now occasionally worry about a terrorist using a nuclear bomb, but I no longer worry about dozens of ICBMs cris-crossing continents. It would be kind of you to refrain from postings explaining why I should, in fact, still worry about such things.

Anyway, this is hardly the stuff of fantasy, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was play games set in such worlds. I'm just coming to realize this now. Some remnant of the horror of The Day After must have always stuck with me, because I never bothered to play any of the Fallout games (despite liking Interplay's and Bethesda's other titles) or Wasteland, or any post-nuclear CRPGs. (I did play the strategy game Roadwar 2000 as a kid, but that occurred after a plague, not a nuclear bomb.) This is my first.

I typed much of the above while I was waiting for the game to create a "world disk." The manual says that it randomizes the world (choosing from among more than 4 million possibilities) each time you start a game.

Scavengers takes place after a nuclear war destroys most of humanity and leaves the surface world a mutant-ridden, radioactive wasteland. Descendants of survivors live in an underground city called Lau, actually the remains of a fallout shelter. Its founding documents note, mythologically, that "the First Ones, having a considerable source of wealth known as 'Government Funding,' built this shelter."

Every year, a group of colonists--winners of a contest--journeys to the surface world to scavenge for loot for the colony. Battling mutant creatures and radiation storms, they hope to return with furniture, armor, weapons, food (?), and pieces of vehicles. I am to lead such a party.

The manual is quite extensive, 60 pages long, and it meticulously describes the types of weapons, armor, terrain, medical issues, and creatures you're likely to encounter on the surface. In an amusing but of tautology, the manual warns of ants large enough to eat oxen. Then, in the mammals section, it notes that there are few mammals left and hardly any have been seen. But, it reasons, "if there are ants that can eat oxen, there must certainly be oxen, too."

Editing and selecting characters.

The game vaguely reminded me of Dungeon Master in the opening stages. You command a party of four characters, but you don't create them yourself; rather, you choose from a list of 20 pre-generated shelter-dwellers. You can modify each character's portrait (with a pixel-editor, even!) and name, much as you can when you "reincarnate" a character in DM, but you're stuck with the attributes. These are the standard D&D list, minus constitution and plus "observation." In addition to hit points, you have "radiation points" that you want to keep above 0, else you suffer disease and mutation--although some mutations, apparently, can be helpful.

In naming my characters, I chose two commenters, a fictional reference, and one name from Karnov's random name generator.

The game starts you in the ruins of Lau and allows you to scavenge some items nearby, including weapons, armor, parts, and blueprints (I got plans for a car, for instance). Right away, it hurts its own mythology by having you find bows and armor like chainmail--where would this have come from, either pre- or post-apocalypse?

The number pad moves you around, but other commands are chosen from a list of 29 through a somewhat cumbersome means of typing the first two letters, then hitting ENTER, the specifying the character to perform it. So picking up an item requires a sequence like: G-R-[ENTER]-3 (the "GR" is for "Grab"). There are shortcuts but they work in combination with CTRL, SHIFT, and the function keys, which doesn't work so well in DOSBox.

Fighting "Walking Grass," which looks like a mutant dandelion.

Combat takes place on a tactical map that initially seems a little like Pool of Radiance. Each character becomes a distinct person and moves separately from the others. But the differences soon become apparent. First, there are only four options in combat: move one square, turn and face a different direction, attack, and parry. Second, you can only do one of these things each round, so getting from the starting location to actually stand face-to-face with the enemy might take five or six rounds. After combat, hit points regenerate fairly quickly.

Today, I explored Lau and a little of the environs, but almost immediately I ran into a radiation storm and one of my characters got slaughtered:

Radiation storms have both positive and negative effects.

You do have some warning of said storms, so I guess the trick is to always know where the closest shelter is.

This game could go either way, but I'm leaning on the side of not liking it much. There doesn't seem to be any character development in the game; battles don't get you experience and there are no "levels" (at least, the manual doesn't mention either). You're not limited to sticking with the original 4 party members, and there is some suggestion in the manual that you will eventually have to use all 20 for various purposes. But I am interested in finding out what all these parts and blueprints do, so I'll stick with it for a while longer.

In the meantime, I'll owe a drink to anyone who can find me either an original ad or an original review for this game. I want to start looking these up for each game that I play, but Computer Gaming World doesn't seem to have reviewed it, and the game doesn't otherwise have much of an online presence.

"Radiation storms" are just the kind of thing I used to fear. If I really "role-played" this one, I'd just have my characters opt for a blissful death in the sea.

72 comments:

  1. I was born at the end of the '70s, and was thus barely a teenager when the cold war ended. As a result, post-apocalyptic (and especially post-nuclear) fiction has always held a special interest for me. That setting creeps me out without being downright scary, and I guess that gives it a couple extra immersion points over things like medieval fantasy.

    At any rate, Starflight, Fallout and Deus Ex are probably my favorite 3 video game series of all time, and the post-nuclear setting of the Fallout series is probably central to my interest in it. In fact, I know this is the case because I've never finished any of the Elder Scrolls games, but I just finished Fallout 3 and all of its DLC.

    As for Scavengers, I've never played it because my impression was that it is really more of an adventure game with just enough RPG trappings to ensure that fans of both genres will find something to be disappointed with :( I'm definitely interested to hear your take on it though.

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  2. PetrusOctavianusJune 20, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    You owe me a drink. The game was reviewed in issue 59 of CGW: http://www.oldgamemags.com/index.php?title=Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_059

    I had never heard about this game before, but since it was a DOS only release that is no wonder. I can't imagine the market for DOS games was very large in 1988. At that time all the gamers had Apple, C64, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST or Amiga, while the PC was mainly for business use.

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  3. I don't know if its because I am sleep deprived and full of caffeine but I am more pleased than I thought I would be to see my name up there.

    On first seeing that screen I thought, damn right I am stronger and smarter then those other guys, and decently quick and charming. My lack of wisdom is apparent in my career choice as a Unix admin living in this weather hell of Chicago. I also thought I guess I am only 9 obese... OK? Then I read it was observation and I got somewhat disappointed as obese as a state was so much funnier. Its like when you learn the real lyrics of a song and they are not nearly as cool as the ones you made up in your head.

    OK maybe I am a little hyper from caffeine and reading hyperboleandahalf (because you selfishly haven't been blogging enough for me to waste my entire day here).

    I also note I am completely unfazed by radiation so take that Soviet Russia!

    To help your verisimilitude the chainmail could have been made after the apocalypse, which the game seems to set a few generations in the past. After guns and such became scarce and people fought HTH and with whatever weapons they could find or fashion armor like chainmail could come back in vogue.

    I feel very sad that you have such a reaction to the post apoc genre, there are many gems here in movies, games, and books. You are right about the day after tomorrow, and the only post apoc story with a more depressing ending is the book Make room, Make room! (Soylent Green is based on this). Let me know if I should spoil the story or not as it is different than the movie.

    I dont know what to say to help you get past that block but maybe your other fans can help, and I will try to think of something.

    A note on my name, UbAh, I got it from a polish exchange student I used to play chess with, and lose to, in my High School years. Apparently its what my name looks like in the Cyrillic alphabet, which I thought was cool and have used it ever since. Anywho, thanks for including me.

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  4. According to the review Petrus linked there's leveling up, but you can't tell how many experience points you have at any given moment.

    @HunterZ: I'm not sure how this would qualify as an "adventure game".

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  5. I too suffered from cold-war-related anxiety. I had dreams of the bomb falling on my home town as a child. I don't think the existential futility of a world without a certain tomorrow ever left me, even after the fall of the USSR (on which schism, it is worth noting, my surroundings where decidedly pro-Soviet).

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  6. It's amusing to see Cameron there also. Assuming you borrowed it from me, be aware that I borrowed it awhile ago from C.J. Cherryh's magnificent Foreigner series of s.f. novels. Bren Cameron is the focus and central character of all 12 (so far) novels.

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  7. Don't feel alone in your fears of nuclear war in your youth. It was drilled into our heads in the 80s that it was going to happen sooner or later, and probably sooner. Like you, I had a lot of fear and anxiety about it.

    Difference with me, though, is that I embraced my fear and found myself enjoying games and movies about such an era. Maybe that's because the movies and games focused on the survivors, and that's what I would have wanted to be...one of the survivors who still lived to tell the tale.

    So, even if you hate this game, be sure to play the others. In Wasteland, you will find one of the best CRPGs of all time. This will carry over into the Fallout series as well, which was inspired by Wasteland.

    Just remember, you're playing a survivor. Come at it from that point of view, and you'll enjoy it more.

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  8. I was born early in the 1970's and, oddly, never really suffered from nuclear war anxiety. By the time I was old enough to think seriously about such issues we were into the era of 'glasnost' and 'perestroika', and it seemed obvious to me that communism was doomed to failure. Sure enough, a few years later, the Iron Curtain fell and the writing was on the wall for all to see. I cheerfully left for college that year and never looked back.

    Oddly, though, even though I was an avid CRPG player, I never got around to playing either of the original Fallout games and I'm not sure why.

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  9. Now that everyone is spilling their birth dates, I might as well spill mine. I was born in the musty old year of 1962 and thus I had the Cold War stuff drilled into my head. But while I find post apocalyptic settings depressing, they don't turn me off. I love the Fallout series, both Classic and Nu. I mean shucks, if you're going to let your childhood scare you off things, why, I'd hate fiction about children being locked in basements with chains.

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  10. Okay...1964 is my birth year. I remember seeing The Day After because it just so happened that I was attempting to enter the Air Force that week and was in a hotel when I saw it.
    I, too, have never played the Fallout games. I haven't spent very much money on PC computer games (my first games were Sega Genesis near the end of its period). One reason I am enjoying your blog is that I hadn't really gotten around to playing all these games. Thank goodness for Virtualbox!

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  11. Darn it, I meant DOSBox! Preview doesn't help if you're tired and comment just before bed...

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  12. Oh great, the double pain mutation. Now it will hurt twice as much when I get bitten by grass!

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  13. I was born in '79, and the parade of post-apocolyptica that pervaded the 80's certainly instilled me with that same combination of fear and fascination that many others describe. Wasteland is one of my favorite RPGs of all time, with Fallout right along with it. Now that I'm older, and the world is (hopefully) further away from that particular brink of disaster, the fear has lessened, but the fascination still remains. I am still a complete sucker for anything post-apocalypse, but I feel people have gotten far less creative about portraying it these days.

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  14. I was also born in the late 70s and didn't have much in the way of anxiety about nuclear destruction. I did have a hard time getting into the Fallout games since it brought to mind something I saw as a real concern though. These days, I'm more worried about the end of the world by ecological catastrophe than nuclear annihilation or acts of terrorism. Cheers! ;)

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  15. It's funny how for some people, a theme resonates because they lived it. And for other people, it repels for the same reason.

    TIL that the search function in the CGW archive sucks. Thanks, Petrus. Where do you live, again? If I'm never there to buy you one, I'll send you one. I'll save reading the review for the end, but I saw the byline and I wonder who that "Scorpia" was. I hope he or she ultimately got better at writing.

    UbAh, I'm pretty sure that everyone knows the end of Soylent Green. I'm sorry to say this, but you died really fast. I'll put you in a longer-lasting slot in a later game. Keir, you died pretty gruesomely, too. Perhaps I'd better stop using commenters as party members.

    Jason, thanks for the info. I did notice an increase in hit points.

    Helm, your comment makes me wish we were talking about more interesting things than CRPGs. I was so afraid that the Soviet bloc was going to nuke us, it never reallly occurred to me that there was a whole generation of people fearing the opposite.

    Duskfire, I'm really sorry to tell you this, but I took the name from "The Sarah Connor Chronicles." I'll make it up to you.

    William...uh...is there a lot of fiction about that?

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  16. I grew up in the 1980s so I was familiar with the Cold War paranoia of the possible "Great Bomb Exchange" (if I may coin a phrase) as well.

    The idea of nuclear war never really bothered me that much, except a certain annoyance that some people would even consider it a valid option. My reasoning was that I would either be killed in the initial exchange and thus, would have no reason to worry, or I wouldn't, and would muster on as best I could.

    I've always considered myself a survivor. No matter how horrid the post-apocalyptic world was, I would never wish for death. My reasoning is that every second, minute, and hour I live is another big "screw you" to the cold, uncaring universe. Thus, I've always liked games and scenarios that let me play out and experiment with what it might be like to be a survivor in doomsday scenarios like nuclear war.

    I was in the Marines, and we did drills and practice nuclear war, especially being caught outside in a blast. (I was infantry.) We were instructed when we saw the flash to lay down on top of our weapon (so it wouldn't be harmed - ha!) with our head towards the blast and chin tucked (we would be wearing our helmets).

    I remember looking incredulously at our instructor and proclaiming, "Forgive me, Sergeant, but wouldn't we all be screwed anyway?" The Sergeant looked at me and gave a little smile. "You mean, wouldn't you die horribly of radiation poisoning, even if you used this technique to survive the brunt of the blast wave?" I nodded and the Sergeant laughed. "Sure. But that can take hours or days. Sometimes weeks. That's a lot of time to send some enemy S.O.B.s to Hell in front of you." Believe it or not, that comforted me immensely.

    Besides, I always found something beautiful and noble about the post-apocalyptic genre. Even after the heights of civilization saw fit to destroy themselves and most of the planet, live continues. People still live and love. Humanity perseveres, always reaching for that brighter tomorrow. So, when you play these post-nuclear games, step up and join the cause!

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  17. Another early 1970s baby here, but the nuclear war fear never really penetrated my brain. Never saw The Day After or Mad Max, and I didn't really comprehend what the Gamma World game setting was all about til much later.

    I've wondered why you never mentioned the recent Fallout games -- I've got to say, you're really missing out by not playing them. I'd probably put Fallout 3 on my top 5 CRPG list of all time (along with Ultimas 5 and 6, and the two Baldur's Gate games). New Vegas is good too, but not quite at the level of F3.

    Hm, forgot about Deus Ex, that belongs on the list too. Oh and System Shock 2 (at least, the first half of it). OK, top 6 and a half CRPGs. :)

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  18. Sorry to hear about my demise, I will miss myself greatly. I was always one of my favourite people and I don't think I will be the same without me.

    As for Soylent Green vs. Make Room! Make Room!, my point was the ending is different. In the book everyone is expecting a big end of the world scenario at the turn of the millennia. When it ultimately doesn't happen there is the anticlimactic realisation that they have to live in this slowly starving doomed world with no hope. Didn't make for good Hollywood drama like screaming "Soylent green is people!", but it was powerful in the book as everyone pinned their hopes on a big ending that never materialised and were doomed to live the slow death they had condemned themselves too.

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  19. "I wonder who that "Scorpia" was. I hope he or she ultimately got better at writing."

    Heh, Scorpia is a legend, famous for her coverage of mainly Advanture games, but also CRPGs. I just read her Ultima V review. It was much better than the Dungeon Master review done by some other guy.

    On the subject of nuclear war, I was born in the late 60s in Norway, and remember being terrified at the prospect of WW3 when I was a kid.
    I wasn't very interested in post-apocalyptic games, movies and such when I was a kid, but I've grown more interested in it as I've got older. I even read A Canticle for Leibowitz, which I found slightly disappointing. A very interesting premise, but just like the Dune novels, there was too much discussion about religion and philosophy for my taste.

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  20. I remember reading A Canticle for Leibowitz in a sci-fi/fantasy literature class way back in community college. I think I was one of the few people to read the whole thing; most people put it down 30-40% of the way in when the author brutally killed off what had been the main character up to that point. I wasn't too into the religious perspective either, but my interest in the post-nuclear setting got me through.

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  21. Another fascinating game I had never heard about before. Generating the world at the start of the game is nicely roguelike-y, and I also like how the characters seem to die off permanently, he he. Random mutations also remind me of ADOM and Crawl. Combat seems to be a little lacking in options though.

    Perhaps you can work out some childhood traumas by playing all these post-apocalyptic games. Also, with everyone sharing their own stories in the comments like this, it's pretty obvious how culturally significant gaming can be. ;)

    --Eino

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  22. Oh, I forgot - I'm very much looking forward to Sentinel Worlds, Star Command and Times of Lore, but this one looks very interesting too. I hope it keeps your interest for at least a couple of postings more.

    --Eino

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  23. I was born in the early 70s too. When I was young I also always was fearful of the third world war and what comes after it. However those were the naive, young years. All has changed today. I enjoy thinking and studying about the Cold War era and nuclear weapons and all such stuff. It has a great potential for stories and games in general. Besides, Wasteland is one of the best RPGs ever.

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  24. Another vote for Times of Lore... Not anywhere near an Ultima (although made/published by Origin), but I loved this game and hope that it passes the 6 hour mark despite its action/RPG style.

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  25. Scorpia is, as mentioned, a legend. I'm not certain her writing could be said to have ever been amazing, but she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre and she didn't pull any punches. In a way, she's one of the few people that can claim to have achieved what you're also attempting to do on the blog, only she did it in real time as the genre grew up.

    As to Soviet-side dread of nuclear war, it's useful perhaps to note that my fear of escalation, as a child, did not come with resentment for the opposite side. My fear was deeply existential, the idea that tomorrow might not exist, it didn't matter to me who pressed the button first or if they were wrong or right to do it. I think, having been born in 1894 and these fears registering circa 1990 or so, I was not equipped to understand geopolitics to the degree where I could assign blame. The pro-communist environ I was brought up in did not indoctrinate me to hate capitalists as one would perhaps expect. Then again, I grew up in echoes of the death throes of Soviet communism, it could be said, denim jeans and rock music and extravagant Hollywood cinema had won the culture war in Greece as well.

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  26. "...I took the name from "The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

    Addicted One, you are truly a man after my own heart in more ways than one. I finished watching the series on DVD a few months back. It left me completed haunted for a whole week after. That and a crush on Miss Glau...

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  27. Scorpia was still maintaining an online presence until a couple of years ago - http://www.scorpia.com/

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  28. So Helm... you were born in 1894? Doesn't that mean that you can only be killed by chopping off your head? (Just kidding, I realize you probably meant to type 1984...)

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  29. I was born in 1979. Never saw "The day after" and totally missed out on the whole "scared of the end of the world" thing. I guess it never bothered me because it is so big. I mean the world ended: so what? If everything I think and do doesn't matter anyway, then there is no point in worrying about it, right? (Nobody gets out of this life alive!)

    That being said I have always been fascinated by post-apocalyptic settings. (Zombie-Apocalypse is a personal favorite!) It’s not so much the bleak landscapes and self-made survival that fascinates me; it’s all the artifacts laying around that point back to the earlier, more decadent society. I have always been fascinated with what archeologists a thousand years in the future would think about us.

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  30. tlb, you should really read A Canticle for Leibowitz then, it is right up your alley.

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  31. thelamebrain: quite the opposite, for me to live, I have to cut off my own head.

    (yes, typo).

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  32. James, awesome story, but why do you face TOWARDS the blast?

    Codrus, I do intend to play them as part of the blog, of course. I just never bothered in the past.

    UbAh, I just read the Wikipedia plot summary for Make Room! Make Room!. Thanks for clarifying what you meant on the different endings. I worry about overpopulation, too, but it sonds like Harry Harrison may have been a bit TOO worried. He made it sound like a population of 344 million in the U.S. would cripple us, but it's only slightly larger than we have now. The current world population is just shy of the 7 billion that appears in the novel. I'm not saying we don't have plenty of problems (energy issues and global warming are largely functions of population)--just not THOSE problems!

    Thank you all for informing me about Scorpia--somehow I'd never heard of her. (Never read CGW.) How have none of you mentioned her before? I see some of your names in her comments! As a semi-professional writer, I guess I should be more circumspect in my criticisms. I just read over some of the postings on her site, and they are much better written than the CGW reviews. I can only imagine that she got started when she was young and inexperienced as a writer.

    Anyway, I need to spend some more time reading over her blog--even though she stopped blogging two years ago--because she talks about may of the games I'm playing. I smiled to see that Ultima IV is still her favorite.

    Lazenby, the cancelation of that series continues to piss me off. My wife and I watched the two seasons over a long Christmas weekend at the end of 2009, and we didn't know at the time that it wasn't going to be renewed. If someone just wrote a BOOK concluding it, it would be preferable to nothing.

    I love the discussion this posting has sparked on Cold War horrors and fiction related to it. It's hard to have these types of conversations with games based on Tolkienesque high fantasy.

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  33. You bring up the only real point I thought of to help you get over your emotional association. After so many predictions about the impending end have simply missed the mark, you just cant take these things too much to heart. We are undefeated on the score card of hope and humanities will to live vs. doom, despair and the best efforts of the evil among us to create a uninhabitable world.

    I only worry about overpopulation if we stop thinking of ways to get off this rock and spread out.

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  34. On the subject of post-apocalyptic fiction, my wife and I just finished watching the first episode of Falling Skies on the Tivo last night; it seems to be a Steven Spielburg thing about survivors of an alien invasion that has wiped out the world's militaries and major cities or somesuch. It didn't blow us away but we're going to give it a chance.

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  35. Being born in 1984 I only learn about the cold war anxieties through post-climax reflection. The apocalyptic genre has never really grabbed me, despite my best efforts! For example I felt Mad Max was a dull film that never lived up to (or sufficiently introduced) the concept. I watched the first one and couldnt see the draw. I've played several Fallout games (all the numbered ones) and they all garnered a 'meh' rating from me.

    I'm sure the color pallates don't help much. Sci-fi tends towards vibrant colors (even grim sci-fi like Blade Runner), and it is by far my favorite setting.

    I guess it's probably my view on the threat of nukes, that being 'don't be a f^€&ing moron and get into a willie waving contest with ICBMs'. All an apocalyptic setting does is remind me of the terrible consequences of xenophelia, extreme nationalism, and/ or how power hungry people should not be allowed to run countries.
    Craig

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  36. Mad Max is a dull car-chase movie that didn't establish much of anything. It's the sequel (Mad Max 2, aka The Road Warrior) that explicitly set the post-apocalyptic stage and put the series on the map. It's very much like how Army of Darkness took the last scene of Evil Dead 2 and spun off a sequel that barely had anything at all to do with what came before.

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  37. @CRPG Addict
    You face TOWARDS the blast because that is the end with the reinforced helmet and kevlar vest - much better at stopping shrapnel than cotton uniform pants and a pair of leather boots.

    @Anonymous
    Like HunterZ said, Mad Max is dull and boring. I was like you, I heard all the hype and watched it and thought, "Huh?" Mad Max 2 (Usually just called The Road Warrior) is awesome though, and doesn't have anything to do with the first movie except the main character, and even then, you don't need to know anything about the first movie at all. In Mad Max, the world is just shitty, it isn't post-apocalyptic. In Mad Max 2 the opening narration informs you that the world have been nuked to hell and back. In Mad Max 1 I was bored with Mel Gibson's character, but I love his same character in Mad Max 2. It is SOOOO much better.

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  38. I thought you were kidding about Scorpia. I guess I thought that everyone knew about her. :) Yeah, she was great! I always loved her reviews.

    Re. the age thing, you're all just youngsters. It seems I've got the oldest of you beat by more than ten years. Needless to say, I didn't grow up with video games, which might be why I'm so bad at anything requiring eye-hand coordination.

    And here's another fan who's eager to see you play Wasteland (now that you've done such a great job on Pool of Radiance).

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  39. Sounds like I should give Mad Mel... er Max another shot. I had written it off, but it sounds like the second is a completely different beast. Still post-apoc has never really been my cup of tea.
    Craig

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  40. Being born in '77 I probably missed the boat on much of the hysteria of the time by dint of being to young. By the time I was old enough to appreciate something like that my reality was very bad and I didn't have time for imagined horrors as I had enough true ones in my life. So I took post apoc fiction as an escape like any other fiction, instead of anything to fear more than what humanity can do normally.

    Wow I just read that and it is probably a depressing statement, sorry.

    Anywho

    I rate the Mad Max trilogy, much like the Aliens trilogy, like so: 2, 1, 3. The second movie is a much better action fun time movie and the first is a more thoughtful, build suspense/tension, kind of deal. The thing to remember about the first mad max is that it was a low budget Australasian at a time when they were not really experienced at making movies (are they now?)

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  41. I like the Mad Max movies in the order of 2, 3, 1 because the 3rd one still has both a plot and an explicit post-apocalyptic setting.

    I agree with your Alien series ranking, although there are actually 4 movies in that series. I would understand if you were intentionally refusing to acknowledge the existence of the 4th one, however :)

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  42. hello CPRGAddict

    I have somehow stub;ed upon your blog and am loving it. I have had to go back to the start and I am only up to reading Starflight at the moment - so I won't comment until I get to "present day".

    But lordy is it bringing back some memories. I started playing RPG's at about Ultima 3, so its great to read of your experiences and see if they tally with my hazy memories.

    Its a fantastic undertaking, and as I'm stuck working out in Abu Dhabi (and bored) at the moment, I'm wondering whether to start a (smaller scale) endevour. I only brought Ultima 5 lazarus to play on this trip...

    But keep it up, great memories, great writing, and respect! I want to tell my collegues about this, but I'm not sure they will understand the greatness of it.....

    Jus

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  43. I think what turns me off in some of these games is they are not bleak enough. Fantasy worlds can be anything but after the bomb should be a lot worse than what you get in say Fallout. I think the best food in such games should be rat tart

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  44. @Blacbraun: Well, Fallout 3 did have squirrel stew...

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  45. Glad you joined us, Jus. I'm embarrassed to admit that when you said you were "stuck working out in Abu Dhabi," for a moment--just for a moment--I thought, "I don't remember a CRPG of that name." Anyway, feel free to comment on older games. I get an e-mail about all of them, and some of the best dialogs I have are from postings a year ago.

    James, I'm glad you said that. I was just reading the Wikipedia article on "Mad Max" the other day, and I was astonished that it doesn't even address the fact that the first and second movies seem to be set in completely different worlds. Despite the name, the main character doesn't even seem to be the same person. He plays a COP, for god's sake--do the other two films look like worlds in with the Australia Federal Police is still active?

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  46. On the topic of The Road Warrior, I love how that movie tells its story with very little dialog.

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  47. At the end of the first movie, the highway gang kills Mad Max's family. The start of the second movie references that and (if I remember correctly) basically says that it turned him into a burned-out shell of a man, aimlessly roaming the wastes with nothing to live for. However, through the events of the second movie he discovers that there are still good people out there worth risking his life to save.

    So they actually did a passable job at bridging Mad Max character from the first movie to the second. It's the transition of the series' fictional world from "backwater cops with race cars versus highway gangs" to "general post-nuclear anarchy" that wasn't explained particularly well. My feeling is that while making the second movie, the writers didn't really care much about the specifics of the world of the first move and just wanted to move on to the post-nuclear setting - both as quickly and with as little fuss as possible.

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  48. I don't know if this is implicitly stated in the movies or if it was an extrapolation I made up in my head.

    I think in the Mad Max world Australia was not directly hit by any nukes. The radiation they are getting is coming in from elsewhere that was hit: Europe, China, Russia. During the first movie you have society that is trying to hold on while things just keep getting worse as the radiation trickles in from the places. When we get to the second movie the radiation impact is in full effect and Australia is one of the few places in the world that can even sustain life.

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  49. Wow, I feel very young now. I was born in the same year as the computer games you are currently reviewing, which makes me the youngest person to chime in so far...by a rather large margin I believe.
    I was introduced to post apoc by Andre Norton's excellent Daybreak 2050, aka Star Man's Son by Andrew North (A penname of hers). It is more optimistic, with the Starmen scavenging the ruins of the world for things to bring back to the small but growing village left. Paper, pencils, books are all valuable finds.
    I read it when I was...mid-late elementary school I think? I was worried about nuclear war for a while as I grasped the sheer power of the weapons, however as I grew more interested in politics and understood the world better I saw that there is no one in a position to star a world nuclear war: Most counties that might go nuclear are very focused on local conflicts, and thus would not drag the world into it the way the USSR & USA would have.

    Thus I was enchanted by the opening, and have spent quite a long time looking for equally good PA books. There are very few: Most are just survivalists wanking, but The Postman by David Brin is very interesting, though parts of the ending make me look at it funny.
    I actually have the sequel to A Canticle for Lebowitz (Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman), but I've not had the guts to read it yet.

    I am pretty convinced from what people have said that you all saw the American version of Mad Max- they redubbed it rather poorly and hacked the thing up in doing so. There is a story of how the company went out of business half-done, but you can look it up. Mad Max is easily the best of the movies, with a sense of humour and characterization completely lacking from the rest of them (Which are pretty much just Max being a poor version of the Man With No Name).

    The change in society from the first to the second movie was due to the fact that the first movie was a number of years before the other two movies, in the dying days of society, where the other two movies taking place after the gas is almost all used up & people have decayed further.

    If it helps I've heard physics profs talk about how much harder it is to get funding for nuclear physics now that the US isn't funding it hoping for larger bombs. My current prof says nuclear phsyics isn't dying like some people claim it is, and from the money I've seen spent on accelerator experiments I'd have to agree.
    Oh yes, I'm currently working as an undergrad summer student at a nuclear science lab in Canada, though I'm a chemist by training.

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    1. you may be young for the blog but you have 5 years on me!

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    2. Oh, dear. I think you might be the only representative of your generation here. I'm glad to know that SOMEONE who grew up in the MMORPG era finds value in learning about these older games.

      Some advice: when you're old enough to drink, learn to drink proper cocktails and liquors like vodka gimlets and gin & tonics. Shots are just a waste of money and alcohol, and everyone drinks beer. Order a dark & stormy or a decent single-malt, and you'll immediately set yourself from your peers as someone with class.

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    3. Or learn about modern, non-snoblish drinks. Craft beer: Half the price, you and drink it socailly without nearly the risk of drinking more then you intend and you don't look like an old snob. Learn how to smell the beer, what type of glass to drink it from and what food goes with it. My Dad is a brewer and blogs about beer, so I can give you some links if you want.

      Odd, I could have sworn I'd posted this before.

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    4. I actually have the sequel to A Canticle for Lebowitz (Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman), but I've not had the guts to read it yet.

      Huh. I've read A Canticle for Leibowitz, but I didn't realize there was a sequel. I guess I ought to seek it out someday, but I've got enough other books on my backlog of classic f&sf I haven't read but feel that I should that I want to get to first... (currently reading through Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series and a collection of novels by Ursula Le Guin...)

      (Yes, I've said before I have a backlog of classic CRPGs I want to play, too... yes, I guess there is a pattern here...)

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    5. Speaking of Leibowitz and Le Guin, I was coincidentally introduced to both in the same Sci-Fi & Fantasy literature class back in college in the late '90s.

      I've got a huge backlog of games that I want to get around to playing eventually.

      Regarding book backlogs: I haven't read much since college and now feel that the task of catching up even on just the sci-fi/fantasy greats is probably too daunting. On the other hand, I have little excuse beyond motivation given that I married someone with a respectable sci-fi/fantasy library and have also joined the tablet/e-reader craze.

      To my credit, I did just finish a longish Piers Anthony series (Incarnations of Immortality) that took me a few years to read, and then re-read Neuromancer. Unfortunately, I've since stalled out a bit on Neuromancer's sequel and have instead been playing Phantasy Star 1 on GBA at bedtime.

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    6. I find it interesting that as someone who was born or at the very least grew up after all of the Mad Max movies came out, you somehow prefer the incredibly boring cop procedural drama over the two literally-insane-and-so-entertaining-it-hurts post-apocalyptic masterpieces. THAT SAID, I certainly have a feeling I also saw this apparent American-dubbed hack-job, so I would be interested to see the original cut of the film at this point. Even though I have no idea how it could be all that interesting, and I bet the line "what is this, funny week?" which is possibly the single worst line in the history of cinema, is still in the original.

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    7. The first one makes a lot more sense, for one. Society is functioning, if not well. There are cops, lawyers, courts, etc. There are just a lot of people who, on seeing the word burning, decide to screw that and become outlaw bikers. They also appear to have some religious elements to them, which makes sense. Then you have a number of characters Goose, the police chief, etc, that are interesting and quirky, and some bad guys who don't like how bad they've become.

      Mad Max II: WARGLEBARGLE! I'm a bad guy in a hocky mask and bondage gear! I'M GONNA KILL YOU ALL FOR NO REASON! RAWR! Plus a stoic hero who is now like every other action hero, and a generic plotline that is wrapped up via a voice over at the end.

      I haven't seen three.

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    8. I love the post-apocalyptic setting and I don't know why. Perhaps I dislike how our society is going and hope for its total destruction so we can rebuild it from the ground up.

      In any case, some post-apocalyptic crap that is intriguing, if not entertaining:

      1) Mad Max - Inspired AutoDuel and Fallout fashion sense
      2) Wasteland (1 & 2) - Inspired Fallout and Borderlands
      3) Fist of North Star - Inspired Japanese manga and anime on post-apocalyptic themes and bursting guts from punches
      4) The Postman - Looks into how a society will correct itself in the absence of law and order
      5) Double Dragon - Inspired by Fist of North Star but inspired side-scrolling beat-em-ups with ARPG mechanisms
      6) Escape from New York (and LA) - Inspired Metal Gear Solid series
      7) Waterworld - Please don't watch this piece of shit
      8) Planet of The Apes - Monkeys. 'nuff said.
      9) The Book of Eli
      10) I Am Legend
      11) Attack of the Titans

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    9. Shin Megami Tensei: Classic R.P.G. series with an awesome demon summoning and fusion mechanic and a very high difficulty level. Inspired Pokemon; spun off into the excellent Persona series.

      Mother 3: Part of the weirdest series in videogame history. Combines the madness of the previous games with a new setting and characters.

      Revolution: Great show with a well-done setting and lots of great swordfights.

      Chrono Trigger: Defining R.P.G. that is still as fun today as it was in its time. Surprisingly nihilistic despite its cartoonish exterior.

      Interstate 76: Basically Mad Max as an action game, with a fun '70s style and great characters, and a nice car upgrade system that encourage you to play carefully.

      Wing Commander: An absolutely awesome, near perfect series that happily mixes lighthearted humor with apocalyptic dread. Lots of action and challenge, and sound design that allows you to hear all you need to know without looking at the displays. Inspired most space simulators, though it was not the first.

      Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magicka Arcana: Fun R.P.G, though too easy to break, where you can decide whether it become an apocalyptic story.

      Tex Murphy: A great adventure game series that shows a post-apocalyptic world does not have to be dark and grim. Respects the player, as it encourages him to search for clues, study everything carefully and think about the situation. It makes you feel like a real detective. Inspired a bunch of adventure games , from good, imaginative ones to Gemini Rue.

      Xenoblade Chronicles: Awesome R.P.G. with lots of hardcore challenge, 100 hours of gameplay, and an incredible level of continuity: Subjects referenced in the beginning foreshadow the revelations at the end. Getting a sequel soon, which should be pure awesomeness.

      Mega Man X: A fun action series with a bit of R.P.G. mechanics mixed in, as you can take powers from bosses and use them against other enemies and grind for items. Part of a franchise that inspired platformers to become more complex and varied.

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    10. Favourite Post-Apoc, huh?

      Daybreak 2250 A.D. By Andre Norton (First published as Starman's Son by Andrew North)
      A great tale of rebuilding society, after enough time has passed that people don't understand how the pre-war people lived, but not enough time has passed they can't figure out what most things are for. The part where he explores the new city is lovely and has always been my model for what exploring in post-apoc RPGs should be like. (Fallout 3 comes the closest, but doesn't pay attention to what items a settlement would need, beyond guns and food).

      The Postman by David Brin: I don't agree with everything in it, but it is wonderful to see a post-apoc book that isn't a thinly veiled survivalist narrative. A draftee who survived the war heads west, and tries to do what he can to rebuild society, not with weapons or violence, but with smarts and a postal service.

      Mad Max: The first one, original Australian version, not the horrible US one. Nuclear war has happened, but Australian society is still in the process of collapsing. There are still cops, and courts, but they have less and less influence, and the police are dying off due to conflict with gangs faster then they can be recruited. Also wonderfully quirky. Too bad all later Mad Max movies abandoned this idea to make action movies about people in BDSM gear.

      A Canticle for Lebowitz: A lovely story about a monastery that dedicates itself to preserving knowledge. Great themes, and another story that isn't about a survivalist with a lot of guns. I might be a bit bitter about how modern Post-Apoc stories have gone...

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    11. Whooops, this whole thread started with me saying the same things. *cough* >.>

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    12. Since we're discussing random non-CRPG media about post-apocalyptic wastelands, let me contribute a spoiled can of dog food -- I mean, my two cents.

      Just in case anybody wants to play a post-apoc TRPG, I recommend Aftermath! (Fantasy Games Unlimited, 1981) as the pick of the litter. The setting wasn't stupid, the mechanics were clever, and the official adventures were better than average.

      Then again, it's an FGU game, so the rules are far more complex than current trends favor. Here's a representative excerpt: "Smoke, as a Narcotic poison, has an Aerosol Vector. Its strength is equal to its density. It has an Incubation Period of a number of Combat Turns equal to the character’s Health Critical Saving Throw minus the density of the smoke."

      You also get all kinds of helpful information on all kinds of subjects. For instance, there's a table that tells you the food value of different kinds of corpses, ranging from cockroaches to other humans (!). You can also make armor from dead critters' pelts; in a human's case, you can use Leatherworking skill to make 15 Hit Locations' worth of Light Hide (which basically amounts to a leather jacket), with a total barter value averaging 7.5 ("I'll trade you two 'woman suits' for three flashlights!")

      All kidding aside, Aftermath! was a pretty good game. If you want a post-apoc TRPG, check it out.

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  50. I also picked up Wild Horse Woman as an impulse buy because I was curious about where the series could go after such a self-contained first book. I tried reading it but it didn't hold my interest for very long, so it has been sitting basically unread on my bookshelf ever since.

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  51. Born in '75 here and a big fan of:

    The Road Warrior
    A Canticle for Leibowitz
    A Boy and His Dog
    After the Bomb
    Threads
    On the Beach
    Fallout


    Good times.

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    1. Recently re-watched A Boy and His Dog (previously viewed it as a teenager when I was not able to appreciate it as much) on YouTube of all places. It reminded me a bit of Cherry 2000, only more on the believable (versus surreal) end of things.

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  52. I too have Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman. it's not a good as the first but it fleshes out the world a bit more.

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  53. Man, next time I break my answer up into a bunch of comments so that it doesn't take me days to respond, meaning everyone else has moved on.

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  54. Canageek, you have a hell of an interesting life. I kind of feel bad that my blog is keeping you from, you know, nuclear science.

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  55. No, your blog provides a very welcome distraction at the end of the day, or a welcome bit of reading as I wake up if I get to work early.

    My job is very interesting, the rest of my life much less so as of late. The perils of taking summer jobs in different cities I guess.

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  56. I gotta chime in on A Boy and his Dog too. If you haven't seen that movie you must. It stars a young Don Johnson in one of the most misogynistic movies I've ever seen. Theres no possible way that movie gets green-lit today. It also has one of the best endings in a movie, ever. Its available streaming on Netflix.

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    1. I watched that movie a few years ago. I thought it was vile.

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  57. Ah, so now I know why the Fallout series was absent from the conversation a couple of threads ago (real-time vs turn-based combat). And I do have to say that Fallout 1 is probably more of a hallmark game than Baldurs Gate 1. And I knew that Wasteland was a big influence on Fallout - but I did not know about this game here. I've wanted to play Wasteland for a while now, having played Fallout 1-3 and New Vegas (which I like more than Fallout 3, and it goes New Vegas>Fallout 2>Fallout 3>Fallout 1 for me.). Was Scavengers of the mutant world a quick rip-off of the 1987 C64 version of Wasteland? Maybe I'll try this one here as well if it turns out to be simple, quick fun. Then I've got to play Wasteland - I will have to skip the entries for this, I guess, but I see you rated it highly.

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  58. Reading these comments has shown me a little 'easter egg' in a game that I think is quite funny. I had never heard of Scorpia the game reviewer before, the only time i've seen that name was in M&M III as one of the monsters.

    Reading into her reviews I see she hated M&M I and II. I think New World Computing took this review personally and created this ugly, grey, obese 'Mistress of Death' that poisons the party in close combat but otherwise dies easily, in her 'honour'.

    This does seem rather petty but seems too much of a coincidence to have happened by chance. Makes you wonder if any other games have done this to reviewers.

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