Something about games set in post-apocalyptic settings always draws me in. It could be the story of one hero struggling against a blasted wasteland, or what actually rises from the ashes instead as salvation. Or an end run that leaves nothing but towering ruins as an epitaph to a cataclysm.
The 1960 film adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine shot us through half a million years of fictional history that imagined humanity’s future and where it might have gone in Wells’ imagination. The Terminator painted a grim “near now” where machines waged a genocidal war after bathing the planet in nuclear fire.
The post-apocalyptic genre is filled with storytelling possibilities – and material for games to take players into “what if?” adventures. Sierra On-Line’s adventure in ’88, Manhunter: New York, put players in the shoes of a human working for alien overlords that now control a brutally repressed and ruined world. The genre was also stretched across fantasy with TSR’s Dark Sun series which imagined a world left devastated by sorcery.
And thanks to films such as Mad Max, station wagons and muscle cars became weapon platforms for a bleak tomorrow. SSI decided to blend both with Roadwar 2000.
It’s a strategy game that imagines a worldwide outbreak killing nearly everyone. Focusing on the United States, you play as one of the gang leaders who now controls the abandoned highways of the shattered nation, but one with a conscience. Approached by the remnants of the US government, you’re asked to find eight scientists who can create a cure to the plague ravaging what is left of civilization.
You’ll commandeer vehicles ranging from sports cars to trucks, fight gangs that won’t take too kindly to yours crossing their territory, and travel from devastated city to city in search of supplies, news, and the scientists.
The game blends management with a little tactical planning as you plan out combat and then let the menu options drive the action. Vehicle details are presented as stats allowing you to crew each one individually and check things such as braking and maneuverability.
The game also had a sequel, Roadwar Europa, which took place in, well, Europe. Instead of finding scientists, a terrorist organization is threatening to blow up cities and guess who gets the call to stop them?
The packaging rocked the same art that you see in the ad below. Many of SSI’s ads tended to follow that pattern, and who could blame them? The art had to be eye catching not only from a marketing perspective but to get the imaginative juices flowing in the same way that Legacy of the Ancients’ cover or tapping TSR’s vault of art for Eye of the Beholder II did.