Buck Rogers 1 logo

Publisher: SSI Price: £29.99

Buck Rogers is the latest RPG based around the AD&D rules system and the first to be set in a world of science fiction rather than quasi-medieval fantasy.
If you're tired of hack-and-slay and would like a bit of zap-and-spray, it might be just what you're looking for, so let's don those vac suits and try some aliens.

Fans of the AD&D game or those who have played any of the three SSI titles already available, will find little to surprise them here. The basic rules are the same as always and the usual role-playing conventions apply to movement and combat.
Players create a party of adventurers of various races, assign them careers, equip them, then start out towards a stated objective. The characters learn by experience. If they manage to survive, experience points are collected and spent on advancing the character to more powerful levels. All very conventional and decidedly underwhelming.

However, Buck Rogers does have a couple of new features which greatly increase its appeal. The first is the inclusion of the enhanced AD&D rule set, around which the game is based, that allows for the use of a skill system.
When a character is created the player can choose how to allocate a certain number of skill points to any of his or her career skills and any general skills deemed useful.
In this way player characters can be personalised to a degree no hitherto possible with previous SSI games, an improvement which allows a player to identify more closely with the alter ego.

The second improvement is in the way messages and events are handled. The process is quicker and smoother than in the older games, and helps keep things rolling along nicely.
Messages are also more informative and frequent, which helps promote a richer atmosphere - often lacking in previous efforts.

The scenario itself is well thought out and quite diverse. It is the year 2456 and you are raw recruits in the New Earth Organisation (NEO) haeded by Buck himself.
You must explore the solar system in an attempt to thwart the plans of the evil Russo-American Mercantile (RAM), who plan to sterilise the Earth and re-populate it with their own noxious breed of generically engineered warriors or 'gennies'.
The only way you can do this is to seek out and destroy RAM's doomsday device. But this is by no means an easy task.

To fulfill your mission you will have to travel to several planets and engage in hundreds of fire-fights. The game also demands that you co-operate with non-player characters, especially those of certain races, whose identities I won't divulge because some are ina much better position to help you than others.

Interaction with such characters is, therefore, more important than before. Previously, the most complex decision you had to take concerning NPC's was whether to talk to them in the pub to gain access to any gossip they might have, or chop them in half to gain access to their cash. All this helps to give the game more depth.

Buck Rogers XXVc is not a new game as such - rather it is an old one in new clothes, but the clothes are of a good fit and cut.
The sci-fi scenario breaths new life into what was becoming a rather stale series of games, and SSI's tweaking with the gameplay and the rule set gives it enough vitality for it to stand on its own as probably the best of the four.
However, there is room for a lot more improvement if the AD&D style games are to survive into the '90s, but Buck Rogers is at least a good start.

Buck Rogers 1 logo

Bisher konnte man sich bei den Rollenspielen von SSI fast immer auf ein paar zünftige Schlachten mit Gnomen, Orks und Drachen freuen - vorbei und vergessen, im 25. Jahrhundert warten ganz andere Monster auf Euch!

Wir schreiben das Jahr 2456: Buck Rogers ist gerade aus seinem 500 Jährchen langen Tiefkühlschlaf aufgewacht. Aber kein opulentes Frühstück wartet auf den armen Mann, sondern bloß ein Haufen Arbeit - unsere geliebte Erde retten und so. Das Böse hört diesmal auf den Namen "RAM", die guten sind die "NEOs". Ehe man sich aber daran machen kann, dem wahrhaft ausgeschlafenen Helden unter die Arme zu greifen, muß man in einem langwierigen Verfahren mit Hilfe der zwei gelieferten Disks drei Spieldisketten erstellen und zusätzlich noch eine Savedisk formatieren. Dann erst geht's an die Schaffung der sechs Charaktere...

Das funktioniert im Prinzip genau wie bei "Pool of Radiance" oder "Champions of Krynn", nur daß man statt Elfenmagiern halt venusianische Piloten oder merkurische Ingenieure ins digitale Leben ruft. Insgesamt stehen sechs Rassen (Erdlinge, Venusianer, Marsianer...) und fünf Berufe (Krieger, Arzt, Ingenieur...) zur Verfügung. Neu dabei ist, daß man bestimmte Fähigkeiten seiner Leute noch besonders trainieren kann; beispielsweise wäre es kein Fehler, einem Ingenieur das Reparieren einer Raumschiffhülle beizubringen. Zauberkundige gibt's hier natürlich nicht, aber ein guter Arzt in der Mannschaft erfüllt fast denselben Zweck.

Mit den richtigen Leuten an Bord kann man sich dann frohen Mutes an die erste Mission wagen: Die Gruppe kommt gerade zur rechten Zeit, um einen Angriff der RAMs auf die NEO-Basis mitzuerleben. Sind die Eindringlinge erfolgreich zurückgeschlagen, darf man mit seinen Recken eine Trainingsrunde einlegen, bei der sich ihre speziellen Fähigkeiten weiter verbessern laßen.

Anschließend geht's mit dem Raumgleiter wieder ab auf Patrouille, wobei man schon bald auf ein Geheimlabor voller ekliger Kreaturen stößt. Dann kommt wieder eine Trainungsrunde - und irgendwann sind schließlich alle Abenteuer bestanden, alle Witwen und Waisen getröstet, und die Welt ist wieder in Ordnung Geübte AD & D-Gambler werden mit Buck Rogers keine großen Probleme haben, denn das Spielprinzip ist praktisch dasselbe wie bei den Fantasy-Rollenspielen von SSI. Lediglich einige Neuerungen im Detail sind zu verzeichnen: z.B. neue Waffen und Monsterklassen, ein anders gestalteter Screen für Kämpfe mit den Bordwaffen des Raumgleiters, und der Schwierigkeitsgrad ist jetzt einstellbar.

Bemerkenswerterweise ist nun auch ab und zu mal ein bißchen Gehirnakrobatik gefragt! Die Steuerung erfolgt wie gewohnt per Maus oder Tastatur, Sound und Grafik haben sich nur unwesentlich verbessert (die Animationen einiger Monster sind allerdings wirklich sehenswert). Wer sich also schon in den AD & D-Dungeons wohlfühlte, wird sicher auch an dieser futuristischen Variante Freude haben. (wh)

Buck Rogers 1 logo

At the end of the twentieth century an ailing Soviet Union launches a space platform weapons system known as Masterlink. The US, extremely worried by this threat to their security, sends Anthony 'Buck' Rogers to destroy the platform in a prototype spaceplane. Buck succeeds in his mission, but his plane is damaged, forcing him to eject. His cryogenic unit saves his life - but leaves him floating in space, his body in suspended animation.

When Buck is revived, he gets a shock - it's 2456 and the known galaxy is dominated by the ruthless Russo-American Mercantile corporation (RAM). Buck, however, rallies the rebel New Earth Organisation (NEO) to counterattack and free Earth.

The game alternates between graphic styles and character perspective. While exploring, the view is similar to that of Dungeon Master - head-height and forward-looking. When your team encounters a foe, the perspective shifts to a forced-3D outlook, as found in wargames like Breach II and Laser Squad. Individual players are highlighted, and are given instructions, such as fire, move or guard. As weapons lose their effectiveness over distance, it's a smart idea to close the gap between your men and the enemy.

Space travel is represented in the game too, and is vital if you wish to explore and advance your characters. Combat in space uses an entirely different system to personal combat, with your ship's stats displayed along with whatever info your sensors have gleaned about the enemy's location and status. The team's skills are automatically accounted for during space flight and combat, so having a good pilot and engineer is vital. As with personal combat, the party's put things right once the fighting is over.

As with any RPG/adventure, saving your game on a regular basis is a necessity. You never know when you're going to stumble across a host of RAM soldiers, or a fleet of battle cruisers. The manual details all the baddies you'll come across, and is vital reading if you wish to know when to draw lasers - or when to run.

The manual also contains around 70 log entries - and in certain parts of the game you'll be instructed to read an entry, which can provide useful information. Try to resist the temptation to 'cheat' by reading ahead - this will only ruin the game.

The graphics are of high quality throughout the game, and although not stunning, they add a great deal to the atmosphere. The sound too, is laudable, and the two manuals are clear and well presented. You can even choose the sprites used in the combat sequences, moulding the party into the way you imagine them to be.

Overall this game oozes quality and the time spent on it is evident. The sheer size of the game, with all its different locations and options, will keep you playing - just to explore the worlds and space stations. This, coupled with the care taken over graphics and sound, makes for another winner from SSI. There's no chance of you treating this game like a doddle. Can you battle your way through and eventually team up with Buck himself?


Buck Rogers first appeared in August, 1928, as a comic strip in the science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories. His popularity lead to the character being syndicated in various US newspapers in 1929, and Buck soon became a national (and later, an international) institution. The strip was written by John Flint Dille and Philip Nowlan, and drawn by Dick Calkins, whose imagination had millions of Americans avidly following the adventures of the hero and his rocket.

His popularity has not decreased - indeed, a television series of his adventures was fashionable in the early Eighties despite dull plots and the addition of an annoying robot called Tweeky. The gyrojet guns, space elevators, and truth gauges featured in the original strip have proved eternally endearing - heroes, it seems, don't go out of style...


This RPG puts you in control of a group of NEO recruits, eager to defend their new-found freedom. Loosely based on the AD&D system, each character has a particular profession, whether it be warrior, medic, engineer, rocket jock, or rogue (a thief-like occupation).

Characters are 'built' by allotting points to the specific abilities of each character class. But there'll be a trade off: a character who excels at demolition may be hopeless at first aid, for example.

Hit points, armour class, and movement points allow the RPG tradition, and experience is gathered throughout the adventure, allowing the characters to rise in ability in their chosen field of expertise. Each increase in level gives the character more skill points to distribute, making for more tricky decisions to be taken. While back at NEO's base, the team can buy and sell equipment, have wounds and diseases cured, and accept new missions.

Buck Rogers 1 logo Zzap! Sizzler

SSI/US Gold, C64 £24.99; Amiga £29.99

The RAM (Russo-American Mercantile) organisation is based on Mars. They want to control the Solar System - a natural enough ambition, I suppose. They rule Earth with an iron hand, thus NEO (New Earth Organization) has been formed to counter the tyranny. After Buck Rogers was found and revived from his frozen snooze he joined NEO and helped to remove RAM troops from Earth. However, fear of RAM is still high as they could strike any at time. You join the NEO, one of many new recruits. Buck's task is to form a team, get the hell out into space and put the stellar wind up the dreaded RAM.

Buck Rogers uses an uprated AD&D system although there are many similarities. The swords have been replaced by laser guns, the towns and villages by planets and space stations. You still control a group of six, the menu interface is structured in the same way, even the 'meanwhile' screens appear to have the same artistic 'feel' to them.

However, there are many improvements. The complex skill system being the most important.

Character attributes contain many of the usual categories: dexterity, strength and so on. However, there is one surprise. 'Tech' measures a character's technical know-how. Experience points measure how much each team member has 'learned' by winning battles, finding money and completing parts of the adventure. Increasing levels via high experience advances a character's career.

Character classes, as in the fantasy genre, may only have certain careers. The available careers are interesting and varied. So, for example, Tinkers (a race bio engineered to work in cramped spaces - clever with tools etc) can only be engineers and medics. However, it is the skill system that provides the core to the game and the qualification for each career via minimum skill values. Rogues can, for example, bypass security, climb pretty well, convince other characters with a spot of fast-talking, hide in the shadows, move silently, notice things, open locks, and pick pockets. Genera skills are also included. They are listed as 'extra curricular' in the manual. During character creation and level increases you are able to allocate points to any skill you have. Skills have a direct influence in the game. Leadership skills may attract NPCs into the party during combat sequences, for example.

Many of the menu options are similar in their effects to the AD&D menu system, with modifications such as a bar/restaurant instead of the tavern. There are novel options such as the library to find info (an appropriate skill is required to achieve success). You con re-supply and repair your spaceship. Other notables are jury-rig (used when equipment is damaged), boost engines (attempting to squeeze extra speed out of the engines) and sensor (to probe enemy ships).

Combat uses the usual raised-side-view - ideal for tactical play - and is divided into 10 'segments'. Each segment includes a detailed array of variables such as each character's initiative number (which determines when that character acts in combat), the type and performance of armour each character wears (dexterity also helps in avoiding injury), THACO (the ability to hit an opponent in melee or ranged fire), damage (resulting from the weapon type used and the strength - the greater they are, the more hit points removed from the opponent), saving throws (recovers from poison etc), leadership skill check, battle tactics (this skill enables the team to work better as a group), performance in zero-g manoeuvring and so on. Terrain can be used during tactical play which aids the tactical realism. Combat in space is also available and includes boarding and salvage as options.

As the RPG genre matures we are slowly seeing it separate into different sub-groups. These should not be directly compared to each other as they all have different goals. Some RPGs are pure hack 'n slash (Bard's Tale) while others rely on interaction to succeed (the later Ultimas). Buck Rogers depends on tactical combat to win the game.

As it is the primary feature, combat is excellent and will be enjoyed by tacticians everywhere. In addition, due to the large amount of detail provided for each character (both in normal play and during combat), the game quickly becomes absorbing and addictive. Your characters appear more as 'individuals' rather than just an assortment of a few re-rolled stats such as charisma and strength. There is no doubt, therefore, that Buck Rogers sits firmly as the king of the 'Tactical' RPG castle.