When you ask a retro gamer about who their favorite game companies, names like Sierra On-Line, LucasArts Entertainment, or Origin Systems often come up. Less likely, but deserving of a look is the little known Paragon Software, the company that brought The Amazing Spider-Man, MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy, The Punisher, Space: 1889, and X-MEN: Madness in Murderworld, among others. Paragon Software was also responsible for bringing one of my personal cult RPG favorites to the PC in 1991’s Twilight 2000.
First, some background story. Twilight 2000 was set in a future wherein the border tensions between China and the U.S.S.R. escalate and events unfold in Europe which draws NATO and the Warsaw Pact into direct conflict. Conventional warfare is followed by the use of chemical weapons, which leads to tactical nuclear strikes, and finally a “limited” nuclear war engulfing the globe. The result is widespread catastrophe and the near-collapse of civilization. Resources are scarce and enemies are around every corner. Warlords rule individual city-states, and the countryside is ruled by whoever has the most armament. Your team finds themselves in what used to be western Poland, under the thumb of Baron Czarny, a despot who finds no atrocity to atrocious to commit. Having enough to deal with without a nutbar making life even more difficult for them, a consensus is reached that the mad Baron needs to be dethroned – and that’s where the game begins.
The Twilight 2000 PC game was based on the pen-and-paper RPG of the same name, first published in 1984 by the Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW). It was a game of its time, with the Cold War raging and fears of nuclear Armageddon permeating the international consciousness. Players assumed the role of soldiers trapped in Europe after the final offensive and counter-offensive between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The game had a cult following, but with the close of the Cold War, the appeal of the game began to wane. A modified history was presented in the 1993 version of the game that attempted use the attempted coup against Boris Yeltsin, then President of the Russian Federation, as the focal point of an alternate history, but never quite caught on.
Twilight 2000 combines tactical gameplay with RPG elements. Your task is to complete missions with up to 20 soldiers. Each of your team has different attributes, languages that they speak, and special abilities, all of which you set to make their unique personality. Each personality will determine how your soldiers respond to your orders, so it’s important to choose wisely to avoid messy situations (not unlike the pen & paper version!).
The game unfolds in a variety of styles: there is a top-down map display; isometric tactical screens; front-on inventory screens; even a first-person 3-D driving mode (which was a bit ahead of its day, with polygon graphics and lighting effects based on time of day). One of the more frustrating limits of the isometric display is that the game world, although continuous, requires new screen loads when changing locations. This leads to frustration as you can miss an important item as it’s not on the current screen, but in gameworld terms, is only a few feet away.
The equipment screen shows off an impressive array of weaponry, armor, and general use items available to your soldiers. Everything from Kevlar vests, various types of grenades, flashlights, thermal goggles, M-16s, Uzi’s, M9 pistols, even M203 grenade launchers! This was the Diablo of the post-apocalyptic game genre, with something for everyone. Yee-haw!
All in all, Twilight 2000 is a good PC game. It’s certainly not perfect (and needed a few patches after its initial release), but it provides some decent gameplay in a well-crafted gameworld. Pick up a copy and let the post-Apocalyptic good times roll!