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Berkley (Pacer imprint) -- United States
Complexity Level : Advanced (Full Game System)
Format : Paperback
Game System : Character Advancement
Game System : Combat
Game System : Inventory Management
Game System : Randomization Method : In Book
Game System : Scores
Genre : Science Fiction
Target Age Group : Older Children
Target Age Group : Teenagers
Writing Style : Present Tense
Writing Style : Second Person
Guerrieri della strada (Italian)
Száguldó harcos (Hungarian)
Wojownik autostrady (Polish)
This four-book series casts the reader as Cal Phoenix, one of the few survivors in a world recovering from nuclear holocaust. Over the course of the books, Cal attempts to lead a band of survivors from Texas to California, where they plan to set up a permanent home. Cal has two basic attributes: Close Combat Skill and Endurance. These are generated randomly, but the reader has control in distributing points among Cal's five Survival Skills: Driving, Shooting, Field Craft, Stealth and Perception. Further skill points are gained as a result of successfully completing books. There are a limited number of items that may be taken along, with a large load reducing Stealth. It is also necessary to keep track of water, first aid supplies and several different types of ammunition. Close combat is handled similarly to battles in the author's better-known Lone Wolf series, but the inclusion of firearms makes things slightly more complex. The books were first published in England by Beaver Books, then reissued in the United States by Berkley Pacer. The American editions have black and white rather than color maps, new cover artwork (though the illustrators are not credited) and in the case of the second volume, a less violent-sounding title.
Freeway Warrior Character Sheet (back)
Freeway Warrior Character Sheet (front)
It's years after terrorists have set off nuclear bombs and reduced the planet to a barren wasteland but somehow southern California managed to avoid the explosions, the years of nuclear winter and crazed biker gangs. All of it. So you and a handful of other survivors pile into a convoy of dilapidated vehicles to brave hundreds of miles of hostile terrain and the usual weirdos who still have access to things like motorcycles and bullets after a nuclear holocaust.
As is obvious once you've played it the series is basically Mad Max using the Lone Wolf system. Because it doesn't have shining cities and exotic jungles and dark dungeons for you to explore, though, it tries to keep you reading by playing up the human angle of your fellow travelers. There's two relatives, a number of friends, a love interest and even an archenemy, but the problem is they seemed to intend to bring up the human angle at some point but forgot. Instead the books are numerous examples of slogging from destroyed place to destroyed place and fighting the occasional ragged biker. After reading Freeway Warrior I feel I can say what Lone Wolf would've been like if they'd included Qinifer in the main series: not that different at all.
Of course instead of swords and axes you have guns and bombs and suchlike but you also need to keep track of your water supply as well as your meals or lose endurance. No magic healing powers in these books. I never figured out how you were supposed to replenish your water: I read through all four books and I don't remember a single time where I was told I could refill my canteen. Surviving in a horrible barren landscape like in these books would really be that taxing on you, but you basically have to get a really high endurance and combat skills at the very beginning and then continually get very lucky in combat to have enough endurance to make it to the end. Maybe I was just doing it wrong, but I don't think so.
I'm sure Freeway Warrior has its fans but to me bombing around an arid landscape and fighting leather-clad freaks wasn't as much fun as Mel Gibson made it look. Check it out at Home of the Underdogs if you're bored but don't expect much.
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