Every civilized society has 3 stages in its cycle – its ascend, heyday and downfall. The downfall may come quickly, possibly due to a war or natural disaster. In Burntime the cause is not named, but as the game begins, you find yourself in a deserted world within the remnants of what once must have been a flourishing civilisation. It is a genre mix of strategy and RPG elements, which combines the best parts of both gaming worlds. The game transfers you into a scenario in which you have the simple goal to conquer the remaining habitable locations in an unfriedly world populated with several types of characters, but also braindead mutants. Well, the second goal is to survive (and I’m pretty sure, this will be your main task during your first tries).
This game supports a multiplayer option for two players in hot seat mode. As the game starts you get to a setup window in which you can select the name, character portrait and flag colour for one or both players. In the lower part of the screen is the difficulty setting. You can choose between three levels, which increase the game’s difficulty significantly. Then the game begins and you arrive at main map, on which you see the vast world with various locations like destroyed cities, old factories or caves. There are three opponents on the map you have to compete with. On top and on the bottom right of the map are red bars displayed. The top bar shows the remaining time you have for your turn. If it runs off, the day changes and you'll use up another ration of food and water. It is mainly of interest in hot seat mode however. The bar on the bottom right is your constitution. If it ever reaches zero, you’ll die and the game is over.
You start in some random location, probably a smaller one, and the first thing to learn is how to survive. This is rather easy, as you only have to take care of your water and food supplies. These supplies are measured in daily rations (DR), which your body can save 9DR of food and 5DR of water. When one of these supplies is depleated you’ll suffer and loose constitution. For water most locations have some kind of source, like a still functioning water pipe or a natural reservoir. Each of these hold a maximum amount of water and refill slowly. There are several kinds of food, which provide different DR. The worst are maddows (3DR), the best pieces of meat (9DR). Sometimes you can find such in buildings or outside areas, but sooner or later, you’ll need more reliable sources. So you have to travel around and build up a gang to occupy some locations in order to “harvest” food there.
Travelling is done on the main map. From each location you’ll see red lines leading to the sites you are able to travel to. The longer the way, the more time and therefore more supplies will be needed to go there. The first thing you should do, when arriving at a new site, is to check the info screen, as some sites are polluted by radiation or toxic gases. If you stumble across one of these sites, leave AT ONCE. You will die fast without a protection suit.
The characters you are able to hire are divided into three categories. First, there are the fighters, which are good at, well... fighting. This is the preferred group to keep locations occupied and defend them against opposition. Second, technicans are able to repair and construct things out of the rubbish you’ll find or trade with merchants. These can be valuable tools like rat traps or snake baskets. The last group are medics, which are able to heal you and the members of your gang. When you’ve hired another character, he will follow you unless you assign him to stay at the site you’re currently inside of. Then this site is occupied by your gang and a flag in your colour appears on the main map. Now you only have to provide an appropriate tool (just put it inside any building) and tell the occupant which kind of food to harvest (in the location’s info screen). You should also remember, that each of the locations has different food resources.
Having a good food production, it’s time to hire some fighters and go for your enemies now. These fighters need weapons like forks, knifes, axes etc. Weapons are extremely valuable, so be sure to store some in one of your sites before building up your army. As fighters have to be supplied with water and food too, you’ll need loads of this. The worst thing that can happen is your army is suffering on the march to an opponent’s fortress and arriving half dead for battle.
If you want to attack someone, you have to switch into battle-mode. To do this right-click for the menu and select “fight”. The cursor will change from a mouth to a flame. Other than your opponents there are other creatures, which tend to attack you. Try to avoid the mutants. They can do severe damage sometimes. The straying dogs can be used as emergency food supply, as the leave a piece of meat, if you kill them. Just be sure to keep two of them alive at each site for the preservation of the race. :D
When Max Design released this game in 1993, it had an innovative concept and a very uncommon thematic setting. The graphics are quite beautiful and the few sounds are also nice, despite a lack of sound effects. Alas, like 1869, which was also developed by Max Design earlier, the interface requires some habituation. The game is entirely controlled by mouse, with left-click for select, attack or talk to and right-click for menus, use, activate etc. That’s the reason for the rating of 4. I suggest you’ll just try out the different menus as some options are somewhat hidden and the whole controls are far too many to explain. Once you’re into it, the gameplay is very binding through its dark, post-apocalyptic background, although it lacks a little depth. But you will spend some hours with it, before getting bored. So it is suitable for strategy- as well as roleplaying-gamers. And if you’re fan of Mad Max or Fallout, you should really take a look.