Based on a Steve Jackson board game called Car Wars, Autoduel is an early attempt by Origin Systems to create a Mad Max-type post apocalyptic, car-based RPG that borrows elements from Origin‘s own Ultima series, as well as from other games such as FTL‘s SunDog. It was first released in 1985.
You create a character at the start of the game then have barely enough money to manufacture a small car, so you can start exploring and running courier jobs. These jobs earn you money so that you can buy car upgrades, body armour, and other luxuries in this harsh world.
When you leave a city the view cuts to an overhead scrolling representation of the landscape and you drive around using either the keyboard, a joystick, or the mouse, looking for salvage or anything interesting on your radar. When you’re driving you can stop the car to get out, but you’re better defended inside, no matter how small it is.
Completing missions and gaining a foothold does take some time, practise, and probably a few re-starts. You can easily screw up a game by making the wrong decision, or by taking the wrong bus trip somewhere, because the game automatically saves whenever anything changes. The death of character is also permanent and the only way to guard against this is to back up your player data files outside of the Autoduel game directory. You can buy ‘clones’ of yourself in the game (basically extra continues after you die) but these are expensive and out of reach for the early part of the game.
Overall, Autoduel is an interesting early RPG on the PC. It’s slow, difficult and can be very frustrating at times but does have the seed of a good idea behind it and is reasonably well executed.
More: Autoduel on Wikipedia