Dune (computer game)

A number of computer games based on Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune were created:



The  Mega CD version of Dune featured various extras.
The Sega Mega CD version of Dune featured various extras.

main article: Dune (Cryo)
(Cryo Interactive, 1992)

Dune blended adventure with economic and military strategy, and is considered by many the most immersive Dune computer game. Loosely following the story of the novel, the game puts you in the shoes of Paul Atreides, with the ultimate goal of driving the Harkonnen from Dune, while managing spice extraction, military, and later, ecology through the native Fremen tribes. As you progress you equip your troops with weapons from crysknives to Atomics, tap into your latent psychic powers, and get acquainted with such characters from the book as Chani and Liet Kynes. Available for the Amiga and IBM compatibles, it was one of the first floppy games to be converted to CD format. The CD version included footage of the David Lynch movie, and highly improved, 3D-rendered travelling and location screens. The game was also released on Sega's Mega CD format. Also worthy of mention is the audio track created by Stéphane Picq and Philip Ulrich, released by Cryo (formerly Exxos) on the now extremely rare album Dune: Spice Opera.

Dune II

(Westwood Studios, 1992)

Also known as:

  • Dune II: The Battle for Arrakis (Sega Genesis port)
  • Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty
The Dune II interface was the basis for modern  games.
The Dune II interface was the basis for modern real-time strategy games.

While not the first real-time strategy game, per se (the first being The Ancient Art of War), Dune II established a format that would be followed for years to come. Striking a balance between complexity and innovation, it was a huge success and laid the foundation for the coming Command and Conquer, Warcraft, and the RTS craze that endures to this day.

The player takes the role of a commander of one of three interplanetary houses, the Atreides, the Harkonnen or the Ordos, with the objective of wresting control of Arrakis from the two other houses. The basic strategy in the game is to harvest the spice from the treacherous sand dunes, convert the spice into spendable credits via a harvester and refinery and to build military combat units with these acquired credits in order to fend off and destroy the enemy. In addition to enemy incursions, the player must also deal with periodic appearances of the sandworm, invulnerable and capable of swallowing vehicles and infantry whole, as well as and harsh weather conditions that can deteriorate the structures of the player's base.

The plot is basically linear, with variations depending on which House is taken by the player. Completing higher missions gives access to improved technology and higher-order weaponry unique to each House. The final prize for the commander is the building of the House Palace from where superweapons may be unleashed on opponents in the final closing chapters of the game. The House Harkonnen superweapon is a long-range finger of missiles called the 'Death Hand', whereas House Atreides may call upon the local Fremen infantry warriors, over which the player has no control, to engage enemy targets. House Ordos may unleash a fast-moving Saboteur whose main purpose is the destruction of buildings.

New technology unique to each house ensures varied gameplay. For example, House Harkonnen may be able to construct their "Devastator" tanks with heavy armor and ordnance but cannot build the similarly impressive Atreides 'Sonic Tank'. The Ordos have access to the "Deviator" - a specialized tank firing a nerve gas that switches the allegiance of targeted units to Ordos for a limited period of time. The three Houses also are restricted in their building practices - House Ordos cannot build Atreides-style trikes, instead making the faster "Raider" trikes, while House Harkonnen constructs heavier but more expensive quad bikes. When the Starport becomes available, players can purchase (rather than construct) units to which their House does not ordinarily have access (so House Harkonnen can purchase trikes, and House Ordos rocket launchers).

House Harkonnen relies on heavy and powerful, but expensive, units, while House Atreides is a more "middle of the road" side with access to good specialised units such as the Sonic Tank. House Ordos tends to prioritise speed over strength, with quite specialised units and a lack of heavy firepower, and thus require a degree of cunning gameplay to win. The ultimate final showdown is the battle among the player's House up against three enemy sides, among them the Emperor Frederick's forces, the Sardaukar (an unplayable house whose heavy infantry are particularly powerful). The Sardaukar Palace fires Death Hand missiles like that of the Harkonnens; thus, playing as the Atreides or Ordos will result in facing two Death Hand strikes at a time.

The final cutscene would also vary according to the House that the player selects, therefore, not all conclusions for all Houses are the same.

Some key elements that first appeared in this game, but would later appear in many other RTS games, are:

  • A world map from which the next mission is chosen
  • Resource-gathering to fund unit construction
  • Simple base and unit construction
  • Building construction dependencies (technology tree)
  • Different sides/factions (the Houses), each with unique unit-types

Dune 2000

(Westwood Studios, 1998)

Missing image
Dune 2000 screenshot

Using a game engine which resembles that of Westwood's Red Alert, Dune 2000 is a remake of Dune 2. The story, told with animations and subtitles in the original Dune 2, is now told with full motion video starring actors such as John Rhys-Davies. The game was criticised by some for not adding enough fresh content, and for an inferior interface compared to its competitors — most notably Total Annihilation. The storyline, though, has improved markedly as did the triggers in-game with excellent twists to the gameplay. The game also tidied its graphics to incorporate 16-bit graphics as well as incorporating a later patch with new units for multiplay. Despite all these enhancements, the game suffered from poor AI behaviour as did most of other games developed by Westwood as well as poor waypointing which has quickly become crucial in fast and furious online multiplayer games.

Emperor: Battle for Dune

(Westwood Studios, 2001)

While having an interface similar to the Command and Conquer series, it added enough features - such as a 3D engine and in-battle reinforcements - to provide an interesting change of pace. Features of note are the fairly non-linear campaign, featuring randomized events, and the fast pace relative to the earlier Dune games. The three Houses also featured new units in their ranks, with the Harkonnens equipped with flame technology to both machine and infantry, the agile 'Buzzsaw' that can make short work of large groups of enemy infantry, the 'Inkvine' catapult unit which is very inaccurate against fast moving units but with a weapon payload of devastating effects, the large and armored air unit 'Gunship'as well as an imposing 'Devastator' mech. The Atreides can now build snipers, the anti-air unit 'Mongoose' as well as their long range artillery unit 'Minotaurus'. The Ordos are not militarily inferior with its ability to deploy mortar units which can cause widespread damage in large squads, the self-regenerating 'Laser Tank' and the long-ranged 'Kobra' tank which can lob destruction onto enemy targets from a fair distance. Territorial control also becomes more interesting with the enemy AI also capable of wresting back the land that the player has just conquered in the previous battle although it can prove repetitious over time.

Criticisms of the game are not as much as that of its predecessor, Dune 2000 but it still suffered from poor AI with the computer controlled player attacking the human player with a similar strategy that can be predicted and thereafter countered effectively. Further, the game's bad AI includes a lack of combining units of different abilities as the missions cannot be won by building only a particular type of combat unit.

Like Dune 2000, the game featured all new full-motion video cutscenes, somewhat based more on the original movie. The most notable inclusions were those of the roles of the Duke Atreides being played by Star Trek: The Next Generation's Michael Dorn.

Frank Herbert's Dune

(Cryo Interactive, 2001)

Based on the Sci-Fi Channel TV Series, Frank Herbert's Dune was an effort to create a 3D action game in the Dune universe. The game was not a commercial success.

External links

fr:Dune II nl:Dune (computerspel) he:Dune (משחק מחשב)


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