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Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

Entry updated 21 August 2012. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1992; vt Dune II: Battle for Arrakis Europe). Westwood Studios (WS). Designed by Joseph Bostic, Aaron Powell. Platforms: DOS (1992); Amiga (1993); MegaDrive (1994).

While it was not the first Computer Wargame to run in real time, Dune II was the first Real Time Strategy game as the form is understood today. Although the game was licenced from Frank Herbert's novel Dune (fixup 1965), it has little in common with its original, and less with the Adventure game Dune (1992 Cryo Interactive, Amiga, DOS; 1993 MegaCD), to which it was technically a sequel. The game's premise is that the ruler of the novel's Galactic Empire has challenged three noble Houses to fight each other for control of spice production on the planet Arrakis. The participants are the Atreides, the Harkonnens and the Ordos, of which only the first two appear in the Dune novels; the Ordos are a mercantile House, mentioned briefly in Willis McNelly's "nonfiction" book The Dune Encyclopedia (anth 1984). Players adopt the role of a field commander serving their chosen House; a variety of units such as individual soldiers and spice harvesters are available with which to fulfil their mission objectives. Gameplay combines much of the depth of earlier turn-based Computer Wargames with the rapid pace of an action game. Other elements include the ability to improve the strength of available units through research, a feature borrowed from 4X Games, and the need to mine spice which can be sold in return for the funds required to continue operations. These are the key elements of a Real Time Strategy game, and represented a fundamental break from the gameplay of such earlier games as Laser Squad (1988), which had much in common with pen and paper Wargames. Such descendants as the Command & Conquer (1995) series have improved considerably on many aspects of Dune II, notably the interface design, but it is still of considerable historical interest.

Related works: Dune 2000 (1998 WS / Intelligen Games [IG], Win; 1999 PS1) is a remake of the original which received mixed reviews. While its visuals and storyline were much enhanced compared to Dune II, the gameplay closely resembled that of its original, without taking into account design improvements made in later RTS games. Emperor: Battle for Dune (2001 WS / IG, Win) is a direct sequel to Dune 2000 which received better reviews than its predecessor. Its story features a similar struggle over Arrakis to Dune II, this time sponsored by Frank Herbert's Spacing Guild, but with a twist. After an apparent victory the player's forces will be betrayed by the Guild and another faction, the Tleilaxu, who have Genetically Engineered a Psionic "Emperor Sandworm". [NT]


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