Dune II

I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah

I've watched Dune. Definitely once, but maybe twice. At one point in time, I had a replica prop gun from Dune. Not a highly detailed hero prop, more a block of painted resin or whatever it was. That square looking handgun that Patrick Stewart had if memory serves. Anyway, I'm somewhat aware of Dune, but haven't got a clue about Dune II.

From the developers who would go on to create Command & Conquer, a series I am aware of, comes the real-time strategy title that introduces all kinds of gameplay mechanics to the genre. Dune II is perhaps the grandfather of RTS, certainly in a form familiar to me, and yet I know diddlysquat about it.

Probably involves a lot of spice, though...

Fun Times

I opted to play the Sega Mega Drive port of Dune II which is much better than you might imagine. You might think the RTS genre could only be played effectively with a keyboard and mouse (the mouse more so than the keyboard), but this port does a pretty good job of translating things over to three buttons and a D-pad.

Gather resources, spend cash, make things, repeat until victory conditions are met - that's what we're after here. The tutorial out of the way, I jumped into my first few missions, tasked with refining some spice in order to get credits, and once I'd mastered that, bashing my opposition out of the region.

It is a little clunky, sure, but once you remember that you need to concrete the surface of the planet before you build anything on it, and then remember to move your units out of the way so that the concrete can be put down in the first place, Dune II starts to feel basically the same as the C&C titles I'm more familiar with.


Basically the same, but slower. Things move fairly quickly, but it feels slow, as though I'm making little progress. There's always something I'm waiting for, and if there's something I've forgotten, like concrete, then I'm waiting even longer to get something done, all the while my opposition is harvesting away and minding their own business until one straw breaks their camels' back and I'm up shit creek without a paddle. Too many idioms?

In one mission very early on, I'd uncovered much of the map, bar the opposition base - enough of the map to feel safe in knowing where to harvest and where threats would come from and so on - and would have been content to sit back and gather resources. But no.

After my scouting party found an opposition spice harvester and its accompanying defensive unit, they seemingly declared war on me there and then, and what was three guys every minute or two getting too close to my base became a whole army getting too close to me, and I had nothing I could build to respond.

After what felt like twenty minutes of peace (but was probably closer to half that), if felt like I was ambushed and would have to concede defeat. In fairness, it was probably too early to give in, but I didn't like the way it looked and I wasn't in the mood for trying to turn it around with a single infantry unit every however many seconds until I ran out of money to train them. Or fix the barracks. Or the rest of my base.

Final Word

Dune II is very easy to get into, however, so there may be a chance for another attempt. You can play as one of three different houses, each with their own unique buildings and stories and so on, and there is the option to win with a number of strategies, so you're not boxed in so much, and have some degree of freedom for what you do.

That said, you can only build in certain places, on certain surfaces, and if you're playing with a controller a lot of stuff is very much hands on, be that ordering units around or constructing things.

I like Dune II for the fact that it is so clearly an early C&C, and that it's nice to go back to such games and see where they started, but at the same time, it's a little rough, a little simple and rather challenging, personally.

I don't know - it's a mixed bag. Well worth a look, though.

Fun Facts

Inspiration for this kind of game came from Herzog Zwei and the mouse-based user interface of the Apple Mac.

Dune II, developed by Westwood Studios, first released in 1992.
Version played: Dune II: Battle for Arrakis, Sega Mega Drive, 1993, via emulation.