How it’s possible that Crya’s Dune and Westwood Studios’ Dune II were released in the same year, we explained in the first part of our short miniseries on Frank Herbert’s fantastic universe titles. Now it was time to finally look at the more famous of the couple, which entered the market in 1992 and completely overshadowed their French “predecessor”. Dune II debuted at DOS in December 1992 with the subtitle The Building of a Dynasty and Battle for Arrakis, respectively, depending on each region and version. Later it also arrived on the Amiga, Mega Drive and other platforms. To this day, many players incorrectly call it the first real-time strategy ever, which is a title that does not belong to it. This is a notorious mistake. Like Wolfenstein 3D, it is not the first first person event. In both cases, however, it is true that these games have anchored these genres, standardized them and, in particular, popularized them to such an extent that they are understood as representatives of the first modern mainstream successes in this field. Quite right.
Screenshots from the PC version
Dunu II was also published by Virgin Games, but unlike the first volume, it was only loosely inspired by the original books and film from 1984. But the essential remained. Here again, he fights for supremacy over the planet Arrakis, where, as the only place in the known universe, there is a rare spice melange. This drug prolongs life, deepens consciousness and, above all, enables safe interstellar travel. It doesn’t make sense to have lengthy debates that this strategy has largely foreshadowed the whole genre for many years and laid the foundations on which many others have built. That’s just a fact. The very fact that we were able to choose one of three playable sides with their specific features in this narrative game was followed by many other developers. Pranic didn’t mind that in addition to the Atreides and Harkonnens, we also had a non-canonical Ordos. He did not appear in any of the original novels, but he finds not quite about Westwood’s invention. Although the authors have completed it in many ways, at least the mention of it appeared in the unofficial guide from 1984, The Dune Encyclopedia. However, they do not describe their family crest as a snake with a book, but crossbones and ivy on a golden background. According to the encyclopedia, the symbol used by Westwood belongs to the Wallach family.
Despite its age and genre, Westwood’s Dune lacks almost nothing that makes this world significant. You mine roots, fight other genera, encounter sandworms and Fremen. It is no coincidence that this is a strategy. As we talked about in the first part of this miniseries, Westwood got a job on Dun at a time when Cry was planning to cancel the adventure. Such a license could not be left idle, and strategy seemed to be a suitable genre for a video game adaptation that would capture the battle for spice and dominance over the planet Arrakis. Herzog Zwei’s real-time strategy for Mega Drive in 1989 became a real model for Dune II.
The game quickly became a hit, and from today’s point of view, “negligible” 250,000 copies sold were enough for the entire three years.
Virgin took the idea and role model and introduced it to Westwood, who agreed to play. Little did his staff know that the development of the Crya adventure was continuing, that it would come out and that it would even overtake them, so that their Dune would become Dune II. In addition to the strategy of Herzog Zwei, the authors also refer to the inspiration of Populous, Military Madness and Civilization, but also to the interface of Macs, whose environment has long been well controlled by the mouse. The authors believed that the turn-based war strategies at the time were stagnating, lacking innovations and declining interest in them among players. At the same time, however, they were convinced that this genre had much greater potential when it was sufficiently dynamic and exciting. As it turned out, they were right. Although the French adventure came out before Westwood’s real-time strategy, which “condemned” it to number two, which the authors protested, Dune II did not lose its attention or popularity. Exactly opposite. Her uncalculated overlap for the whole genre guaranteed her undying glory and, so to speak, immortality.
I would like to dramatize the story and write that the media and players could not immediately recognize the potential of this news in their time, but it would be a godly lie. The game quickly became a hit, and from today’s point of view, “negligible” 250,000 copies sold were enough for the entire three years. Holt another time. After the PC version, the above-mentioned ports for the Amiga and Mega Drive arrived, even though neither of them reaches the quality of the original. On the Amiga, the game looked very similar, on the console from Sega, it offered different graphics and interfaces, which were based on the needs of a different platform and control. However, some ideas were influenced by later games from Westwood. Dune II has become such a concept that, in addition to the regular sequel, which was not released until 2001 under the name Emperor: Battle for Dune, it was also one of the first games of a modern remake. Well modern. Dune 2000 was released on Windows in 1998 and a year later in a very different version on the first PlayStation. In Dune 2000, it was also possible to control multiple units simultaneously.
Screenshot (s) from the version for Mega Drive
In addition to official contributions, the popularity of the original is probably best evidenced by unofficial productions. Fans of the dedicated community have created a huge number of custom versions and edits. At least worth mentioning is, for example, the modernized edition in the form of Dune Legacy. If you are looking for something even more modern, you might like the unofficial “remaster” of Dune 2000 in the form of the community project OpenRA. But it is also worth mentioning Dune Dynasty, Dune II – The Maker, Super Dune 2, turn-based Dune III or Dune IV. Dune II has also received a port for Android and today you can play it directly in your internet browser.
Last but not least, this time I left a little interesting. For example, players found out that artificial intelligence in Dune II cheats and gets credits if they are in a tight spot. This happens, for example, when he loses a building. On the other hand, from time to time the player loses a small part of the credits, the amount of which is based on the amount of energy consumed. In other words, you also pay electricity bills on Arrakis, even though you make it yourself. A bit absurd notion when your task is to conquer the most valuable substance in the known universe in the game. But now please excuse me, the spice must flow, and I have not yet fulfilled the Emperor’s plan.