“No, don’t buy it – it’s not even a game! There are little things that look like ants and nothing happens!” This was the way one of my friends described Dune II when I said I wanted to purchase the game. The truth is that I had loved so much the original Dune that it didn’t matter: I did not listen to my friend’s words and purchased the game. And indeed it was with “ants” on the screen and a strange view of the map.
For me, Dune II was the first real time strategy I had ever player and will always be “the game which started it all”. I say “for me,” because recently I heard that not Dune was the first RTS. Whatever. It’s certainly the only one that made history. And things changed so much since then…
I was not used with the concept, I remember playing and being fascinated by everything. And, let’s face it – Dune II indeed was a fascinating title that brought a lot of concepts which were lost along the way, unfortunately. It was not only a pioneer, it was a flawless title for those times. And it had so many things: three playing factions, each with unique combat vehicles, special bonuses and campaigns! It had the legendary sandworms, which used to eat your vehicles if you were not careful – but which you were able to destroy and fill the map with spice. It was the first one to use a mouse! Don’t laugh – these things might seem like a piece of cake today, but back then it was “the thing”. Remember we’re talking about a title released in 1992, when games like Spheres of Chaos were still being released (and successful!)
The fun fact regarding Dune II is that it’s not a sequel to the original Dune and it has no direct relations with it, Dune II being developed by Westwood and Dune by Cryo Interactive. So it’s not a sequel, as many believe (including me for a while, even though I had played both titles and they clearly have nothing in common gameplay-wise) – actually, it was released in the same year as Dune. Pretty interesting, right?
Now, back to the gameplay, it’s worth noting that most of the concepts in Dune II can still be found in today’s strategy games. Of course, back then we had an obscenely low unit limit (I can’t remember it exactly, but it was somewhere below 30), we had no possibility to select multiple units and there were no micromanagement features. However, everything else is there and if you are to play Dune II once more, you will probably be shocked to see how little did the genre evolve in the 16 years since the release of Dune II. We’re not evolving that fast, after all. Or is it that this title was simply perfect?