Developed by Cryo Interactive and released by Virgin Games in 1991, what made Dune special was the vividly realised graphics and sparse electronic music. Much like its 1989 Infogrames predecessor; It Came From The Desert, this game had atmosphere in spades.
You played Paul Artreides, son of Duke Leopold Artreides and member of House Arteides; fresh from landing on planet Arrakis/Dune and ready to seek co-operation from the indigenous tribes (known as Fremen) to mine Spice for the Emporer, just like the book/movie.
So the game is split into two main parts : overhead strategy game for controlling your Spice production and training/sending your Fremen troops into battle (with House Harkonnen). Secondly, a first person point and click adventure when you are in the Artredies palace or visiting a Fremen Sietch [base].
Once you have located a Sietch and persuaded the Fremen Leader to work for you. You then have to decide whether you want the tribe to spice mine or fight, you then have full control to move them around the map.
So you are seriously multitasking here : training and moving troops around, locating new Spice fields, befriending new Fremen tribes, requesting the Fremen Prospector’s prospect an area prior to spice mining, trading equipment with the unscrupulous smugglers, fighting off hostile Harkonnen forces and overseeing your regularly increasing Spice shipments back to the Emporer.
Above all else, he wants his Spice shipment and you must mine enough to deliver back to him, regularly.
Inbetween all of this manuoveuring; is a backstory about your character Paul Atreides discovering he is a chosen one called ‘Mua’dib’. Who in Fremen legend, will rally all of the Fremen under one banner and lead them into a prosperous new age. You are also developing some limited psychic abilities due to Spice exposure.
This ability comes in handy for controlling your ever expanding empire. In the early days, you have to fly from Sietch to Sietch in your trusty Ornihopter to coordinate everything, which takes up valuable time.
The game happens in a kind of real time starting at day 1. However, once you begin to develop these psychic abilities, you can contact your sietch’s psychically (without ever leaving the safety of the palace).
Eventually, after you have befriended enough Fremen, you are offered a chance to drink the ‘water of life’, deep in the Fremen Sietch; which will give you full second sight – or kill you stone dead.
Once you have drunk it, your psychic ability now stretches over the whole planet and Fremen previously indifferent to you now flock to offer up their troops and spice fields.
You also learn to ride the huge sandworms which allows you to travel anywhere on the planet
(including to scenes of battles between your Fremen troops and Harkonnen’s. You can’t fly your Ornihopter in or it gets shot down).
There is also a subplot about turning the land green which serves no better purpose in the game than a nod to environmental issues, which were very prevalent in the early 90′s.
As a game about the Frank Herbert novel / David Cronenberg movie, it has to sandwich alot of backstory in, which it manages through a varying clutch of companions who accompany Paul throughout the game. Whether it be Gurney Hallack, your trusty mentor; or Stilgoe – High Chief of the Fremen. They all provide useful titbits of information or background on your travels to help you on your journey.
The characters Paul Artredies and his mother Jessica, look exactly like their movie counterpart’s as does Sting Harkonnen. Everyone else is pretty styalised. Especially the Harkonnen’s, who in this game look like something from a Dan Dare comic.
The strategy element comes in mainly when you train your troops. They begin with Kry knives but later you can trade spice for Weirding Modules and eventually nukes, to turn them into a crack fighting force.
Your spice harvesters benefit from Ornihopters to warn them about passing sandworms, who swallow them whole and interrupt your Spice harvesting.
Above all, this game captures the feel of the Dune universe perfectly and is very atmospheric and not too difficult in terms of a strategy game.
At 5 hours its lastability is ensured. Its fun aswell, especially when you kick the Harkonnen’s asses in a battle, take their base, or ride the sandworm through the desert.
Longplay Youtube vid by Cubix55.