Dune is about to premiere. The release of Denis Villeneuve’s take on Frank Herbert’s masterpiece is an excellent opportunity to talk about Dune video games because, as some may not remember, there were some magnificent and groundbreaking titles that took us to the planet of Arrakis.
Unfortunately, there’s no new Dune game on the horizon, even though thanks to the movie starring Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, and Jason Momoa, it would have a free marketing campaign. As a result, we must dive into the sea of nostalgia and talk about great Dune video games of the past.
Players could journey to Arrakis for the first time in 1992. The adventure game developed by the French studio Cry and published by Virgin Games was based on the first book in the Dune series. It offered great graphics and full voice-acting. Moreover, it wasn’t a typical point-and-click game because it featured strategic options, equally important as the adventure layer. Players had to make economic decisions, control spice mining, and fight the Harkonnen forces to complete the game.
Both players and critics praised its gameplay and plot. It was a big triumph for the developers and the people from Virgin who had backed the project even when their colleagues insisted on canceling it.
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Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty
Despite its title, it’s not a sequel to Cryo’s Dune. Those two games have been developed almost simultaneously. While the French team offered a combination of adventure and economic layers, Westwood Studios focused on the strategic aspect. Dune II is often cited as the first modern RTS and the father to such franchises as Westwood’s Command & Conquer and Blizzard’s Warcraft.
The game featured three playable factions: the Atreides, the Harkonnen, and the Ordos. Each house could build unique units and structures. Interestingly, while Atreides and Harkonnen are the two most prominent dynasties in the Dune series, the Ordos were not mentioned in Frank Herbert’s books. They originated from The Dune Encyclopedia, released in 1984.
No, we haven’t skipped Dune video games from 3 to 1999. Dune 2000 was the Dune II remake released in 1998. The game featured the three factions from the original but presented in a much more balanced way and with cinematics starring John Rhys-Davies. Dune 2000 received favorable reviews; however, most players wanted a brand-new game rather than a remake.
Emperor: Battle for Dune
They finally got it three years later, in 2001. Emperor: Battle for Dune was a direct sequel to Dune II/2000. Once again, players could lead Atreides, Harkonnen, or Ordos in a fight over the control of Arrakis. Most players remember this title for its 3D environment and sandworms that could attack out of the blue and eat part of your army.
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Frank Herbert’s Dune
Frank Herbert’s Dune was developed by Widescreen Games and published by Cryo a few months after Emperor. It was a 3D adventure game that recreated parts of the famous novel. Unfortunately, it was the final proof of the Dune video games downslide. The critics panned Frank Herbert’s Dune mercilessly, calling it boring and too easy. They also pointed out poor storytelling, bad controls, and a noninteractive world as the game’s cardinal sins.
Frank Herbert’s Dune fiasco was particularly painful for Cryo. The company was already in debt, and the game’s failure made its situation even worse. Cryo Interactive filed for bankruptcy in 2002.
Fortnite and more
Despite the lack of new Dune video games, developers and talented fans haven’t forgotten about this sci-fi masterpiece. For instance, there’s Dune Wars mod that converts Civilization IV to the Arrakis setting. Also, Fortnite players can smell the melange thanks to skins and items based on Denis Villeneuve’s movie. The popular battle royal allows them to look like Zendaya’s Chani and Chalamet’s Paul Atreides.