I never saw the film Dune. Perhaps that was because when it came out back in 1984, it was in the middle of Star Wars fever. Being a cheeky young nipper-type person at the time I didn't care for strange sci-fi films with seemingly incomprehensible plots when I could marvel at the stunning special-
Apparently, the film was very strange and very long. Nearly two-and-
Of course, whether or not this was a fair assumption I can't honestly tell. But now, a decade on, Virgin have seen fit to produce a second computer game based around the Dune universe. Unlike the first one, which was an adventure, Dune 2 is very much a strategy game. Despite never having seen the film or read the books, I was the obvious choice to review Dune 2. Why? Because I'm the gullible chappy around here. It must be said that neither Biff nor Simon wanted to have the task of reviewing this, for some reason.
To be quite frank, I don't think they've got the necessary noggin to cope with it. You have to be prepared to spend time learning how to play games like this, although the lengthy manual is very helpful and easy to digest. Or perhaps they were put off but its initially unappealing nature.
Dune 2 is set on the world of Arrakis, commonly known as Dune. It appears that the situation on Arrakis is nothing short of critical. The planet is the only source of the spice which makes interstellar travel possible and can prolong human life. It's also a component of dermal unguents, if anybody cares. Anyway, the point is, you need the spice desperately. The problem is that you're not the only one who wants it. You represent one of the competing houses, and it's your job to make sure that you get the spice and they don't.
This desert planet boasts only two indigenous lifeforms: fremen and sand worms. The latter pose a threat to the average human, taking any opportunity to scoff them and their vehicles.
Basically, the ultimate objective of the game is to take over the planet, although your first mission is simply to fill a spice quota.
Gameplay basically consists of constructing new buildings, repairing any existing and damaged buildings, scouring out new areas of the planet, harvesting spice and destroying the opposing forces.
The screen shows a section of the map, which is several screens in size. The map is not revealed until you have scouted out the area with a vehicle or person. Exploring is necessary to find new spice fields to harvest. You will also find sandy areas (beware of Sand Worms here), sand dunes, rocky areas and mountains which are impassable for vehicles.
The vehicles available include trikes, quads, tanks, ornithopters (a type of weird aircraft) and so on. Some are well armoured and effective in battle, whereas others are designed to be fast and are subsequently less well armoured.
You move your vehicles about by clicking on them, clicking on the action you wish them to perform in the command window on the right-hand side of the screen, and finally clicking on the place where the action will be performed.
For instance, if you wanted to attack an enemy vehicle, you could click on one of your own trikes, then on ATTACK, then on the enemy. Clicking on your construction yard brings up the relevant menu in the command window. From there you can construct concrete foundations for buildings (this lessens the amount of repairs that will be needed later), and a variety of buildings.
Different buildings perform different functions - for example, a Wind Trap acts as a power plant, a Light Factory produces small vehicles, and so on. Later in the game, buildings such as starports and research centres can be constructed, and this opens up new possibilities, such as trading and special new weapons.
The entire game can be controlled by the mouse, or by some well-
The graphics aren't wonderful but they are functional enough. The digitised sound effects, however, saying things like "yes sir", "affirmative" and "enemy unit destroyed" complete with radio clicks, are really well done, and some atmospheric music plays away in the background when it's not deafened by laser blasts. The soundtrack enhances the gameplay considerably. When you first begin, you may find it to be slightly confusing or dull, but as you play it more you'll find it becomes quite addictive.
It's not perfect, however. It can become a bit repetitive after a while, since the objective for each level is pretty much identical and the technique required to achieve it doesn't vary. It also seems to lack that certain indefinable something that truly classic games have. Beneath the rather dull facade there is actually quite a lot of depth and challenge, it's just that the challenges don't change as the game progresses - it's always just a race to build the best buildings and protect yourself against the enemy.
While this may all sound very similar to MegaLoMania, there are two significant differences. Firstly, MegaLoMania had better graphics and humorous sound which made it instantly accessible.
Secondly, in MegaLoMania, as the game progressed and the tech level changed, the methods of gameplay required to succeed changed considerably, whereas in Dune 2 the method stays the same.
Despite this, Dune 2 is a very competent attempt at the genre, but not up there with the classics. Were there a little more variety it could have been a Gamer Gold.