Dune 2 (Second Review)


Title		Dune 2 (Second Review)
Publisher	Virgin
Developers	Westwood, 1992
Game Type	Management Sim
Players		1
HD Installable	Yes
Compatibility	All Amigas
Submission	John Burns (john@jgb.abelgratis.co.uk) Profiled Reviewer

Review
Okay, so the game is based on the classic Sci-Fi book by Frank Herbert but
unlike it's predecessor Dune, an RPG, this is a Real Time Strategy (RTS)
game. So forget what you've read, forget the film, (no, really do - it
was abysmal), for apart from the names of the units etc. that's about
where all similarity ends. Although not the first RTS game Dune 2 is
generally credited with being the original of the genre and was certainly
the main inspiration for Command and Conquer (also written by Westwood)
and all it's clones.

I won't bore you with the story behind the game since, like platform
games, this is not it's main strength or raison d'etre. No this is a game
in which gameplay reigns supreme and that is reason enough for me.
Gameplay can be split into two distinct though linked parts. The first is
a sim city like construction part in which you build up a base, harvest
spice (the resource required for credits), and build military units. The
second part is obviously the attack of enemy installations and units. So
on to the game itself...

At the beginning you get to choose from 3 houses (sides), each of which
have their own strengths and weaknesses and of course special weapons, but
more on these later. The actual game itself takes place on a screen which
is divided into three main parts a bar at the top which gives you two
buttons; Mentat and Options and a counter telling you how many credits you
have available. The Mentat button gives you access to a encyclopedia of
the units and buildings available in the game whilst the Options button
gives access to the usual load/save etc. game options. Below this bar is
the main game screen, showing a viewed-from-above game world, and on the
right a smaller vertical bar which shows the selected unit/building and
the relevant orders available to you.

Once you have chosen your house you are given a briefing on your first
mission; and so begins the mayhem. The first mission itself is merely a
simple affair in which you have to harvest 1000 credits and the enemy is
limited to a few troops which is just as well since your forces are pretty
weak too. On this mission you are only able to build two types of
building and are not able to build any military units. Of course this is
intentional and reasonable since it gives you the opportunity to get used
to controlling the game without having to worry about serious enemy
attack. Don't let this mission delude you though as things soon hot up in
later missions to the point where it is more a case of attrition than
strategy.

As you progress in the game you are given the opportunity to build more
facilities at your base which in turn allows you to manufacture bigger and
better military units, but of course the enemy also has the same sort of
stuff so there is no advantage here. I mentioned earlier that each of the
houses have special weapons, these only become available in the later
missions and are specific to each house. I won't detail what these are
but let you find out for yourself, personally I found some of them to be
more useful than others. I should mention here that there is a fourth
side in the game though this is always computer controlled and only
appears in later missions. Missions themselves vary from the first simple
mission with virtually no enemy to your battling against all three
opponents. Of course the enemy is not your only consideration, there is
also the need to harvest spice, for without it you will soon run out of
credits and be unable to build anything. There are other dangers which
can destroy your units but I'll let you find these out for yourself.

The game mechanics are simple enough, with movement and control being
mouse driven, and though maybe not perfect it is pretty good and easily
learnt. Graphics wise the game cannot compare to the modern RTS games but
that isn't to say they are bad either. Okay so there are no sumptuous
explosions but units and buildings are clearly definable and identifiable
even when the game is run on a TV. The game can be run on any Amiga with
at least 1Mb RAM though on A500s it will slow down on later missions when
there is a lot of action on screen. People also report that the game
speed may have to be slowed down on accelerated A1200s to help your rocket
turrets shoot down attacking ornithopters (air units). I can't say I've
ever tried this method and you can certainly win without doing so but if
your having trouble with this element of the game it's worth bearing in
mind. Sound effects and game music are good without the latter ever
becoming obtrusive or as so often happens annoying which is just as well
since you can't switch it off. Another plus is that the game will readily
mode promote to run on VGA monitors.

So far everything has certainly fallen into the pro camp but like
everything in life there has to be some cons. Well, there are but
thankfully not many and I would venture not that major. My first and
perhaps biggest criticism is that the game maps are always the same so
once you've played through each house's missions a few times you will know
where all the spice fields lie and where the enemy bases are. This
obviously detracts from the overall game since this knowledge can make it
far easier to deploy your units for maximum effect. Other minor quibbles
I have are that enemy bases are always fully established at the start of
the game although it must be pointed out that they don't expand, thank
God. Also the fact that once you have destroyed the enemies spice storage
and production facilities he is still able to produce units and repair
buildings despite the fact that this should mean he has no credits
available. Not strictly a fault of the game itself but it is a pity that
there were no scenario disks ever made which would obviously have
increased the game's longevity. Another failing and one which can often
be levelled at this type of game is that a mission can degenerate into a
war of attrition rather than strategy

Overall though my verdict is a resounding thumbs up as this is a game
which despite a few faults is overwhelmingly geared towards gameplay and
enjoyment, these it delivers in abundance. I would recommend this game
to anyone and even though it may not be your favourite genre it is worth
having in your collection.



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