The Gamespy Hall of Fame
Every Tuesday, we induct a new game into our Hall of Fame. These games were chosen either because of their brilliant gameplay (which makes them playable to this day), or because they innovated in such a way to reshape gaming as we know it.
By - John "Warrior" Keefer III
Fans weren't expecting it.
Except for those who had experienced Herzog Zwei on the Sega Genesis, the concept of real-time strategy was a foreign idea.
So when Dune II, based on Frank Herbert's classic Dune series, was released in 1993 by Westwood Studios, there was little anticipation. But the game drew a following and became the grandfather to such great games as Warcraft II, Command & Conquer, Total Annihilation, Dark Reign and Starcraft. Computer Gaming World named Dune II its Strategy Game of the Year for 1993.
The game had VGA graphics and was run on a DOS platform, compatible with "Windows 3.x" It boasted "over 1 megabyte of digitized speech and sounds making combat exciting and realistic with a Sound Blaster compatible sound card." A computer needed a 286 processor or better, and 2 megabytes of RAM or more. And the game was available on 3.5" or 5.25" floppies.
|This attack sequence shows the simplicity of the interface, while including many elements used in today's RTS's.|
But while the specifications for the game are archaic by today's standards, Dune II forced players to react to action immediately, rather than plot their strategy as the computer completed its turn. The video was good and the sound was novel. Even the interface was clean and simple.
The game offered you the choice of playing three different sides (House Atreides, House Harkonnen or House Ordos), something manys RTS's don't do today. The game placed you in a story line similar to the book, where the key was to mine and control the spice melange. Whoever mined the most would gain control of Arrakis. A fourth side, the Sardaukar, were run by the computer in some missions, representing the forces of the emperor.
|House Atreides is one of the three sides you can choose to play.|
Players could control more than 20 unique units. Some of the popular units included the Sonic Tank, the Devastator (looking like an early example of C&C's Mammoth), and the fast Raider Trike. Players needed to advance through levels to get to the end.
|A Sardaukar Devastator tank, its double barrels resembling an early version of a Command & Conquer Mammoth.|
A key aspect of the game was that each side had its strengths: The Harkonnens had some of the strongest units; the Ordos units relied on stealth and maneuverability; and the Atreides units were more balanced. Even then, Dune II forced players to develop strategies based on the strengths and weaknesses of their units, rather than providing each side with the same type units under different names.
Dune II proved to be so legendary, that Westwood Studios went back to the game and created Dune 2000, adding multiplayer options and rebuilding the engine, but only with limited success and appeal. Going back and replaying the original Dune 2 proves that the gameplay isn't quite up to the standards of the modern real-time strategy games, but as the first PC RTS, Dune 2 opened the floodgates for a field of imitators, thus earning it a place in PC gaming history.
|The Harkonnens build their base.|
- John "Warrior" Keefer