Although aged, Dune II to this day can show its place in RTS history.
Remember when Sound Blasters were new? This had been the game to make it worth finally upgrading to that fancy 386 with the turbo button, 4 megs of RAM, and a Sound Blaster game card. That is what my best friend at the time did, and made me ever so jealous to go over to his house and watch him play Ultima VII and this game.
Luckily at that time most games still had a PC speaker support option. Because Dune II still had this I was able to borrow his install disks and put it on my family's hand-me-down 286, which I must say ran the game pretty damn well pending there were not dozens of enemies on the screen shooting all over the place.
This has been such a landmark game in all RTSes that to this day, 16 years later, I can still remember enough random little details to feel competent in writing an actual review.
The first great thing to notice about Dune II is its style. Frank Herbert's description of military in the
future of mankind was very regal (mostly), run mostly by aristocracy and kings (mostly). The UI and menus of Dune II capture this well with ornamented gold borders. Dune II also captured Herbert's feel of the political tension and the ominous depth of politcal war in its lightly animated intro. One of the best parts of Dune II's style is that it respects Herbert's vision. Dune II has one of the only realistic representations of an Ornithopter as described in Herbert's books. There is a lot to this game that borrows from Lynch's Dune movie released in the 80's, but what little things I have a problem with that movie are actually addressed here, unintentionally or not, and feel the way it should have been. Of course this being a game made for fun and blowing away enemy units, there are still a few liberties taken, but they never feel too unrealistic to fit in Herbert's universe at a different timeline than the books.
In starting a campaign in Dune II shows one of the best gameplay designs that gets copied many times down the road in RTSdom. There are three separate campaigns by three different factions, or Houses, that all may have a similar storyline, but a different feel. Each of these campaigns follow the same theme equally throughout similar levels. This design choice made a game that may have taken only a few days to get through streach to a game that can take a few weeks to get through all the houses. A lot of this replayability is that after you go through all the houses once, there is enough difference between the houses to go back and play again a different house that you played over a week ago. Since the theme of the campaign is so well paced, it takes a while for it to get old, especially since Dune II's gameplay is so revolutionary at the time one could want to experience a few times over quite easily.
I joked to my parents at the time that Dune II was teching me financing and proper resource management. Actually to this day I no longer find that as much as a joke other than "funny because its true". Dune II had you collect Spice for currency. This currency transfered into funding your military. Although if you didn't appropriate enough development in to spice collection you could not recieve enough funds to build a large enough military to defeat your enemy. Plus also using those funds to build the right units and the number of those units needed in a timed deadline to a pending attack added all that clever resource management strategy that the game world had never seen before to this level. This game invented the clause of "build the biggest army possible, then attack" that so many RTSes afterward could not get out of it for a long time, if ever, like Age of Empires, Warcraft, or the following Command and Conquers.
Well there is not much more I could say that wasn't already in the description put up for this game. Last word:
Dune II revolutionized all we know about strategy games today. It is missing a few minor features that if added would make this game still stand up to its decendants. I will never forget this game. 5 out of 5 stars.