Dune is a classic adventure game developed by Cryo and released in 1992. This game is pretty unique as it mixes genres like adventure and strategy in realtime. In fact, this game is the precursor of Dune 2, which defined today standards for the real time strategy genre (RTS) games. Dune from Cryo was strategic, no tactical, so the fun didn’t resided so much on the battles but in the overall adventure and progressing the game.
If you already know this game, you can also read a FAQ.
- It’s a good adventure game, with an interesting story to tell.
- The game story is based on the novel fantasy world but it doesn’t follow it, so it’s simpler and it won’t spoil the novel.
- The sprites are beautiful.
- The CD edition replaced Orni flying sprite animations by prerendered CGI, very cool even if they look a bit dated.
- The art is based on David Lynch’s film characterization, which is nice.
- The game is very immersive:
- Images shown during ornicopter flight match the terrain you’re flying on.
- There are beautiful day/night cycles.
- The story telling is done by dialogues and it has a serious, adult, tone.
- The visions are a great way of delivering information in a dune-like way. Great design choice.
- The planet globe is rendered matching a 2D map and is technically interesting.
- The soundtrack is totally amazing. It’s also hard to imagine one better suited for Dune.
- In the adventure side
- There are many good dialogues. Nothing outstanding, it isn’t the novel, but good enough.
- Combat system is simple and easy, so it won’t hamper the adventuring.
- Exploration: there is a full planet to explore by air. There are many caves (sietch) and villages hidden, to reveal by yourself.
- The vanilla game shows a nice introduction, but the CD edition added two more (the David Lynch film intro and a CGI).
- There is no time limit. You should be able to play as you wish (if you follow the rules…).
- Some characters are good designed and they match the film/book (with limitations):
- The Duke is cool, as it’s supposed to be.
- The Mentat Thufir is well done, good art and character, as is Jessica.
- The Harkonnen are ok. Not bad, they try to follow the film.
- Harah is cool, funny and it’s got a nice design.
There are some minor flaws as an adventure game:
- The love theme in the game is nice but it feels too rushed. Really. It’s a “hello, oh, I love you” kind of love rush.
- Some NPC characterization is poor (from a Dune PoV):
- Duncan is relegated to be Paul’s errand boy, dealing with all spice stuff, instead of his friend and an Atreides hero. He looks a Corrino pen-pusher.
- Gurney should be like an uncle to Paul, he lacks affection.
- Chani is too plain. She looks like a teenager, not a Fremen warrior. The art, at least, is cool.
- Where is Rabban? And, more importantly… where is Piter De Vries!?
- Most monologues are fine but there are few that are a bit … “I always see shadows at night”. WTF mean those ladies with that? It could be a “joke”, referencing the Muad’dib word having a distinct meaning in film and book: in the film is the mouse shadow on the second moon, in the book is just the mouse. Or maybe it’s that they just see shadows at night.
But most game flaws are related to the game being an adventure game mixed with real time strategy battles. The game design makes it a very good adventure game but not-so good as an strategy game - not bad, really, it’s just a bit simple so it’s too easy to master:
- Troop numbers are limited for both Fremen and Harkonnen. This guarantees Harkonnen defeat as you can choose when to fight and they can’t recover loses.
- There is only one type of army unit and no terrain difference in battles, so no tactics to choose. All battles are exactly the same thing.
- Battle system is a very early iteration of RTS mechanics and there is no challenge once you understand the basics:
- The morale system is not really so relevant for combat. Troop numbers, weapons and experience are.
- You can (and should) visit the battle field but timing to arrive, at same time as your troops, is hard…
- The enemy won’t push you and force you into attack/defense, unless you don’t attack and put fremen in “frontier sietches” long enough.
- In the other hand, the enemy will try to assault a heavily defended sietch that it’s guaranteed to be a defeat for them. The fortress they were guarding will now be undefended.
- There is an event that is supposed to encourage the player to spy and attack, but to be honest, you can just ignore it as there is only a penalty on morale. So you can just attack when you’re ready and in the mood to do it.
- There is no way to reinforce existing troops or recombine them.
Why to play?
Dune it’s an unique game. It’s loosely based on the David Lynch’s movie (which is also loosely based on the Frank Herbert’s novel), but it’s a great introduction to Dune world and a fun game.
The mechanics are unique, very refreshing, good to relax from other games. It’s also simple, so good to (somewhat) introducing you to other related game genres, as RTS usually are harder and pushy while grand strategy games are much more complex.
I liked Toto’s OST for Lynch’s Dune film (the main theme is very nice), but the Cryo’s Dune OST is the best Dune soundtrack ever made. It was composed by Stéphane Picq and Philippe Ulrich.
Dune Spice Opera (official soundtrack CD release), a rare gem. Very good quality. Be sure to fully hear “Chani’s Eyes”, “Sign of the Worm” and “Too”, those still give me goosebumps:
Soundtrack (adlib), it sounds a bit aged but some tracks are better than the Spice Opera:
How to acquire
It’s a bit hard to answer this question. Even if few Cryo games got released on gog.com (rights are owned by Microids), no Dune games has ever released there nor other digital shops (including Cryo’s). It’s likely to be a licensing issue with the Dune franchise copyright holders, as they keep it tight for some reason.
You should look for your old floppy disks/CD or use google and search for abandonware.
Version / Platform
I choose the CD version for the review, as it’s fancy and I think it fixes few glitches. Anyways, the classic floppy disks version is nice too and you can play either two.
There was a open-source initiative to remake Cryo’s Dune. It started first in the dune2k forum, on 2006, with some reverse engineering and it came to and end on 2013 as the resulting project, Dune Revival, died on 2013 after two years without noticeable progress.
I wonder if we’d get a release someday in gog.com? Maybe a remake of the Cryo game? Open-source? But considering the troubles they have to just make a new film, from scratch, just imagine to remake this game.
I also don’t think there will be other new RTS dune game like “Dune 2”, dune 2000 and the rest of the saga. RTS genre it’s on it’s lowest now, with all those MOBA and shooters…
Games like Dune
I’m going to be frank here. There is no other game like Dune from Cryo. You should just accept that fact, change to other genres and (surely) replay Dune in the future.
But if you like Dune I still can point you to some great games that you could enjoy too:
- If you like Dune theme, you can just try any Dune saga RTS game like Dune 2, Emperor: Battle for Dune, etc. There are open source remakes for Dune 2, so you should be able to find it. Just avoid “Frank Herbert’s Dune” RPG.
- If you like real-time grand strategy (the “organize troops and attack” stuff), you can try Paradox Games like Europe Universalis III or Hearts of Iron 2. Be warned, those are 1k times more complex, hard and time consuming… but also rewarding games. If you try them, please do the tutorials and try to learn.
- If you’re just interested on real-time tactical games, RTS genre has quality titles and you can go directly to Warcraft or Command & Conquer Red Alert.
- If you like 4x strategy, Civilization V, Master of Magic … of course, here you’re going to a very different genre and this is almost offtopic.
Cryo’s Dune is a game I replay almost every year for some reason. It’s a game easy and quick to finish, with good immersion and refreshing. The gameplay and story is simple but nice.