First, let me say that for the longest time I didn’t even know these games existed. It wasn’t until the series was dead that I truly discovered them. However, I’ve been a massive fan of the book series since I was 10 years old. I’ve read the entire book series (even the new ones) several times and yes, have enjoyed both versions of the movie more than anyone truly should. If there is anything you can credit (blame?) for getting into a writing career…it’s Dune.
That being said, I’ve wondered how I managed to miss the game franchise for as long as I did. The games releases were spaced out pretty far across the past couple decades so I don’t feel too bad about it. While only four games were released (five if you include the remake), but the Dune series was incredibly influential for the videogame industry. If you love Real-Time Strategy games, then you owe your fandom to Dune.
While it wasn’t the first RTS game out on the market, Dune II gave us the formula by which all RTS games have since followed, and this includes all of Blizzard’s games (yeah, even Starcraft II). If not for Dune II, the RTS genre might look completely different. Dune II helped lay the groundwork for Command & Conquer (a franchise now synonymous with RTS) as well as Warcraft.
Dune II broke the mold of what had been established before. The series allowed gamers the opportunity to build their own base (previously, bases were already established and couldn’t be repaired if damaged), resource management, enemy AI, multiple playable factions, structure dependencies (the idea that you can’t build certain units or buildings without other structures first), and unique units per faction. All of these things were first created in the Dune series and are still staples within the RTS genre today; though, they may look a little different now.
C&C, Starcraft, Warcraft, or whatever your preference may be, all owe their foundation to Dune II. While they took those building blocks and made them into something different and expanded upon them, Dune II still gave it to them first. So that begs the big question, Why did this revolutionary and genre defining game franchise just disappear?
Dune 2000 was only a remake of Dune II and simply couldn’t stack up with the RTS games of the time, while Frank Herbert’s Dune stepped away from strategy and made a very poor attempt at the action genre. Emperor: Battle for Dune was the last attempt made back in 2001, and while it fixed many of the criticisms from Dune 2000, it went largely unnoticed when it was released, causing further interest in the brand to drop dramatically. It’s been 13 years since that last game and as we’ve been seeing, the strategy genre on the whole is currently experiencing a resurgence. Between new StarCraft games, Civilization: Beyond Earth, Grey Goo, Company of Heroes 2, and many more set to release the climate feels right for the Dune franchise to make a comeback.
When Electronic Arts acquired Westwood Studios, they adamantly stated they weren’t interested in pursuing the franchise further. That’s just fine with me. Personally I haven’t been that impressed with the RTS games coming from EA as of late and I think their attempts to do something new with the genre has fallen flat. Dune deserves a developer that understands the core of a RTS game, but can still make it feel fresh and entertaining.
My absolute dream team for this reboot would have to be Petroglyph. Shocked? Normally I would have to go with Blizzard, but let’s face it, even if they were considering it, we wouldn’t get the game for several more years (if not a decade). Petroglyph (Star Wars: Empire at War, Universe at War, and End of Nations, and the upcoming Grey Goo) have shown that they can do well with the RTS genre. Are they perfect? No, but it’s apparent that they learn quickly from their previous games and try new approaches with the genre without seriously altering the core gameplay.
How likely is it that we’ll see a return to the Dune universe? Hard to say. With the latest attempt at a movie reboot falling apart a couple years ago, and no one seemingly jumping to pick it up, interest in the Dune brand isn’t exactly high. If you’re dying for a new Dune game, however, the upcoming RTS Etherium looks like the Dune game we’ve been wanting for a while. A substitue to be sure, but until this franchise gets a reboot…it’ll have to do.
Do you have any fond Dune gaming memories? Share them with us here in the comments!