With Dune fervor ready to hit an all time high, between the new film and new books/comic adaptations, it’s time to give the old game a remaster.
It’s been nearly 21 years since the last Dune video game released with Emperor: Battle for Dune. While new games based on the books are (finally) on the horizon, in the age of gaming remasters it seems foolish that Dune 2000 hasn’t been given one.
Strange as it may seem–especially for a book series that initially kept the action vague or “off screen”–but Dune provided the template for the Real-Time Strategy franchise. Dune II (launched in 1992) wasn’t the first RTS game on the market, but set the standard by which they all continue follow by introducing crucial gameplay elements for the first time.
From building your own base, resource management, enemy AI, multiple playable factions, structure dependencies (being unable build certain units or buildings without specific structures first), and unique units per faction. All of these concepts, which now form the core of any RTS game, found their genesis in Dune.
Latter games like Warcraft and Command & Conquer, which would go on to further define the genre, owe a debt to the battle for Arrakis. Which is where Dune 2000 comes in. The mid-late 90s were a Golden Age for real-time strategy games, and in 1998 Westwood launched Dune 2000 right in the middle of it all.
Ostensibly made as a “remake” of Dune II, the game’s story shifted things up quite a bit, while adding in new gameplay features for fans to enjoy. Sure, it bears little resemblance to the stories told in Dune, but it took elements and lore from Frank Herbert’s series; turning them into something new. Built off the same engine as Command & Conquer: Red Alert, and the similarities are easy to see.
That was part of the problem it had at launch. Being released in the midst of all these other RTS games (this is around the same time as Age of Empires and StarCraft), Dune 2000 struggled to stand out. Rather than pushing the genre forward, as the previous game did, 2000‘s gameplay played it safe with the same mechanics players had been used to for years.
For me, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s very much a “standard” bread and butter RTS game. While there are some balance issues with the units, it’s still incredibly fun to play as a base-builder. It also brought some fun story elements, along with the use of Full Motion Video cutscenes, that felt batshit crazy in all the right (90s) ways. It expanded on some concepts from the original film, while incorporating elements of the deeper lore introduced in Herbert’s series.
Sometimes silly and irreverent, Dune 2000‘s story put a unique spin on the tale, while still feeling uniquely apart of that universe. While you can look up some details on the story online, reading about them isn’t the same as experiencing them. As such, it feels like a prime time to bring this title back from the depths in a remastered form.
Plenty of games are getting the remaster/remake treatment these days (including the RTS titles the game was once in competition with), and I couldn’t be happier. Remasters often give a new generation the chance to enjoy older titles, while giving older players the opportunity to relive them. Not all of them are great (looking at you Crystal Chronicles), but after playing the incredible remasters of Command & Conquer and Age of Empires II, I have no doubt Dune 2000 would be in great hands.
Considering EA brought in members from the original Westwood C&C team (who also worked on Dune 2000) for those remasters, it seems like they’d also be able to bring that team together for this one. With the new film on the horizon, as well as a new series of novels, and comics, a remaster seems like it’d be the ideal way to capitalize on the fan excitement.
While there are some fan remake projects out there, I’d love to see Dune 2000 given the proper, official, remaster treatment that my other beloved RTS games have gotten recently. For now, we’ll just have to wait, and hope….