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Dune II Review: The Grandfather of RTS In Your Browser
Even though it might not be as well known as Command and Conquer or Warcraft, Dune II is one of the most important games in the real time strategy genre. When it was originally released in 1992 Dune II managed to introduce and combine many of the features that we now know as the RTS genre. Resource gathering, base building, and army management were implemented and perfected, creating the pillars of RTS games for the future.
So when I read that it was now free to play in your browser I decided to give the old game a try and see how well it could hold up to today’s standards. When you start your first mission in Dune there is one aspect that will jump out immediately and that is the interface – noticeably more clunky than later RTS games. You can’t select more than one unit at a time and you can’t click on the ground to move them. Instead you have to to click on the menu in order for your unit to move. This can take a minute to get used to and will force you to micro-manage your army in battle just to move them around. Also, you can’t queue up build orders so you have to build things one at a time. This might not be a big deal if it wasn’t for the fact that you have to build concrete slabs as a foundation for all your buildings. This can get tedious as you have to build multiple slabs for each building.
Once you get past the outdated controls the gameplay is familiar with your standard RTS with a couple of unique facets, such as giant sand worms that can eat your forces if you are not careful and leave them out in the open. Buildings also take damage over time due the weather so you must keep an eye on them to make sure they are not on the verge of destruction.
In the campaign you can choose from three different factions as you try to control the spice trade on the planet Arrakis. Each campaign plays similar to each other as you begin the first couple of missions by building up a base and gathering resources, while in later missions you have to build up forces while seeking out and destroying the enemy’s base. Each side also has unique soldiers, and it’s important to keep that in mind when engaging them. For example House Atreides has access to the Fremen guerrillas but can’t train heavy infantry. This makes each of the three campaigns feel a little bit different from the rest, further laying the groundwork for how future RTS games would handle multiple factions.
The mechanics of Dune II are really solid. Gameplay remains a lot of fun and it still feels great leading an army into battle and explore the tech tree in order to access more advanced units. The pace of each game flows naturally as you start off slowly gathering resources while the end game can get hectic as you are just trying to finish off your opponent. After your first mission you have the option to determine which area you want to attack, allowing for some differences in gameplay if you want to do another playthrough.
A major weakness of Dune II is the computer’s AI. The AI is very weak and has some serious drawbacks, such as not building additional defenses and sending out forces one at a time instead of building up a larger army. These limitations can make the game much easier than it should have been and can make the game seem boring for more experienced RTS players.
Despite some flaws, the 20+ year old classic is still a blast to play. Now that you can play it for free in your browser it’s the perfect chance to go back and experience the progenitor of the once hugely popular genre. Overall Dune II is still fun to play despite some flaws and hangs in there when you compare it to today’s browser and flash games. The browser version is perfect for those that are nostalgic for the early days of gaming or for those that want to see the beginnings of the RTS genre.
You can play the browser version of Dune II here: play-dune.com
Do you have fond memories of the RTS classic? Fan of the genre? Please leave your response in the comments below.