A masterpiece on unwanted ground.
This is by far the best 3D real-time strategy ever made, and if anyone will even be able to make better 3D RTS than this one, then it'll be Westwood itself, again :) It's amazingly easy to play, considering that now we got rotation and zooming effects and that 'north' on the map will stay 'north' only until we make a small rotation ;)) So, for multiplayer games, or when someone asks"hey, where were you, on the upper part of the map" and you can answer "nope, you were there", hehe, "but that depends were you rotating the battlefield a lot" :)
This time, we finally got a real sequel to the series, and not just remake on anything. This game actually follows the story of "Dune 2000" as if Ordos have won the war, and Bene Gesserit Lady killed the Emperor with her Gom Jabbar (for those who don't know, it's something like poisonous needle or something similar). Now, the emperor was dead, and Sardaukar troops were left unemployed. The battle for Arrakis now extended, as even more troops arrived from the home planets of three great houses, and besides that, other smaller houses joined in the struggle for global domination by aiding the one who they think will win the war.
Missions in the game are extremely well done, and even though terrain seems poor and pretty much the same (well, isn't that a fact in every Dune game, anyway?), mission objectives, mysterious buildings, strange deceptions, plots and settlers make it really amazingly real and interesting to explore each time.
Unit models are rather great considering they're all 3D objects wandering around, and explosion effects are breathtaking. If only they can join some of those in their 2D RTS games, huh? Also, soldiers with over 100 polygons and vectors look really great, zoomed or from afar. Some side-effects like deserts storms also look cool, and even though they're not that much of a threat, it's kewl to see all the details, like your flying soldier caught in the tornado, hehe. Poor thing ;))
Now, the animation cutscenes and quality of FMV movies is as far as I'm concerned as good as DVD quality. I mean, the difference can be saw, but man, it's fan-dang-tastic! Not to mention that acting is also on high level, just like with "Tiberian Sun". The music in the aniamtion and ingame one is quite okay, and as much as I cannot say I liked it as in "Dune II" or "Dune 2000", the effort of three different composers (Frank Klepacki - all Westwood games, Jarrid Mandelson - Tiberian Sun, and David Arkenstone - Lands of Lore II & III) was well suited within the game, 'cos they actually managed to make similar music yet very unique to certain house in the game. And it's quite too-backgroundish music to take a front plan, so it doesn't bother at all, it fits perfectly and help creating game's atmosphere.
Well, for one, this is 3D real-time strategy, and as much as I tried to grow fond of such style in RTS genre in general, I never could. I mean, sure, it's breathtaking, it has amazing effects (just wait 'til you see how great aniamtion is for building all the objects, really cool) and can use tracks and trails for rockets and planes like in reality, I still prefered close-to-3D like in "Tiberian Sun" where you could also see it's 3D trail of some bullet, and the way planes were falling and crashed elements of explosion were flying around, now that was really amazing and inovative designerish to create, while 3D engine practically makes it easy to achieve all that, simply 'cos it *is* made for 3D stuff.
Also, I adore Westwood's RTS game especially 'cos I'm always positive I will see some FMV or CG cutscene in between every mission. Well, that doesn't quite work here, 'cos there are 33 territories to attack, no matter which house you choose to play with, and they change certain mission through the map, which looks great, and amazing, and very original. Still, I really disliked the part that computer also has chances and turns to attack me. But I liked that it was more or less fair, 'cos computer had to start from the scratch and I had the base and veteran units already, so it usually takes couple of minutes to defend youreself if you know how ;)) Still, that prolongued the game, so I usually chose direct path to an enemy palace and then attack their home planet. Yup, it can be finished easier, or not... it's up to player to choose.
The Bottom Line
This is very agile turnover towards 3D world of real-time strategy, and no matter how great this seems to me, I will never like it more then 2D RTS. It's like if I would like platform shooters more than first-person shooters, hehehe, no way :) However, this game has all the qualities needed to like it, it has great multiplayer, computer doesn't cheat which means that it doesn't see the territory that it didn't explore, hehe, quite cool and nice thing they made, thus making computer more human opponent. The game interface is rather easy to control, and if you don't have too 3D view, you can always zoom out to farest distance thus making the game look almost like top-down real-time strategy very alike original "Dune II", hehe.
The game has all the things neccessary to fill the gaps in the Dune Universe. Fremen elite warriors can ride smaller worms, bigger worm will easily swallow 5 tanks and you'll see just the worm's mouth as big as the monitor screen, the story is well driven ahead, very tricky and very chooseful (for example, if playing with Harkonnen, one of two brothers will kill the Baron and you'll hav to choose which one to aid), acting is fine, scenes are interesting, and you'll hardly find youreself in a situation of having good-enough computer to play the game with its top performance and yet expect it to run smooth :)
I guess Westwood realized that 1CD for "Dune 2000" was less than engouh, so they released "Emperor" or 4CDs, hehe, one for installation, and one per each house. Also, this is the first Dune based RTS that gives you full control over air units, like Ornithopters, Air Drones that can lay floating mines in the air, Harkonnen Fighters and such. Also, you'll have to forget about finding similarities with previously known units in Dune Universe, 'cos there are too many new ones, as well as turrets and buildings, from gas and flame turrets, to artillery walkers and catapults. Each specialized perfectly into neutralizing certain type of enemy units. Also, knwon destructive weapons like death hand missile won't present much of a threat, but will leave a radiation for some time aftr exploding.
All in one, this small package consists of highly original battles, story and playability with highest quality. I would probably put it among the top RTS games ever, if only it was made 2D. But I guess we can't just stop at something, and not fumbling towards the unexplored, can we? Still, I just hope taht Westwood won't give a 3D touch to their "C&C" world of real-time strategy, but I'm more then over-anxious to see that "Renegade" FPS from that world ;))
Amazing game without a match in its own genre, amazing thing how they made it so full and alive when it seems so empty using this 3D terrain. I just have to admit that they literally managed to plant a field of trees on a wall brick, thus saying "this can be done".