aka: Dune: He Who Controls the Spice Controls the Universe

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 78% (based on 39 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 152 ratings with 11 reviews)

Best Dune to date, and very impressive as a game

The Good
There are two things that come right to mind when talking about the game. First, the gorgeous graphics, which turn the otherwise sterile looks of Arrakis into a beautiful, dry planet, with a day-night cycle, populated by well designed characters and some impressive locations. The CD version earns, along clips directly from the 1984 movie and voice overs, new FMV travel screens which change seamlessly according to the terrain - rocks or sand - which is much better than the sprites in the floppy version. The second part, the music by the honorable Stéphane Picq is perhaps the best music ever put together for a videogame. Honestly. As mentioned before, the CD version includes voice-overs, and lip-synching is incredibly accurate. and it was one of the first games to feature them. Compare with some 3D titles released not so long ago, and it makes the whole process even more impressive.

Finally, a mention goes to the game mechanics. Balancing spice production (extraction and prospection), military advance (training and conquering territories from the Harkonnen) and ecology quickly becomes the main aspect of the game, with some adventuring section that lead to plot advancements.

The Bad
It isn't an adventure game, but it resembles one. It isn't a RTS, although you command troops. It isn't one RPG, but your character actually influences the game world and gains abilities. However, while trying to do all these things, it gets too light on all of them - which ends up being quite ironic, as most newcomers find the game to be too overwhelming. The game also lacks a bit of replay value, unless you've played first the floppy version and then the CD version to check the movie clips or voiceovers, or just to mess around with the effects of ecologics.

The variation between the book and movie plots, combined with some changes by the developing team can also be a let down for purists, but let's face it: no other game has come closer than this one.

The Bottom Line
For those who have not read it, Dune is a massive space-opera, and any attempt to capture the socio-political environment of the original novel usually falls short by limitations of the medium. However, the game presents some interesting twists: larger Fremen groups will only work after Paul's charisma (which changes according to successful attacks on the Harkonnen and ecology progression) and there's some animosity between Northern and Southern Fremen, and they cannot work side by side for long.

In brief, Dune is a fantastic experience for the book/movie fan, and a lot more faithful than the RTS series which other than the visual stuff have nothing to do with the original work. The mentioned shortcomings don't damage the value of the game at all, which results in a great gaming experience, including visuals, sound and gameplay. A must see, like the book or not.

DOS · by Luis Silva (13439) · 2006

A classical masterpiece

The Good
I guess when this game was just out I was a bit too young to fully understand and appreciate its charms, so I was more turned towards Dune II, a real-time strategy inside the dune universe. Years have passed since I first played this game on my Amiga, if only to enjoy a masterful soundtrack by Stephane Picq ("Ecolove" track is still my most favorite track of all times, the MOD format, that is). And, I switched to PC since, and was lucky enough to find a copy of this game in a local store, almost a decade after it came out. Budget version as is, but it was on CD-ROM and what I saw surprised me as I had no idea they added full voice-acting and 3D flying cinematics on later revision of a game. It sure would be cool to see a remake on this exact game, with same soundtrack and all, hm, longshot, I know, but still, it's a hope.

This game blends a strange mixture of strategy and adventure. At first, all you'll be doing is exploring corridors and finding secret rooms in your father's palace, and visiting fremen sietches to try and persuade them to work for you. As you progress further, your character will be gaining certain abilities due to constant exposure to the spice melange (it's in the air, it's in the food, ...), and you'll be able to issue commands from a far distance and get visions. Naturally, your eyes will turn blue and you'll rise in the eyes of the fremen leaders.

Aside from beautiful soundtrack, amazing 8-bit character motion graphic, and day-night cycles, you'll follow the story of a book and a later on movie, though slightly closer to the movie adaptation since your character Paul Atreides will look exact to Kyle MacLachlan (the actor playing Paul in a movie). Can't say how much does Gurney resemble Jean Luc... err, I mean Patrick Stewart, though. I am not much a of reading fan (except when it comes to comics, lol), but the original Dune book was really great and the game manages to equal it only by the same greatness it carries within. It's a classic alright, no matter movie and a book were already made.

There's that really beautiful woman in the game, in blue stillsuit, think Harrah's her name, but can't say for sure. Always seem to be forgetting it. I dunno why, but big part of nostalgic feelings for this game somehow connects me to picture of her. Guess the developers made her memorable enough, even if she doesn't play any key role in a game.

The Bad
This is somewhat a weird composure of genres so it may take some time until player actually realised what's his goal and how to achieve it. But it's really not something to take on a downside, guess this isn't some game that kids just unplugged from Quake can take on to follow.

The Bottom Line
It's a classic that follows both book and a movie quite neatly, so if you read the book or watched the movie, you'll be acquainted with part of it already. It is no loss if you have floppy over compact disc version, because those older non-3D cinematics have a charm of their own, and Amiga version for example, has the best version of a soundtrack, not only is it all in MOD format, but has different tracks at different times which seems more balanced than PC or Sega CD versions. Either way, it's a classic that deserves your time, even if you're not planning to play it through the end.

DOS · by MAT (238609) · 2012

Strangely addictive, yet far from perfect...

The Good
This pre-RTS game shows that the strategy genre can offer plenty of depth and variety, without compromising exciting gameplay.

It offers some depth as it mixes RPG elements with the strategic management of the areas you control, and the fremen that you've rallied. Finding a balance between harvesting spice for the greedy Emperor, training an army to protect against the Harkonnen and seed vegetation on Arrakis is a complex task indeed - and you'll find yourself hooked at it.

Also, the universe it is based on is so rich and its characters so powerful that you can hardly go wrong with it - and the games makes use of the novel's characters to a great extent to try to create a compelling experience.

The Bad
Yet, it really fails to capture the most important aspects of the original story. Loosely based on the movie as well, the game uses elements from both sources superficially, and has some creative input of its own, and ends up with a story that doesn't touch you like the novel or movie do: dialogues are either vague or rushed; Paul's relationships with his parents, advisers, Stilgar or even Chani are completely superficial; the Harkonnens do not inspire the hatred or despise that the story really carries; the Fremen rituals are totally stripped down to the basic.

The story is also tremendously linear, and that can often frustrate the feeling of open-endedness that the strategic aspects tend to create.

Finally, although the action is quite exciting when the battle heats up, you'll often find that you're stuck with quite repetitive gameplay. Fun but repetitive - something that they could have avoided with the story or RPG bits, but failed miserably.

The Bottom Line
Fans of strategy looking for a game that offers something different from the real-time titles, and are willing to cope with this "entry-level" Dune setting. Fans of the movie or book shouldn't seek it for anything other than the strategic elements.

DOS · by tbuteler (3021) · 2004

If you can find it anywhere - go get it!

The Good
It was revolutionary! It had absolutely beautiful graphics and sound for the time. It had an awesome adventure part - quite easy, but beautifully done. And it has a rather challenging strategy part. Most of all - although the game isn't particularly hard to beat - once you've solved it you have the feeling of having accomplished something. And you've had fun!

Oh, and you can switch languages. I wish other games had that. The monkey islands, for example. How hard could it be to include every language they'd publish it in on the CD rather than publish x different versions?

The Bad
Well, it's pretty straight forward. And getting your harvester eaten by sand worms sucks.

The Bottom Line
Almost a decade old and still a joy. A fitting tribute to Frank Herbert - the feel of Dune, the desert planet, comes across perfectly.

DOS · by Gothicgene (66) · 2001

One of a kind

The Good
"A beginning is a very delicate time"...

The Bad
I didn't want this game to end!

The Bottom Line
Based on Frank Herbert’s masterpiece and influenced by David Lynch’s unfortunate film, this strategy-adventure lands us on the surface of Dune. This desert planet has a unique asset, Spice. The Spice is a substance with extraordinary qualities. It is essential for space travel. It is also a powerful narcotic that prolongs life and expands consciousness. The honorable House Atreides, has just accepted the Emperor’s offer and arrived on Dune to mine Spice for him. The savage House Harkonnen, the long time rivals of the Atreides, are also on the planet. They are already in the process of mining. Dune has also an indigenous people, the Fremen. They are a mysterious nation that lives under the Harkonnen’s ruthless rule. We take the role of young Paul Atreides. He is the son of Duke Leto who is the head of the House. Our goal will be to ensure the steady flow of the Spice and to force the Harkonnen away from Dune, with the help of the Fremen.

The game features sensational graphics. They are of superior design quality and very generous in color. The expressive character portraits and the atmospheric decorations are their most good-looking elements. The circle of the day is also nicely represented, with the beautiful sunsets as highlight. Travelling, shown from first person perspective, soon gets repetitive but it is still a nice touch. The game’s high technical status is also proven by the sound quality. Complex and seductive themes increase the feeling of authenticity and give a certain depth in the playing experience.

“Dune” is a unique blend of adventure and strategy. The first moves the scenario forward and the second determines the future’s safety. Through the game’s adventure nature, we will follow a rather linear course. We will meet several people and visit many places on the planet. We will not encounter any difficult situations, as we are always appropriately hinted. It is all about talking to the right people and being to the correct locations. Now, the story unfolds in an enchanting way. Superb spoken lines, sudden events and twists make a very addictive environment. We keep playing “just a little more” in order to see what is next.

We enter the strategy area of the game every time we look at Dune’s map. There we give orders to our troops and inspect their attributes. Early in the game, our main task will be to meet the Emperor’s increasing demands in Spice. Later on, we will start fighting the Harkonnen and finally attempt to change the planet’s ecology. We will have to make important decisions such us on where our men harvest for Spice, the training they receive, the equipment they use and the attacks they make. Through statistics we are informed on the areas the two Houses control, the Spice they mine and the number of men they have. Attentive reading of the manual is necessary, there are some very interesting tactical elements, not easily apparent.

Some times, adventure and strategy come very closely together. Adventure actions affect strategy ones and the opposite. It is then that the gameplay simply takes off. Some other times we are overwhelmed with events and swift determination of priorities is needed. Without being that difficult, the game requires several hours of solid and methodical playing to come to its end.

With its powerful simplicity and high production quality, the game reaches an entertaining level that we do not see very often, even today. With ease, it carries us in its world and binds us with it. If someone decides to engage with this game, undoubtedly a beneficial choice, I humbly advise him to prefer the CD version. This one offers several new characteristics, such as sequences from the film and an impressive travel depiction. But above all, it contains full speech support for every character of the game. The voices are extremely well selected and convincing, they express different emotions and mentalities brilliantly. It is no exaggeration to suggest replaying the game just to hear them.

“Dune” is a triumph of elegance and style, a real classic strongly recommended for everyone.

DOS · by Iron Lord (40) · 2016

Drink the water of life!

The Good
I got this game when I was a kid and really got into it. At the time I'd just read the book and seen the movie, so I took to this right away. The graphics and soundtrack are still beautiful to this day and it's always a great source of inspiration and nostalgia. It actually does a good job of drawing the player into the game with its intricate attention to visual detail.

The Bad
I finally came back and played this game as an adult and beat it and I was really put off by the limited amount of interactivity during the battles. It eventually got to the point that I would order my armies to attack various fortresses and then the battle would be over by the time I got there. Also, the ending had an almost "Scooby-Doo" feel to it, which was off putting.

The Bottom Line
A great time, especially if you're a Frank Herbert fan. It's just not for hardcore strategy buffs.

DOS · by Jordan Owen (13) · 2010

Possibly the best media conversion to date, which also makes a challenging game.

The Good
What is so special about Dune is the length the developers took to make it an authentic rendition of the novel (or movie), and not another commercial rip-off.
The plot details were changed, so to keep it in the scope of the game, and also to keep the player interested in the game. Although the gameplay is basically stategy and management, it is still very much plot driven. The plot unfolds as the game progresses, adding new variables to consider when making decisions, changing your priorities and timetables. This is quite rare, as usually the plot is often discarded or just doesn't affect gameplay.

The graphics are truly incredible, featuring realistic desert scenes. You will also be treaded to breathtaking sunrises and sunsets as the time of the day changes.
The music is a memorable Arab and Mediterranean mix, ranging from mysterious and eerie worms track ("Worm Sign") to rhythmic ecological track ("Ecolove"). Dune's music is memorable and original, and sounds great on Adlib, but it truly shines in the Amiga version. If there was a music CD with Dune's music on it on sale, I'd buy it today.
The CD version adds much - some nice animations and a movie clip, and very good voice acting for the dialogues.

The game also features some nice stuff such as the Fremen interface (its not Arabic, by the way), a game book called The Book of Dune on which you can read some background information and the plot so far, written as a book.

**The Bad**
Dune is played in real time, meaning that when you travel from place to place, time passes fast. And when your not - time passes slowly as you wait for people to carry out their orders. This tends to make the game boring at times, as you wait for something to happen. In other times, you take a long flight and when you land you discover that too many things have happened, and now you will work hard to restore order.
Also, the game mechanics are sometimes obscure, as you try to figure out exactly why you lost this battle, or why does the emperor demand so much spice after you sent him double the amount just last week...

**The Bottom Line**
A very interesting and engaging game to those who haven't seen the movie or read the book, with a solid story, real characters and challenging gameplay. Those who did read the book (or saw the movie) - Dune represents a fresh angle to the story, and a challenging game on its own.

DOS · by Mickey Gabel (332) · 2000

An underrated classic.

The Good
Everything - starting with the gameplay itself. This game is genuinely good, with a good plot (though it diverts from the original Dune book) and excellent cutscenes.

The graphics are really, really good (including the 3D rendered flight scenes), the characters are well drawn and the sky palette changes are mind-boggling. The music is also awesome and changes according to the stage in the game you're in, the dialogues are well done and the lips synchronization in the CD version is unbelievably accurate.

The Bad
It's replayable, but there are no plot deviations, which make playing this game a second time much less enjoyable. The Ornithopter flight scenes when you're looking for a sietch are also rather annoying.

The Bottom Line
An incredibly enjoyable game you'll never forget.

DOS · by Tomer Gabel (4539) · 1999

A masterpiece! A diamond in the rough!

The Good
“Dune” is one of the few “most own” games for the Sega CD (or “Mega CD” if you grew up outside of America) library.

While the early 1990s, CD-ROM peripheral device was hyped up as the “Next Level” in gaming, many loyal Sega customers, myself included, were bitterly disappointed with the results. Admist such gamer despair, came a handful of bright lights, such as “Dune”.

These bright lights, were a handful of Sega CD games that served as the proverbial “diamonds in the rough” to a Sega CD library filled with shovleware and B-minus, full motion video games on a system not really designed to do full motion video.

First, a little bit of background is in order. “Dune” is the first in a series of science-fiction novels written by Frank Herbert. In 1984, the novel was adapted, with mixed results, into a big budget, Hollywood film.

While Hollywood has largely avoided the franchise since 1984, several computer games set in the Dune film/novel universe were been released, with this particular “Dune” game being the first (and in this author's humble opinion the best) in a series of real time, strategy based computer games.

“Dune” clearly takes its visual cues from the 1984 film and while the Sega CD edition of the game cannot match the then standard 256-on screen colors PC capabilities, the game's animation and graphics are still some of the best seen on the Sega CD system.

The storyline is helped through periodic full motion video clips from the film, another benefit of the CD technology. While the Sega CD's hardware only allowed for a much more limited color capabilities, in comparison to the PC, it is worth noting that this is probably some of the best full motion video seen in a Sega CD game.

Credit has to be given to people at Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive for getting some great graphics and full motion visuals out of the Sega CD. Adapting a PC CD-ROM game for the Sega CD, couldn't have been an easy task, but this video game adaption has all the earmarkings of a true labor of love.

This game is not shovelwere. This game is not a rushed job. This is the sort of game that shows not just the potential of the Sega CD, but why video games should be respected as an art form. So, “bravo” to the folks at Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive.

Many of the “little” touches in the game also highlight just how much talent was behind this game. The real time elements are shown through night and day-inspired changes to the environment, cool texture maping of sane dunes is seen when you travel through the desert, and if you bring green vegetation to the desert planet, that will also change the in-game visuals.

The graphic capabilities of the Sega CD were weak, but it could pump out some great music and here, again, this game shines. While the voice talent is certainly great, it is the musical score in the game that really makes it stand out.

Words simply cannot do justice to how good the music in this game is at setting the mood and bringing the player into the Dune universe, including young love (a very well done desert, love scene) and the human rights and political struggle of the native inhabitants of the planet.

The music was given its own album release, but getting a hold of this game may be eaiser to do them locating the album. Sufficence to say, the music itself is well worth the price of the game. What about the game play mechanics? Well, I am pleased to say that the game play mechanics are smooth and responsive.

Even as you gain new abilities, vehicles and quests, it does not take long to figure out how to do what you want to do in the game, and it is simply amazing how the game is able to mix real-time military-diplomatic strategy with traditional graphic adventure gaming.

Many games have tried to offer a mixture of real-time strategy and graphic adventure gaming and, with few exceptions, they have failed miserably. However, this combination works superbly in “Dune” and this is another “Bravo!” moment for the folks at Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive.

Heck, even the loading time in this game is amazingly fast for the Sega CD. Lots of different things are happening in the game, especially as you develop your military, and I experienced very little in the way of slow down.

The Bad
My few serious complaints about the game fall into two categories; hardware and -- to be honest -- a bit of nitpicking.

Again, in terms of hardware, if you were familiar with the PC version, then it becomes impossible not to notice what happens when you go from having 256+ on-screen colors in a 16-bit game, to having to work with only 64.

The Sega CD's graphic capabilities were less then what was capable on the Super Nintendo, let alone standard PC computers or even the NEC Turbografx CD-ROM system.

This was a fatal design flaw in the Sega CD, which probably marked the beginning of the end for Sega's involvement in the hardware side of the industry.

So, while the Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive did the best that could be done -- given the hardware limitations -- it is still difficult not to look at a game as great as this one, and be reminded at just how "Next Level" the Sega CD really turned out to be.

In terms of petty nitpicking, the game can be a tad cruel (later in the story) when it comes to meeting the Emperor's spice demands and also trying to promote vegetation.

Yes, the cruelty is certainly realistic, especially if you are a fan of the franchise, but as the good spice mining territories dry up (often as the Emperor's spice demands increase) their were times when their was not much left for me to do, but quit and restore an earlier save point.

The Bottom Line
"Dune" for the Sega CD is a most-have for any Sega CD owner. It is a true diamond in the rough. Despite its hardware flaws and library of shovelwere, the Sega CD had potential for greatness. "Dune" is evidence of this.

SEGA CD · by ETJB (431) · 2014

A triumph! Everyone should play this game before they die!

The Good
The classic novels of Frank Herbert do not easily lend themselves to adaption. "Dune" is only the first in a series of novels, which reveal a fully developed, science fiction universe.

In the early 1980s, a movie based on the first Dune novel was released to, generally, mixed reviews. Fans, including Herbert, generally liked how close the film stayed to the original novel, but the film ended up being a rather expensive project that did not connect well with general audiences. What does any of this have to do with the video game?

Well, in 1992 Dune was adapted into an Amiga and DOS-based video game, with the Sega CD edition, released a year later. Visually, the game takes its cues from the 1984 film.

This means that the Sega CD game features nice Full Motion Video clips from the film, but also that the actual gameplay visuals are some of the best, most detailed and most varied, you will see on the Sega CD system.

Dune begins as a 'point and click' adventure game, with real-time strategy elements smoothly added into the mix. You take control of young Paul Atreides as he must befriend and organize the local inhabitations of the planet, Dune.

You must successfully ship the precious spice, found only on the planet, to the Emperor. Doing so means building alliances with the locals, gathering equipment, interacting with several Nonplayable Characters, including a love interest, and dealing with the Harkonnen.

The Harkonnens are a rival family who also has designs on mining the precious space on Dune. Competition is fierce and the Harkonnens are not above resorting to sabotage, even outright murder to foil Paul and his adventures.

As the storyline progresses, Paul begins to gain new psychic abilities, trains the locals in military conflict and, become something of a folk hero to the superstitious inhabitants.

To mine the spice, your primary goal, you must gain the trust of local inhabitants, provide them with the necessary equipment and expand your families territory.

All of this is accomplished with smooth gameplay mechanics, impressive visuals and a totally awesome soundtrack.

The Sega CD edition includes the DOS CD-ROM full motion video clips, impressive travel sequences, and extensive voice acting.

The Bad
Sadly, the Sega CD could only display 64 on-screen colors, compared to the basic 256 colors for the Amiga and DOS.

The limited hardware hurts the equality of the Full Motion Video and if you can notice the color limitations if you compare the Sega CD edition with its computer counterparts.

I also question the idea that this video game is suitable for all audiences, which was essentially the rating given to it by Sega's short-lived rating classification system.

I think that its probably better to classify this game as being suitable for players 13+, as opposed to a General Audience classification.

The military fighting can get pretty intense, and certain aspects of the story are a bit closer to PG/PG-13 content.

While it is not sexually explicit, Paul spends a rather romantic evening with a lady and sex is certainly implied to have taken place.

The Bottom Line
Dune is an amazing Sega CD game, which everyone should play before they die. If you like adventure gaming with real-time strategy, then this game is certainly up your alley.

SEGA CD · by browned (118) · 2019

The best of French artistic videogames, the same artists from Captain Blood

The Good
basically almost everything.

Visually it's one of the most impressive games of 1990 (till this day).

The speech synchronization is perfect, better than many modern animations.

It's a perfect combination of RPG, strategy and interactive cinema, emphasizing on the experience of the player when rolling Frank Herbert's Dune.

The Bad
It would be very great not to stop here and see the adaptations from the next Frank Herbert Dune's novels.

The CD version is as good as the DOS version if not better, but when you finish the game you simply continue to want more.

The end could have been more juicy.

The Bottom Line
It's unequivocally a mark in the history of video games, specially by its aesthetics.

It's a mark for retro and indie games as it represents graphically and aesthetically the best of Amiga and PC genre, specially emancipating the last one.

It deserves a special remake.

DOS · by ZeTomes (36315) · 2015

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Patrick Bregger, Alsy, Tao_, RetroArchives.fr, S Olafsson, Tim Janssen, xPafcio, Mr Creosote, RhYnoECfnW, Havoc Crow (formerly JudgeDeadd), Alaka, BurningStickMan, Omnosto, Big John WV, chirinea, Terok Nor, Mobygamesisreanimated.