Dune 2000

The return of the almighty tank rush.

Snap112I don’t know how fair it is to call Dune 2000 a Command & Conquer clone considering C&C was originally a clone of Dune. We’re specifically talking about Dune II, the game that kickstarted the real-time strategy craze. For the intervening six years we’ve seen nothing but clones from Westwood – high budget, high energy and highly entertaining clones, but clones all the same. Each RTS game from them roughly played the same, and such is the case with Dune 2000 as well.

Like its predecessor, Dune 2000 is based on the classic science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. The desert planet Dune is the only source of Spice (read: Tiberium), a versatile substance that everyone’s after. The Emperor has declared that the House to harvest the most Spice will gain control of Dune. Three Houses arrived for the challenge: The Atreides, the Ordos and the Harkonnen.

With few exceptions, the units in Dune 2000 are the same as in the original. The three sides are almost identical, differing only in a couple advanced units. Players are given the standard infantry, tanks and light assault vehicles. There are a couple of special units, including a Sonic Tank that does damage with sound waves (units that attend heavy metal concerts are immune to this attack). The only other interesting unit is one that temporarily causes an enemy to change sides.

Clone Wars

Snap124The Dune engine is pretty much identical to Command & Conquer, and the interface follows suit. The engine does have its own peculiar limitations, like the inability to give buildings rally points or train more than one unit at a time. There is no patrol feature or scout option, or any waypoint system at all. The AI is eerily similar to that of Dune II, which is to say it’s dumb, and the environments get stale fast. All of the action takes place on the same planet, so it’s only sand and sand.

Other problems with the game have filtered down through the years. Infantry are worthless in the face of tanks; tracked units drive over them effortlessly. The artillery is powerful, but so lightly-armored and short-ranged it gets demolished by tanks. Airpower exists, but in practice does not play a significant role. The effect of all this is that he who builds nothing but tanks will usually do quite well in the game; the bane of the tank rush is still alive and well in Dune 2000.

Outside of the aforementioned unit balancing problems and sense of sameness, Dune II is still pretty playable. It’s got an impressive cast under its wing (a trademark of Westwood in offering live-action cutscenes), and the gameplay might rub you the right way if you’re a huge fan of the C&C mold. But in the end we’ve played this type of game a hundred times, and originality is something Dune 2000 is lacking.

System Requirements: Pentium 100 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, 100 MB HDD, Win95

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