Reviews From The Backroom: Dune 2000
To anybody who has taken more than a passing glance at the genre that is Real Time Strategy, the game "Dune II" is arguably one of the most (if not THE most) important games within the entire genre. While not being the first ever RTS game, it was the one that established the tried-and-true formula behind just about every big-name RTS to date. Among the many standards it established were mouse controls, resource-gathering based economy, Tech-tree's, and re-playability through differing, well balanced Factions.
In 1992, it was considered to be a very deep, complex, and beautiful game, receiving very positive reviews for it's fantastic visual style, fluid control, and fantastic fast-paced game-play.
So, in 1998, Westwood Studio's decided to do a remake of Dune 2, by adding three zero's to the end of the name, adding some Full Motion Video cut-scenes, and slapping "Command & Conquer: Red Alert" graphics into the mix.
How did it end up? Was it a good idea to do a remake?
Short answer: No. Long answer: HELL no.
Dune 2000 varied almost not-at-all from the original. The story-line, tech trees, unit-types, strategies, even the missions themselves were ripped almost squarely out of 1992 and slapped with a fresh coat of paint. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem; the game would receive a grand "Meh" from audiences and slink off into obscurity after making at least it's production costs back. But Dune 2000 was different.
The inherent problem with the remake is double-sided. One one hand, It had the stigma of "Remakes are rarely as good as the original" to contend with, and this was compounded by the fact that they were remaking a cornerstone game; the one that set the standard for many, many games to come. This, unfortunately, was not the only reason it was a failure.
When Westwood set out to remake Dune II, they went about it the wrong way in almost every category. For starters, THE GAME was copied too much in some places, too little in others. Westwood kept too much of the original game, such as cut-scenes re-done word-for-word, missions that varied little-to-no from the original, and game-play and mechanics that were so simplistic and bland that any other RTS might as well have taken it's place on that special shelf you've got.
But the biggest problem lies in, not what was shamelessly copied, but in what they tried to add in afterward.
Among the reviews that were done when this game was released, the largest complaint that was present among them was that the different factions were all very unbalanced, and it showed too much in game-play to ignore.
The faction Atreides had the lowest initial fire-power compared with enemy units, and (arguably) the most difficult mission tossed in in an early mission. In the fourth mission, you are tasked with capturing a Harkonnen Barracks in an attempt at rescuing members of the indigenous tribesmen of Dune. Normally, this would be just fine, if not for a few things. A) The tech available at this stage is laughable, B) the enemy base is FRIGGIN' HUGE, and C) you are expected to do it in what amounts to 2:30 IRL. I was NOT amused. Oh, but don't worry, in later stages, the Atreides obtain the ability to order in flying bomb-droppers called "Ornithopters" to fly over enemy bases and kill the ever-loving SHIT out of EVERYTHING. They're so overpowered, it just feels stupid.
The faction Harkonnen had what seemed to be the best with combat units, but had an economy set-up that ended up being absolute trash. As for THEIR special ability, it was to conjure up nukes. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? Well, have fun watching your base get horribly exploded while you cry, watching the timer coyly promise you a nuke in exactly TOO:LATE.
As for the third faction the Ordos, they have more than game-play issues to contend with; but the complaint that they are non-canon to the Dune universe has been around since the original, so it is entirely excusable. What is not excusable, however, is the bland and unimaginative game-play this faction has to offer. Yes, it is the easiest, but only because you are matched too closely to your enemy. Always. As for their special unit, it helps nothing at all. It is a guy, strapped with more explosives than armor, who runs at things and explodes. Yes, for all the "Super advanced technology of war" the Ordos claim to have, Jihad is apparently still incredible, despite it being an incredibly useless waste of 200 monies.
Now, the differences in difficulty between the factions isn't because they were all made differently. The major problem lies in how the maps were constructed. As the game progressed and new units were added, more room was added to the map to make up for the inherent problem of "Base-rushing". Unfortunately, the designers made the maps too obstructive, making them clunky, difficult to strategize upon, and more often than not, they gave too much of an advantage to the already-fortified enemy force. This was the most apparent with the third mission for the Ordos faction, where the player starts out, exposed, in the middle of a tiny map, with an enormous Harkonnen base within spitting distance.
Dune 2 was great. It was a classic that shaped it's genre in ways that are still visible today. Dune 2000 was a bland attempt to cash in on that fact. If you want more of the Dune universe or can't get enough RTS in your life, the original is abandonware, and legally free. Save your pennies.
If you enjoyed this review, please tell me! I'd like to do a few more in the future (and already have a few in mind).