Command & Conquer and Warcraft might get the lion's share of the attention when it comes to old-school RTS games, but it was Dune 2 that kicked the whole genre off and deserves just as much interest. Much of what would come to define the genre was laid down here and while the game might have aged a bit in terms of visuals, it remains as compelling an experience as ever. This one is set in the legendary Dune universe, taking its inspiration from Frank Herbert's classic books and weaving its own tale of spice-mining and conflict. Taking control of one of three dominant houses, you must engage in a series of missions where you must mine certain levels of spice or wipe out your foes in combat. Most of the features now familiar from other such games are present here, including various buildings to construct, different types of units to gather spice, explore or defend your harvesters and buildings and so on, with more becoming available as you progress. Dune 2 really is a classic example of the RTS genre which perhaps doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves and which stands up supremely well today. It scores a lot of points for its well realized setting, and although the graphics are functional rather than spectacular, they certainly do the job well enough. The gameplay is straightforward enough but never less than compelling, thanks to the varied unit and building types and the challenging AI, which will keep you on your toes at all times. Throw in the simple and intuitive interface and you have a fantastic experience.
Prototypical strategy game still highly playable
The invention of the RTS can be traced back to games such as the original Dune, some very obscure games on the ZX Spectrum, as well as the Mega Drive game Herzog Zwei, later on continued classics such as Z and more. But, Dune and to a larger extent Dune 2 managed to actually properly incorporate storytelling into the game, not solely as a mission screen/one could care less type briefing, but into the actual fabric of the strategy itself. You will play at the helm of one of the two Dune, universe of the books houses, Atreides and Harkoonen while another non cannon house is present as well, the Ordos. Thus you can involve yourself in each house's story with many lore elements present to entice you over and also their own specific units, super units and certain differences in devising one's best strategy. The game has most of the modern RTS amenities, from the top down map to the context sensitive mouse cursor which eases order issuing and information management. The graphics are beautiful to this day, very crisp and the many shades of yellows, orange and brown create a vista still very easy on the eyes. You will battle the harsh conditions of the desert, the unquenchable deterioration ensued by the very unfavorable climate and also the gigantic spice producing worms. Thus, your units are almost always in danger and this adds a very interesting twist to the game. Hell, the very same resource you're looking to harvest can kill your units, as spice can burst out of the sand at times when units pass certain particular areas. The game managed to raise with its own tools the same kind of political, economic and social question that the books managed, and it is for this that it was much more than the sum of its gameplay and classic storytelling. Give it a try or rather go for the Dune 2: The Golden Path revamp which makes the game much more playable on modern machines and supports larger screen resolutions.