A world beyond your experience, beyond your imagination? Or just a load of old tosh? Gary Whitta shakes the sand from his shoes and finds out.
You've read the book (although you probably haven't), you've seen the film (but you couldn't make head nor tail of if), now play the game! Yes, the computer incarnation of Frank Herbert's bizarre sci-fi classic and the equally "epic" David Lynch film is here at last. And what an odd little thing it is. Actually that's only half right. Dune may be odd but it's certainly not little by any stretch of the imagination.
Talking of stretching the imagination, those familiar with Dune's concept and story will know that it's easily one of the most original and inventive pieces of SF ever penned -if anything it's a little too original, with ideas so surreal that even the most die-hard sci-fi fans had a hard time getting their heads round it. For the uninitiated, here's the basic idea. It's 10,000 years into the future, and the most precious substance in the Universe is a mind-expanding spice called Melange, which not only prolonges life but also enables people to "fold space" and travel across galaxies in no time at all. It's good stuff obviously, but there's one small problem - Melange only exists in tiny quantities, and then only on one world, the scorching desert world of Arrakis, otherwise known as Dune.
Such is the value of the spice that there's fierce competition over who gets to mine it and sell it. That privilege had always been given to the blubbery and evil Harkonnens, but the Emperor of the Universe has now handed the contract over to the House of Atreides, a far more noble and respectable clan. Having moved to Dune from their home planet and set up shop, the Atreides family begins its spice-mining efforts. But the Harkonnens aren't about to give up their income without a fight, and so begins a desperate struggle between the two houses for control of Dune. Over to you...
Like the book and the film before it, Dune the game has no time for normality and convention - it's a very odd, very imaginative and, also like the book and film, it's impressively sweeping and epic in its scale. The exquisite and very stylish graphics, which have obviously been modelled on the movie to a great extent, create a tremendous other-worldly atmosphere - especially when coupled with the impressive new-age soundtrack. Dune is a game with a feel and a seductive style all of its own, and as such it's very easy to get drawn into its bizarre world. This is all helped nicely along by the game's tremendous user-friendliness - the icon-based control system is about as instinctive as you're ever likely to get.
If the game seems a little simplistic at first, it's because it's very thoughtful in its design, and works hard to make the player feel at home by introducing the characters cleverly, and constantly offering helpful hints. Later on, when the emphasis shifts from adventure and exploration to strategy, things get a lot tougher and more involving. The game's many objectives (the ultimate aim is to make Dune a habitable world as well as beat the Harkonnens) mean that the player is constantly juggling several balls - and that's the essence of good strategy.
If there are problems with Dune, it's that the gameplay seems to fall between two stools, leaving adventure and strategy players rather unsure of what they're getting. Purists probably won't like it, but if you're willing to adapt there's a good mix of game styles on offer here. A fine example of well-structured gameplay executed with true style, Dune is the best example of its genre in a long time. It sounds corny, but if this is your sort of thing, you could do a whole lot worse.
A famous adventure game based on the book Dune. You can explore the planet by flying a copter, talk to people, visit the places you know from the book or the movie. It has a fine intro animation and a very good music.
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