based upon popular forms of media normally can be grouped into two categories:
extremely well done or extremely lacking. Unfortunately for the PC game
developers at Widescreen Games, its latest title Frank Herbertís Dune happens
to fall in that latter category. Although its base theme and writing is quite
impressive, mirroring that of the original sci-fi epic series of books as well
as last years TV movie adaptation, the gameplay within Frank Herbertís Dune is
so poorly designed that it overshadows almost every positive feature that could
be found within the title. With that
in mind, even the most avid Dune fan and PC gamers might find some difficulty
keeping this particular title onto their computer system.
late author Frank Herbert is hands-down one of the most prolific sci-fi writers
of all time. Just over 15 years after the writers untimely death, this
authorís unique vision of humanityís distant future as seen in the Dune
series of novel still remains one of the most popular science fiction writings
to date. Within the past several years, fans have been blessed with all-new Dune
material based on Herbertísí once lost notes and memoirs (completed by his
son, writer Brian Herbert) as well as a new feature length film released last
year on TV, based upon the deceased writerís first epic novel.
ever industrious game development community has not turned a blind eye to the
growing popularity of Herbertís Dune universe. Theyíve also not forgotten
that one of the most popular titles of all time happens to have the Dune moniker
attached to it: the first real time
combat strategy game, Dune II. Unlike that title, however, most games based upon
a popular and very detailed form of other media (not unlike the Dune series of
novels) tends to fall into two categories most of the time:
very successful, or very disappointing. Sometimes the magic is captured,
making the title a very enjoyable one to playÖother times, the release in
question jumps straight from the shelves to the cheap bin at the back of a half
rate game shop. Unfortunately for
the latest game based in the intrinsic Dune universe, Widescreen Games release
of Frank Herbertís Dune falls into that not so lofty second category.
the many years that this reviewer has played PC games, a great number of titles
have come across as being truly a poor gaming experience. Although not quite
that low in caliber, Frank Herbertís Dune was rather disappointing game as a
whole and didnít live up to the lofty expectations of a fan of PC adventure
gaming. On the other hand, fans of the Dune novels and films might find the game
slightly more palatable, if they can perhaps get past the numerous gameplay
flaws that seem to be inherit throughout Frank Herbertís Dune.
by the indy gaming company Widescreen Games and distributed by the fine folks at
Dreamcatcher Interactive, Frank Herbertís Dune is set in the year 10191 during
a time of strife in the Imperium of the Known Universe. Two major players in the
royal feudal society, House Harkonnen and House Atreides, are waging a bloody
battle for control of the barren desert planet Arrakis (also known as Dune).
This planet has a significant importance to the galaxy due to the fact that it
is the only known location where the spice Melange can be found: a substance
that is not only crucial to space navigation but that also extends the life of
those that ingest it regularly. The noble House Atreides has only recently been
massacred and decimated by the forces of the evil Baron Harkonnen, forcing the
only two surviving members of the Atreides family to flee to the barren
wastelands of Dune. Young Paul Atreides (heir to the House Atreides Ducal
Throne) and his witch-like Bene Gesserit Mother Jessica must now survive the
hardships of the planet with help of the natives, known as the Fremen.
the character Paul, gamers will explore Dune, learn the secret of ancient battle
techniques in order to fight the legions of enemy soldiers that now controlling
the planet, disrupt spice supplies, and learn the secrets of the giant sands
worms of Arrakis. In the end, you must defeat the evil House Harkonnen and his
secret ally, the Emperor of the Galaxy in a battle that will not only decide the
fate of the Fremen people who follow you, but also that of the known universe.
Herbertís Dune follows along nicely the original storyline and premise of
Frank Herbertís now 30 year old Dune novel, which in itself is a nice touch.
The writing, based on back stories that were only barely touched upon in the
original work, fill in the empty spaces nicely and give fans of the book and
both the TV mini-series and big screen release a more detailed look at the
clandestine operations that Paul Atreides and his Fremen warriors engaged in.
detailed plot and lengthy in-game cut scene are complemented very well with a
highly detailed and intricate graphics scheme, reminiscent of the sweeping
visuals presented in the TV mini-series. The
environments found within the game are incredibly realistic as are most of the
other in-game 3-D locations, showing that the developers did their job when
researching the backdrop of Dune. The game engineís incorporation of a highly
refined dynamic lighting and particle system only adds to the realism of the
game, especially evident when viewing the dust cloud burst created by the giant
the positive elements within the game are plentiful and worthy of note, as a
whole they just were not enough to save the overall gameplay found within Frank
Herbertís Dune. The game developers for this title went to some great length
to incorporate every little nuance and intricacy that can be found in Dune,
offer gamers a realistic interpretation of Frank Herbertís sci-fi universe: a
very commendable feat. What they slacked on, however, was the design of the
basic adventure game mechanicsÖsomething that can actually be detrimental to a
game as a whole no matter how well the theme is developed.
Herbertís Dune plays as a 2nd and 3rd person adventure game, reminiscent of
Tomb Raider and other similar titles. Unlike other games, however, the control
scheme for your in-game characters were so poor it almost made playing the game
unbearable. The over-the-shoulder orbital camera tended to move on its own quite
a bit, floating around without any provocation from the playerís mouse. Not
only annoying, but it made outright control of your character during pivotal
situations almost impossible during certain situations, like turning around
corners of building and the like. In-game combat also tended to suffer from this
same problem, making precision attacks against opponents (even in the covert
game mode) almost impossible.
problem with the game lies with its control key mapping. Everything is locked in
its default setup, forcing players to utilize the often cumbersome control
scheme for action keys and inventory. Though this has been a problem for other
games in the past, action key commands for Frank Herbertís Dune are truly
difficult to master, even with the in-game tutorial walkthrough and the game
manual at your side.
players finally learns how to overcome the inherit control flaws within the
game, Frank Herbertís Dune does play out very nicely. Through seven different
levels, players must use covert tactics, espionage, and straight out weapons
fueled carnage to complete various stages of gameplay in order to win back Dune.
The game itself uses animated character designs similar to the latter Final
Fantasy titles, giving it that pseudo Japanese Anime quality that may not be
realistic, but plays and looks better that your normal rendered character
scheme. The in-game cut scenes found between missions are very detailed,
following closely to the storyline and situation found within the books (which
should entertain most Dune fans). However, some of them tend to be a little long
winded for anyone that isnít familiar with Herbertís vision of the future,
and could possible slow the pace of the game down for those individuals.
in all, Frank Herbertís Dune was slightly disappointing as a full fledged
action adventure game. Its in-game control system was the main culprit in the
games design flaw, making character control and extraordinarily difficult task
for a majority of the gameplay. On the other hand, the overall theme, graphics,
and storyline were incredible to behold. The developers went to great lengths to
incorporate every little detail and nuance of Frank Herbertís Dune universe
into every single aspects of their PC game.
Fans of the books and films will no doubt be impressed with the high
quality of storytelling and stunning graphics and visuals found in the game,
possible making this title more of a niche selling than a game for just the
casual gamer with no interest in the rich Dune theme.