The movie adaptation of Dune bombed hard on its 1984 release, a fact that makes this 1992 tie-in a rather strange proposition. How many other big money losers can hold public interest almost a decade later? Created by the French developers at Cryo Interactive, this interesting concoction of adventure and strategy did just that. It even sold well enough for a sequel to usher in an entirely new genre.
The original Dune is often overlooked over its landmark sequel by Westwood Studios which was confounded even further by being released in the same year. In fact, Cryo's take of Frank Herbert's mythos almost never came to be. The executives at Virgin Interactive had been on a mission to acquire the rights since 1988 when Dino De Laurentiis still held them. The famed producer of the movie (and other well-loved 80s schlock like Flash Gordon and Conan) held them close until they reverted to Universal in the early 90s. Two companies were given a stab at the game and after some work, Westwood won out and Cryo's adventure was cancelled. The Parisian team didn't stop working on it, however, and when they presented Virgin with a working full game, they got the green light to complete it within six months. It was released in January of 1992 and was very successful. In less than a year it would be vastly overshadowed into obscurity by Dune II.
Cryo's labour wasn't for nought, though. Unlike most of the company's output, Dune is incredibly well put together and seamlessly combines adventure and strategic elements. You play as Paul Atreides, the eldest son of a prominent family tasked with mining spice from the planet of Arrakis (aka Dune). This spice is the key to intergalactic space travel and is only found on this one planet. Naturally, other houses have their sights on the desert world and will fight to make it their own. Cue a lot of backstabbing, warfare and political machinations that would rival Game of Thrones.
Fremen are usually cooped up in similar looking caves. No wonder they're so eager to join your army.
for the bulk of the first section, you have to recruit an army. The native population known as the Fremen have to be convinced to join your cause and become either a spice miner, a military soldier or an ecological scientist. These will be your assets in the strategy segments, though they're not nearly as involved or complex as Westwood's attempt. As long as you have an even number of each, you'll be fine. You'll mostly be adventuring anyway. There is an element of open world exploration. The entire dessert can be travelled screen by screen or you can get to known destinations quickly using the insectoid aircraft known as copters. There is a large map to explore but your first mission is to focus on recruiting, though you can potentially stumble upon hidden secrets along the way. Up to two companions can accompany you if you ask them. They do have stipulations though, like who your other companion is and how big is your army. Their input is generally the crux of how puzzles are solved either directly or as a guide to point you in the right direction. For example, your mother will be by your side once you've found a general. She is quite handy to know where the secret doors in the palace are.
You save the game by looking in the mirror, and each major location will have a room where one can be found. Your appearance will gradually changer over the course of the game as you become more and more exposed to the spice. Your eyes will become bright blue by the end of it and you'll have the abilities of telepathy and foresight. These will play a great role in the story which is far more involved and true to the source material than the sequel.
All actions in a given location are listed at the bottom. Here you can admire your visage in a mirror so you can save your game.
In an attempt to stay relevant, a vastly improved CD version hit the shelves a year later. The original looked rushed with background art at times resembling concept sketches. Now they are computer generated. It was the early days of the CD-ROM and Cryo definitely took advantage of that (in fact, one could argue that that's how they survived so long with often sub-par products). Transitions between points on the map use animated video instead of sprite scaling. It loops and repeats but at least it gives a greater sense of scale. This, along with the new voice acting and musical improvements make it the definitive version to play.
If you're a fan of the excellent novels or the disappointing movie - though there are some defenders - Dune is a must play. It seamlessly weaves two distinct genres well even if they both aren't as deep as you would like. For me, after a market flooded with RTS titles, it overtakes Dune II to stand as the best use of the license, and the best among Cryo's own catalogue of hit-and-miss oddities.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual Card included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 191 Mb. Install Size: 384 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Dune (the game) is © Cryo Interactive
Dune (the movie) is © Universal Pictures
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me