Frank Herbert's Dune

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a game by Widescreen Games SARL
Platform: PC
User Rating: 7.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Action Adventure Games

Dune seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence as of late. The film has been re-released on DVD with an extra 40 minutes of footage, they’ve made a big budget TV adaptation, Westwood revisited the sci-fi classic in its latest blockbuster and now French developer Widescreen Games is having a stab at an action/adventure. It has always seemed odd that such a character-driven story has seen its most successful game translation in Westwood’s realtime strategies. But this isn’t the first time Cryo has released a Dune title. The 1992 adventure/ RPG was a real underrated corker.

This time, the fact that the name of the author is in the title is supposed to indicate that it’s a faithful recreation of the book (or at least the world described in the series of books) and is thus not David Lynch’s Dune, that expensive mess of a movie that was both hypnotic and utterly ridiculous, despite being made by one of my favourite directors. But that doesn’t make this game a triumph. For everything it does right, equally it does something wrong: the graphics are great but, the locations monotonous and lacking in detail. The animation is fluid and believable but the horrid controls make your character move like a psychotic duck. The story is rich and complex but the way it’s incorporated into the gameplay is crude and dull. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Water Is Life

Dune is a curious beast. Ignored when it was first published in the '60s, it became a monster hit towards the end of the decade, when the hippie movement was in full flight and the US was floundering in Vietnam. It’s had a massive cult following ever since. Personally I’ve never been that interested. All that talk about spices, jihads and Messiahs puts me right off, and I’ve never been able to take any book that is full of long silly names seriously (the same reason I still find Lord of the Rings unreadable). I mention this for two reasons. One is that you don’t have to be a fan to play the game, while geeks won’t be pointing out inconsistencies as it’s set in a time period not really covered in the books. The second is that many of the people who worked on the game also worked on Outcast an interesting title that we famously panned for being full of long silly names.

Save Me

But the biggest complaint is the lack of a save-game option. Frank Herbert’s Dune is also being released on the PlayStation 2, butthat doesn’t excuse the fact that the game only autosaves itself at the end of each mission, and so forces you to play through the same segments and watch the same cinematics over and over again. This is obviously frustrating and yet it does give the experience an addictiveness it might not otherwise have. Every time you die after playing for 30 solid minutes you shake your keyboard in frustration, only to find yourself thinking a couple of hours later saying: "I’m just going to have one more crack at it." And this is what saves it from total failure. Like Lynch’s film, it doesn’t really work and yet is strangely compelling. Going round slitting throats from the back is always fun and the sandworms are an amazing sight, but this is far from the game it could have been.

Download Frank Herbert's Dune

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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