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/// Usenet Review:  Dune II -- Battle for Arrakis
    ---------------------------------------------
    By Thomas Baetzler
    (fhinf@iraul1.ira.uka.de)



PRODUCT NAME

        Dune II -- Battle for Arrakis


BRIEF DESCRIPTION

        Dune II is basically a strategy game in the vein of the classic
Empire, or the wargaming aspect of Civilisation.


AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

        Produced by Westwood Studios.

        Distributed by

        Name:           Virgin Games
        Address:        338a Ladbroke Grove
                        London W10 5AH
                        England

        Telephone:      ++43 81 960 2255


        Name:           Virgin Games France
        Address:        223 Rue de la Croix
                        Nivert 75015, Paris
                        France

        Telephone:      ++33 101 331 4842 1919


LIST PRICE

        69.95 DM; approximately $40 (US).


SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

        A flyer states that Dune II requires at least 1.5 MB of RAM and a
hard disk.  The game somes on five disks.  Installation size is approximately
3.8 MB.  The game works just fine with OS 2.04.  While it is possible to play
Dune II on a "basic" 68000 system, a faster CPU is highly recommended.


COPY PROTECTION

        Dune II features an infrequent "look up a fact in the manual"
check.  The five installation disks are not copy protected, so you can back
them up if you feel the need for additional security.  I think this kind of
copy protection is acceptable.


MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

        I am playing Dune II on an A2500/030 running OS 2.04, using a GVP
Series II host adapter.  The machine features 1 MB of Chip RAM, 4 MB of
32-bit RAM, and 2 MB of 16-Bit Fast RAM.


REVIEW

        Somewhere in time and space lies the planet Arrakis, also known as
"Dune."  It's surface is a gigantic desert, inhabited only by the "fremen"
and the ferocious sand worms.  And yet it is of vital interest to the Empire,
because it is the only known source of the spice Melange, a drug with truly
wondrous powers.

        The scenario starts out with the Emperor in dire need of great
quantities of spice.  In order to increase the harvesting, he offers a
contest to the three most powerful families on Dune:  the family who
produces the largest quantity of Melange will be given exclusive harvesting
rights.  So the righteous Atreides, the cunning Ordos and the treacherous
Harkonnen get down to battle it out among themselves.

        You play the role as Chief of Staff for one of the three houses of
Dune, bound to win nine battles in a war for total domination of the
planet.  Each house offers its own specialised units, and also represents a
different level of difficulty.

        Each battle starts out with a short briefing by your advisor, after
which you get to the main game screen.  It consists of a large map area,
with a command box to the right.  Just below the command box is a small
radar screen that can display an overview of whole playfield.  From two
sort-of menus at the top of the screen, you can get help about the game.  An
option window allows you to load and save games, set game speed, and such.

        Scattered around the map are your buildings, vehicles and soldiers -
usually called "units" in that genre.  You command those units by clicking on
them to activate them, and then selecting an action from the command box.
Depending on the type of the unit, your choices vary.  For example, to
create buildings you instruct your construction facility to do so.  Step by
step, you build up your base complete with factories for armored vehicles,
power generators, and perimeter defenses.  Most vital of all are the spice
refineries, because only by harvesting spice and processing it can you gain
the money necessary to build up your outpost.  Once you feel up to it - or
whenever your opponent feels up to it - the battle starts.  Dune II features
an impressive array of mobile and stationary weaponry that can be put to
good use.

        Orchestrating a battle on Dune can be much fun, but it also takes up
a lot of time.  While the earlier conquests can usually be handled in a few
minutes, they get rapidly more and more taxing while the game progresses.
Also, between conquests, there's a tactical map display that lets you select
your next battle, so there are 66 scenarios in all to explore.  And the
ending?  After having finished the last battle, you find yourself in disgrace
with the Emperor - so the battle will possibly continue in one or several
Dune II Data Disks.

        Like the original Dune game, the graphic presentation is quite
convincing.  While the game itself doesn't depend solely on its graphics,
they certainly enhance the gameplay.

        The sound effects accompanying the game are nice, but probably
nothing to write home about.  Basically, it's atmospheric background
music interspersed with "action" sounds like shells going off, and unit
commanders responding with "operation complete" and such.  Maybe they've
gone a bit too far by letting soldiers die screaming when you hit them with
a truck....

        Overall, the game control is very intuitive, so you can get right
down to playing once you have understood the basics of the game.  Since each
level of the game offers more and more hardware to play with, the fight for
supremacy on Dune never gets dull.  Your computer opponent isn't too smart,
but he's got some quite effective offensive maneuvers up his sleeve.
However, at no level the computer player exposes the same cunning as an
expert human player would do.


DOCUMENTATION

        Dune comes with a nicely designed 56-page A5 booklet containing
basic instructions for the game as well as some "background" information
on the political situation on Arrakis.  A thorough description of the
different units in the game serves as base for the protection lookup.

        The Amiga version also includes a "quick start" leaflet with
instructions on how to install the game.  While this is rather short, I
found the information presented to be sufficient.


LIKES AND DISLIKES

        I would like to see a version of Dune II that allows two or more
players to engage in head to head combat via modem or (even better!)
network.  However, I don't expect to see this any time in the near future:
the additional effort in programming couldn't possibly be offset by extra
sales.

        While I have no conclusive information as to the state of things
concerning Dune II Data Disks, I have heard such disks are already available
for the IBM PC.  I'd just love to see them on Amiga, too.

        Last but not least, I have to congratulate Virgin on publishing a
great game with a reasonable price tag! I hope users all around will catch
on and make their experiment worthwhile.


BUGS

        What I really hate about Dune is the fact that the game grabs its
input directly from the hardware, no matter if its screen is currently
active or not.  Basically, this prevents you from using multitasking for
anything else but batch jobs.


VENDOR SUPPORT

        Virgin offer customer support for exchange of defective media and
such.


WARRANTY

        Virgin does not offer any kind of warranty except as such provided
by local law.


CONCLUSIONS

        Dune II is certainly a very good game, and possibly a bargain at the
price asked.  If you like playable strategy games, this one's for you.  With
Data Disks coming out, I feel it's got a great long time value.  I rate it
4 stars out of 5.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE


        You can contact me at:

                Medic BSS, 2:241/7454.2@fidonet (safest way?)
                fhinf@iraul1.ira.uka.de         (until October 1993)
                s_walter@irav1.ira.uka.de       (will be forwarded to me)

     Thomas Baetzler, Herrenstr.  62, 76133 Karlsruhe, FRG
        Voice: ++49 (0)721 29872  Medic BBS: ++49 (0)721 496821


           Copyright 1993 Thomas Baetzler.  All rights reserved.
                        Reprinted with permission.