Review Summary: “He who controls the spice, controls the universe!!!”
Navigating the disappointingly limited catalogue of Dune
video game adaptations, especially considering that a new title hasn’t seen the light of day in nearly two decades, has always been a rather frustrating affair.
Starting positively, 1992’s Dune
was generally well received, with the following real-time strategy Dune II
often hailed a pride and joy of the Westwood Studios’ era (outside of Command & Conquer
entries, of course), but following titles were often considered lacklustre. Despite drawing from one of the most brilliant science fiction universes of all time, Emperor: Battle for Dune
’s new and improved 3D graphics did little to prevent criticism towards AI and RTS gameplay issues, and the less said about 2001’s adventure game-esque Frank Herbert’s Dune
, the better. We are
potentially due one or two more modern releases with the hugely anticipated Denis Villeneuve film on the horizon, but this isn’t for some time now and as such is highly susceptible to disappointment or change. Truthfully, it’s very possible another official Dune
2D RTS will never appear, which ultimately leaves Dune 2000
Technically a remake of the acclaimed Dune II
, Dune 2000
was something of an oddball of the series: neither innovative or anything particularly memorable in the eyes of fans, the game really only served to expand the franchise’s market through Playstation and Windows 95/98 release, and this shallow prerogative really showed at times. Gameplay-wise, it was mostly cut-and-paste Dune II
, and (compared to other titles of the same era) didn’t really meet 1998 player expectations in terms of quality. All in all, Dune 2000
was forgettable, except for one
wonderful thing: the Frank Klepacki soundtrack.
American composer Frank Klepacki should be instantly recognisable to any real-time strategy player, if not by actual name then at least by his unmistakable catalogue. Joining Westwood Studios at a mere 17 years old, Klepacki’s work on the Command & Conquer
franchise and other endeavours has been met with overwhelmingly positive response, effectively considered staple of 1990’s PC gaming history by modern genre enthusiasts. Mostly working within the comfortable boundaries of electronic and rock-orientated material, the likes of ‘Hell March’, ‘Act on Instinct’ and ‘Mechanical Man’ are certainly memorable and pack plenty of punch, but they’re not exactly what you’d call cinematic
. Dune 2000
’s soundtrack? It’s very
Perhaps taking certain inspiration from the critically acclaimed orchestral soundtrack to 1997’s Total Annihilation
, 1998’s Dune 2000
soundtrack is loaded to the very brim with equally theatrical numbers at every turn. Opening piece ‘Harkonnen Battle’ immediately sets the tone with huge, smashing brass instrumentals and a constant sense of urgency through militaristic marching band percussion, extremely befitting the villains of Herbert’s classic novel. These elements are mirrored in the similar ‘Fight For Power’, again relying heavily on massive bursts of orchestral climaxes, before backing down to simmer briefly and rally the necessary energy to again continue the attack. Elsewhere, one of the most “Command & Conquer
-esque” tracks ‘Rise of Harkonnen’ is certainly more electronically infused compared to others, but the same sense of urgent scramble to accumulate as much as possible before impending attack is at the very forefront.
That’s not to say that the entire album is centred on intense battle anthems, however. In fact, compared to the amount of tense downtime, these feel few and far between. Again similar to Total Annihilation
’s brooding, mysterious material, ‘The Ambush’, ‘Enter the Ordos’ and ‘Plotting’ feel constantly thick with calm calculation, ominously letting time pass by whilst still never feeling at ease. In other words, perfect for feeling stuck on an alien planet filled with giant killer worms. Speaking of which, ‘Spice Scouting’ is absolutely stunning
: want to imagine sinking despairingly into the sand clogged jaws of a sandworm, whilst confined within the claustrophobic metal shell of a harvester that should protect but will ultimately kill you? ‘Spice Scouting’s gut wrenchingly desperate choral and strings section is exactly what you’re looking for.
Now, admittedly my own experience of the Dune 2000
soundtrack is probably heavily biased: my father was an avid fan of most real-time strategy titles of the era, with Dune 2000
being chief among them. As such, I cannot honestly disassociate Klepacki’s soundtrack from the memory of seemingly endless occurrences that I would spend watching over my father’s shoulder, perched on the sofa arm with studious attention as House Atreides battered the villainous House Harkonnen into submission. That being said, it does
stand out as an excellent soundtrack. Despite conjoined with a release generally considered underwhelming, even the thrill of seeing your base beginning to thrive with ‘Under Construction’s electronic pitter-patter was extremely satisfying, and fan favourite ‘Rise of Harkonnen’ easily remains one of Klepacki’s most signature tracks. Should another Dune
RTS never see the light of day, Dune 2000
at the very least offered something worth remembering, and always an absolute pleasure to revisit.
”Long live the fighters!!!”