Emperor: Battle for Dune
Reviewed by Brian Blouch, Fri., Sept. 28, 2001
Emperor: Battle for DuneWestwood Studios/Electronic Arts
Some mad genius will eventually design a truly kick-ass, real-time strategy game. Until then -- or at least until Blizzard Entertainment gets their Warcraft III shit together -- fans of the RTS genre will have to settle for Emperor: Battle for Dune.
Westwood Studios, creators of Emperor as well as the Command & Conquer series, do their best to jack Emperor into the Dune mythology. Their efforts -- a choose-your-own-adventure mélange of alliances and subplots -- are better off ignored, as they distract from the main scenario: a down and dirty war among the three Houses -- Atreides, Harkonen, and Ordos -- battling for the Imperial Throne. What with this being the Dune universe and all, the road to victory is paved with spice (the de facto currency of Frank Herbert's sci-fi universe). Control the spice, and the throne will be yours.
The armies used to batter your enemies into submission have unique strengths. The Atreidies prefer high tech weaponry with a long reach. House Harkonen dig infantry and armor designed for up-close-and-personal slaughter. Choose the Ordos camp if you prefer speed and quick strikes.
It is a fast-paced and elaborate game of Rock, Paper & Scissors, one instantly familiar to any RTS aficionado (think Starcraft meets Red Alert), as is the intuitive gameplay. Emperor sticks to the RTS basics: Build a base. Harvest resources. Raise an army. Beat the other guy. Repeat as many times as necessary to win. No surprises.
In other words, there's nothing new under this particular sun.
However, Emperor deserves kudos for its stunning 3D graphics. As it plays out over four richly textured landscapes, the game never loses its jaw-dropping effect. And there may be no greater thrill than watching a pack of intricately detailed mortar-men unleash a wee bit of hell on unsuspecting enemy units. No greater computer-generated thrill, anyway.
The graphics alone are enough to raise the bar on future games challenging for the RTS crown. While the rest of Emperor may serve up a heaping helping of derivative nonsense, it is also an entertaining, heaping helping of nonsense guaranteed to leave visions of destruction dancing in your head. Let the all-night gaming sessions begin. You won't hate yourself too much for it in the morning.