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Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty (also known as Dune II: The Battle for Arrakis in Europe, and simply Dune: The Battle for Arrakis in the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis port) is a Dune computer game, released in 1992 by Westwood Studios. It is a loose sequel of the computer strategy game Dune (although it shared no storyline or gameplay). Both games were based upon David Lynch's 1984 movie Dune, which was in turn taken from Frank Herbert's science fiction novel of the same name. A new house, House Ordos (not found in the novels or film), appears in this game even though it is mentioned only once in the non-canon Dune Encyclopedia.

While not the first real-time strategy (RTS) game (it was preceded by Herzog Zwei), Dune II established a format that would be followed for years to come, and is the first to use the mouse to move units, giving much fluid interaction [1]. As such, Dune II is the founder of the RTS genre in its modern form. Striking a balance between complexity and innovation, it was a huge success and laid the foundation for the coming Command and Conquer (which was nicknamed "Dune III" by some fans and detractors), the Warcraft series, and many other RTS games.


Spoiler warning! Plot and/or ending details follow.


From the intro of the game

Emperor Frederick IV of House Corrino is desperate for the harvesting of the valuable spice melange, only found on the planet Arrakis, to pay off all of his debt incurred on internecine wars with family members. To achieve this, he now offers the sole governorship of Arrakis to the House (huge nobleman family/cartel) which delivers the most spice for him out of House Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos. War begins as deputations from all three Houses arrive on Arrakis.

The player is a military commander from a House of their choice. In the first few missions the objective is to successfully establish a base on an unoccupied territory of Arrakis, to harvest spice and defend against intruders. Later, when the three Houses divide Arrakis among them, the player has to assault and capture enemy territories. When the player dominates Arrakis on the world map, the two other enemy factions ally against their common enemy. The ultimate final showdown is the battle among the player's House up against three enemy sides, among them Frederick's forces the Sardaukar (an unplayable elite force whose heavy infantry are particularly powerful). The final cutscene is different for each House, in consonance with their very disparate worldviews.

Spoilers end here.


Dune2 houses

Choosing sides

The player takes the role of a commander of one of three interplanetary houses, the Atreides, the Harkonnen or the Ordos, with the objective of wresting control of Arrakis from the two other houses. The basic strategy in the game is to harvest spice from the treacherous sand dunes using a harvester vehicle, convert the spice into credits via a refinery and to build military units with these acquired credits in order to fend off and destroy the enemy. The game map initially starts with a fog of war covering all area which is not covered by the player's units range of view. As the units explore the map, the darkness is removed. Unlike later games such as Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, the fog of war is lifted forever with initial exploration, it does not become dark once more when units leave the area.

In addition to enemy incursions, there are other dangers; like the marauding and gigantic sandworm, capable of swallowing vehicles and infantry whole but only capable of moving through sand. The player can only build on rocky terrain, but must build concrete foundations before to avoid deterioration of the structures due to the harsh weather conditions although in general, structures will gradually decay over time regardless of the presence of those concrete slabs due to the aforesaid weather conditions. Spice fields are indicated by orange coloration on the sand, darker orange indicating high concentration. Some spice may be concealed as bumps on the terrain (a 'pre-spice mass') that become spice fields when they are shot at, or when a unit runs over them (the unit is destroyed in the ensuing 'spice blow').

Dune 2 interface

Gameplay screenshot

The player is presented a map of the planet Arrakis before most missions, where he can choose the next territory to play in among two or three. This affects primarily the enemy house fought in the next mission, as all missions except the first two require the complete destruction of the enemy. Nine territories must be fought, irrespective of house, to reach the endgame.

Some key elements that first appeared in this game, but would later appear in many other RTS games, are:

  • Mouse-operated units and buildings
  • A world map from which the next mission is chosen
  • Resource-gathering to fund unit construction
  • Simple base and unit construction
  • Building construction dependencies (technology tree)
  • Mobile units that can be deployed as Buildings
  • Different sides/factions (the Houses), each with unique unit-types
  • Destruction of the enemy as a goal


House Harkonnen relies on heavy and powerful, but expensive units, while House Atreides is a more "middle of the road" side with access to good specialised units such as the Sonic Tank. House Ordos tends to prioritise speed over strength and have a mix of technology from both houses like the ornithopter and heavy troopers, and have other quite specialised units and a lack of heavy firepower, and thus require a degree of cunning gameplay to win.

Infantry and trooper units[]

Picture Name Description
Duneii-infantry Light Infantry Soldiers with minimal protection and attack capabilities. They can infiltrate and seize command of enemy structures. Available only to the Ordos and the Atreides factions. Build cost : 60(single) / 100(squad)
Duneii-troopers Heavy Troopers Troopers have special power suits and heavy weapons and equipment. Available only to the Harkonnen and Ordos factions, although Fremen units (which are available to the Atreides faction through the Palace) are comparable in combat value to this type of infantry. Build cost : 100(single) / 200(squad)

Light Vehicles[]

Picture Name Description
Duneii-trike Trike A very fast and maneuverable three-wheeled vehicle with very limited protection. Useful for scouting. Available only to the Atreides faction (House Ordos builds Raider Trikes) though any House can get them via Starport. Build cost : 150
Duneii-quad Quad A four wheeled vehicle, slower than the trike, but with much more armor and firepower. Build cost : 200

Heavy Vehicles[]

Picture Name Description
Duneii-combat--tank Combat Tank A medium-sized tank, with average speed, firepower and armor. Build cost : 300
Duneii-siege-tank Siege Tank A slower, heavier version of the combat tank, with 50% more armor and a double-barreled cannon. Build cost : 600
Duneii-rocket-launcher Rocket Launcher A moderate-speed tank providing long-range rocket support. It inflicts high damage, especially against buildings (does only half damage to units), and has longer range than turrets. It fires with low accuracy and has a minimum range of effectiveness. It is only buildable by House Harkonnen and Atreides, House Ordos can have it only via Starport. Build cost : 450

Support Vehicles[]

Picture Name Description
Duneii-harvester Harvester Harvests melange from the spice fields. If the player loses his last one, another one is provided free of charge although certain later, more difficult missions may not have such a privilege. Build cost : 300
Duneii-carryall Carryall A non-controllable transport aircraft, it can carry harvesters to the refinery and units to the repair center. Build cost : 800
Duneii-ornithopter Ornithopter A very fast and non-controllable aircraft. Launches attrition attacks against the enemy base. Can be fired upon by enemy rocket turrets. Available only to House Atreides and House Ordos. Build cost : 600
Duneii-mcv MCV (Mobile construction vehicle) A mobile construction yard, allows construction and repositioning of bases. Every newly deployed construction yard must also be individually upgraded if higher level structures are to be constructed. Build cost : 900

House specific units[]


Picture Name Description
Duneii-sonic-tank Sonic Tank A tank that fires sonic waves with range covering the entire game screen, although its effectiveness range depend on the game speed. Its attack may damage the player's own units if they are in its line of fire (including other sonic tanks). Build cost : 600
Duneii-fremen Fremen Native elite guerrillas, invoked from the Palace. They decide for themselves which enemy unit to attack. They do not attack enemy buildings when controlled by the player.


Picture Name Description
DuneII-devastator Devastator A immensely powerful nuclear-powered tank that self-destructs when in critical state or when ordered to. Build cost : 800
DuneII-death-hand Death Hand A multiple head missile fired from the palace that can damage a vast area, but is very imprecise.


Picture Name Description
Duneii-ordos-raider Ordos Raider A modified version of the trike; faster but with decreased protection. Build Cost : 150
Duneii-deviator Deviator A missile tank that fires special nerve gas ammunition which can confuse units and temporarily change them to the player's side. Build cost : 750
Duneii-saboteur Saboteur A lone agent trained in the palace that can destroy and take control of any enemy building or vehicle (which can be useful to disrupt attacks or destroy the enemy base from within).

Completing higher missions gives authorization to use improved technology and higher-order weaponry unique to each House, ensuring varied gameplay. For example, House Harkonnen may be able to construct their Devastator tanks with heavy armor and ordnance but cannot build the similarly impressive Atreides Sonic Tank. The Ordos have access to the Deviator - a specialized tank firing a nerve gas that switches the allegiance of targeted units to Ordos for a limited period of time. The three Houses also are restricted in their production capabilities - House Ordos cannot build Atreides-style trikes, instead making the faster "Raider" trikes, while House Harkonnen constructs heavier but more expensive quad bikes.

A player can gain access to other Houses' special units by capturing an enemy Factory and manufacturing the desired units at the captured Factory (House Atreides' Heavy Vehicle Factory for Sonic Tank, House Ordos' Light Vehicle Factory for Raider trikes, House Ordos' Heavy Vehicle Factory for Deviator tanks, or House Harkonnen's Heavy Vehicle Factory for Devastator tanks). Note that a Deviator not owned by house Ordos still switches control of targeted units to house Ordos, and not to the side that owns the Deviator. Apparently Westwood was aware of this bug, since capturing a Sardaukar Heavy Vehicle Factory allows the player to build both the Sonic Tank and Devastator, but not the Ordos Deviator.

Third party units[]

Picture Name Description
Duneii-sardaukar Sardaukar The Sardaukar are elite troops belonging to the Emperor's House Corrino.
Duneii-sand-worm Sandworm The Sandworm roams the sands of Dune. It is attracted by moving units and can eat them. It is possible for them to be killed, but this takes an enormous amount of firepower.


Buildings may only be built in rocky zones and connected to another existing building, and are the same for all houses. To protect them from constant wear, the player must place first concrete slabs in the construction areas. Production buildings can be upgraded at a cost several times, allowing the production of more advanced units or buildings.

Support Buildings[]

Picture Name Description Version
Duneii-concrete-slab Concrete slab Foundation of other buildings, prevent wear. Buildings not built on this start with some damage. Later in the game, groups of four can be built at a time. All
Duneii-construction-yard Construction Yard Builds all other buildings. All
Duneii-spice-silos Spice Silo Adds spice storing capacity to the base. All
Duneii-starport Starport Allows the player to buy units delivered from orbit. All
Duneii-wind-trap Windtrap Wind energy stations that power all other buildings. All
Duneii-refinery Refinery Converts Spice from harvesters to credits and stores a limited quantity of spice. All
Duneii-outpost Radar Outpost Allows viewing of unit movements in the explored area of the minimap. All
Duneii-repair-facility Repair Facility Repairs damaged vehicle units. All
Duneii-ix House of IX Makes house specific tanks and ornithopters available. IBM PC and Amiga
Duneii-palace Palace Allows use of the house "superweapons" (Death Hand, Saboteur, Fremen). All

Production and training buildings[]

Picture Name Description Version
Duneii-barracks Barracks Trains light infantry. All
Duneii-WOR WOR Trains and arms heavy troopers. All
Duneii-light-factory Light Vehicle Factory Manufactures light vehicles, such as Trikes and Quads. IBM PC and Amiga
Duneii-heavy-factory Heavy Vehicle Factory Manufactures tanks, rocket launchers and specific house tanks (Devastator, Deviator, Sonic Tank). All (in Sega Mega Drive/Genesis manufactures

light and heavy units)

Duneii-high-tech-factory High-tech facility Allows production of support non-controllable units, such as carryalls and ornithopters. All

Defensive buildings[]

Picture Name Description Version
Duneii-walls Wall A 1x1 wall section that protects buildings. All
Duneii-turret Turret An autonomous turret that tracks and fires bullets at incoming enemies. All
Duneii-rocket-turret Rocket Turret A more effective and long-range version of the turret, with a cannon and accurate rockets. All

The final prize for the commander is the building of the House Palace from where superweapons may be unleashed on opponents in the final closing chapters of the game. The House Harkonnen superweapon is a long-range finger of missiles called the Death Hand, whereas House Atreides may call upon the local Fremen infantry warriors, over which the player has no control, to engage enemy targets. House Ordos may unleash a fast-moving Saboteur whose main purpose is the destruction of buildings.


The Dune II interface is the basis for subsequent real-time strategy games, being the first to use the mouse for unit control[1], but is inconvenient when compared, for example, to Command & Conquer. Dune II did not have unit grouping or context sensitive cursors, as they were not used in RTS games until Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, and, unlike later games, clicking on a piece of land or enemy will not result in movement or attack actions. To do so requires clicking on the "Move" or "Attack" buttons (or pressing of a hotkey), and then selecting the target.

Artificial Intelligence[]

The AI of Dune II was one of the first used in Real Time Strategy games, and while better than that of Herzog Zwei, it has various drawbacks:[2]

  • It will only attack the side of the player's base facing its base. Also, it targets a player's building and will continually attack that target until it is destroyed. The AI targets the player's repair center, palace, starport, and unit producing structures with high priority.
  • It is generally incapable of flanking or ambush maneuvers. Only earlier versions of the game featured few ambushes, but they were pre programmed on the level's shape and not planned by the AI.
  • It sends attacking units as soon as they are built from their base instead of assembling an attack force.
  • It does not build additional defenses once initial base construction is concluded although the AI will replace destroyed base defenses as its priority.
  • It will attack its own buildings in an attempt to get to your units which are within sight and firing range (your units may do the same).
  • It relies on several cheats, such as the ability to build unconnected buildings, and, on the 1.0 version, the ability to build structures on top of your units (which destroys those units in the process).
  • If you surround its buildings with walls it will not try to destroy them and will get trapped.
  • If you attack an enemy harvester with an infantry unit and let it retaliate (by squashing it), it'll remain stopped and halt their spice production.
  • If you select a deviated unit and click on attack, then wait until the deviator effect wears off, you can tell a then-enemy unit to attack anything without finding opposition.
  • A unit returned back to enemy base from repair factory (which has to be completely surrounded by objects) will not be attacked again by units unless attacking first.


Dune II was originally released in 1992 for DOS. It was available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish (the last two only for text, not digitized voices). It was one of the first games to support Roland Sound Canvas (General MIDI), and one of the first to play digital samples over a Soundblaster card. Unfortunately it did not support two sound devices, so the player only had the choice between digitized speech (which is helpful in gameplay, since approaching enemy units are announced) and better music. A patch called the "sound fix" was later released to solve this inconvenience with an updated setup program and support for the Creative Wave Blaster, though it was only ever beta.

In 1993 it was converted to Amiga and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. Two years later it was also brought to the Archimedes and Risc PC range of RISC OS computers.

The Mega Drive/Genesis port has fairly different building and unit graphics, a full-screen menu-less user interface suited for gamepad control, and no savegame support, relying on access codes for accessing each level. Other additions include a music test option and a tutorial that replaces the mentat screen.

The Amiga port is nearly identical in interface and gameplay to the IBM PC version, with less detailed graphics and frequent disk swapping—the game fits in 5 disks. Savegames are stored in a specially formatted disk.

The Amiga version may be easily installed onto a hard disk. In that case the problem of disk swapping was eliminated.


When the Commodore Amiga version of Dune II was released in 1993, it was met with positive reviews. CU Amiga magazine rated the game highly with 85%, praising the smooth gameplay and controls. Dune II received Amiga User International's Game of the Month award when it was reviewed in September 1993. The AI of Dune II was one of the first used in RTS games, and while better than that of Herzog Zwei, it has various drawbacks.

Dune II is one of the most influential games in the real-time strategy genre. Though not every characteristic was unique, attributes such as fog of war, and the game's model for resource-extraction, base creation, and military micromanagement became several standards upon which the RTS genre is based. Obvious influences of Dune II can be seen in numerous games, particularly in Westwood's own Command & Conquer series.

Chris Taylor stated that Dune II and Command & Conquer were a very strong inspiration, motivating him to leave Electronic Arts to create Total Annihilation.[3]

Dune II was given several direct sequels: a Microsoft Windows remake of this game was published in 1998 as Dune 2000, along with a PlayStation port in the same year. In 2001, Emperor: Battle for Dune was published.

In 2009, an unofficial patch was made by fans of the game in order to iron out the last remaining bugs for those whom prefer the feel of the original engine.

A reverse engineering project called OpenDUNE succeeded in reconstructing the entire source code of the game. A later project, called Dune Dynasty, built on this reconstructed code to add enhanced controls, user interface and other features to the game, while keeping the underlying engine completely identical to the original game.


Westwood Studios developed in 1998 a remake called Dune 2000.

Many fan remakes have been published too, trying to recreate the look and feel of the original game; see Category:Dune II fangames.


External links[]

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Dune video games