Emperor: Battle for Dune Review
The emperor has been slain and now a power vacuum grips the empire. Three powerful houses wish to occupy the throne and will resort to all-out warfare to take it. The key to victory is the planet Arrakis (Dune), home of Spice. Spice is the most valuable substance in the universe because of its life-extending properties and because it makes space travel possible. Whoever controls Dune, controls the Spice. Whoever controls Spice, controls the empire.
In Emperor, you take the role of one of the three houses: the noble Atriedes, the devious Harkonnen, and the strange Ordos. The campaign game is played on a map of Arrakis, which is divided into territories each of which is controlled by one of the houses. Each house moves in turn, selecting a territory to conquer. When the invading troops move in, plays moves to a skirmish map. Each attack often requires the player to complete a task or two, but for the most part victory is achieved by the elimination of the enemy. Win the battle, and the territory becomes yours.
As play progresses, you'll be treated to cinematics which drive the game's story forward. Sometimes these lead to additional missions which can take place on the house's homeworlds in addition to Dune. The goals of these missions vary, and can be anything from rescue to defensive missions.
In addition to the three main houses, there are other factions in the empire. Gaining favor with these factions, usually by completing the subtasks presented in the various missions, will allow you to create units associated with the given faction. The factions include the native desert fighter Fremen, the elite imperial troops, the Sardaukar, the Guild who control all space travel in the empire, House Ix, and House Tleilaxu.
Those familiar with Westwood's prior strategy games will be very familiar with the game's controls. In most battles, you begin with a construction facility with which you create other structures. These structures in turn create the units which will make up your force. Some structures are also upgradeable, which gives the player access to more advanced units. The structures and units are not free, of course, but must all be paid for from your treasury. You earn money by harvesting Spice and returning it to a refinery where it is exchanged for money.
Emperor is also playable in a skirmish mode, in which a customizable game can be created against a variable number of computer opponents, and in multiplayer mode through Westwood's free online service.