Emperor: Battle for Dune

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Emperor: Battle for Dune
Developer(s) Intelligent Games
Westwood Studios
Publisher(s) EA Games
Engine W3D (Westwood 3D) engine
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) 2001
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution CD, DVD

Emperor: Battle for Dune is a Dune video game, released by Westwood Studios on June 12, 2001.[1] It is based in Frank Herbert's science fiction Dune universe.

It is the third real-time strategy game set in the Dune universe, following its predecessors, Dune II and Dune 2000. While Dune II was a totally distinct story to that of Dune, and Dune 2000 was a remake of Dune II, Emperor is a direct sequel to the previous games. In particular, it is a sequel to Dune 2000, carrying on from where it left off, with several of the characters and actors returning. Like Dune 2000 and many of the other Westwood games that came before it, Emperor features cut scenes filmed with live actors.


Emperor is set shortly after Dune 2000. Emperor Corrino has been killed by his concubine, Lady Elara, and the Landsraad has been thrown into chaos.

The Spacing Guild has presented the three remaining Houses (the same as those in the previous games: House Atreides, House Harkonnen and House Ordos) with a unique challenge: a war of assassins on the planet Arrakis. Whichever House wins the war will become the new leader of the Landsraad, and its leader the new Padishah Emperor, Emperor of the Known Universe.

Eventually, it becomes clear during the campaign that the Tleilaxu are scouring Arrakis with hidden motives, with various probes spotted collecting flesh samples from dead sandworms. After the last battle with any one of the opponent Houses on their home planet, the Spacing Guild (Guild of Navigators) leaves the victorious House stranded on the enemies' conquered homeworld, attempting to control Arrakis with House Tleilaxu by genetically engineering an Emperor Worm with immense psychic powers empowered by Lady Elara. They also release a mind influencing drug in all the remaining forces water supply on Arrakis to make them slaves under the Guild. It then becomes clear that a last-ditch attempt must be made back on Arrakis to destroy the Emperor Worm before he awakes by using the Smugglers Guild to get back to Arrakis. Eventually the player destroys the Emperor Worm, and the Guild's plan is foiled. The victorious house then regains control of Arrakis and the spice melange and proclaims their side's leader Emperor of Dune.

The Reverend Mother holding the Lady Elara captive in the opening cinematics of the game


While each campaign has the story ultimately culminating up to the battle with the Emperor Worm, the three campaigns have subplots revolving around each faction's intents to conquer Arrakis.

House Atreides' campaign revolves around regaining the trust of the Fremen, with whom they have had an uneasy relationship due to unknown past events. Many of the starting missions revolve around forming an alliance with the Fremen. Later on in the campaign, a party of Fremen diplomats are sent to Caladan, where they and the Duke Achillus are under attack by Tleilaxu soldiers. This attack is eventually thwarted and the Fremen pledge their allegiance to House Atreides. The general benevolence of House Atreides is apparent in their motivation for each map's campaign and they have little to no ulterior motives in lending assistance to any of the factions on Arrakis.

House Harkonnen's campaign revolves around the ailing Baron Rakan and his two sons: Gunseng and Copec (bearing striking resemblance to Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen and Glossu Rabban respectively), who both vie to take the Baron's place upon his death. Copec and Gunseng are at one another's throats, and compete for the Baron's favor as the latter's days grow shorter. Gunseng eventually goes to Arrakis, much to Copec's dismay, to oversee the spice mining. Copec grows impatient, however, and finally deals the killing blow to Rakan by poisoning his food. Copec assumes the title, and goes to Arrakis to have his brother swear allegiance to his new baron. Gunseng however realizes that Copec usurped the title, and openly rebels against Copec. The player character chooses to either side with Gunseng or Copec, and both opposing factions battle on Giedi Prime. Depending on who emerges victorious, the game will then feature Gunseng or Copec as the reigning baron of House Harkonnen.

House Ordos' campaign revolves around their ability to create gholas. The house eventually creates a ghola of the deceased Emperor Shaddam Corrino, who will serve as a puppet emperor subservient to House Ordos. Ordos motives are typically "insidious" in that they attempt to manipulate many of the subhouses (Fremen, Sardaukar, Smugglers) into conflict with any of the major house they are fighting, using gholas and other forms of treachery to thwart any attempts at alliance among their enemies and secure alliances for House Ordos. The Ordos are led by the Executrix, four beings that share a single mind and communicate only through a creature known as the "Speaker". The Ordos are calculated in their thinking, almost machine-like. Advising the "Commander" (player) is the equally cold female Mentat Roma Atani.


Screenshot of Emperor featuring an Atreides base

Like the two previous games, Emperor pits three houses against each other:

The single-player game features three campaigns, one for each house. Emperor expands upon the "territory domination" style gameplay between missions from its predecessors. In previous games, the territory chosen from the map screen simply determined the shape of the map to be played on. However, in Emperor, the choice of territory can affect mission objectives and alliances. The player is also given "reinforcement" units to move around the world map which can affect the in-game missions. Territorial control also becomes more interesting with the enemy AI also capable of wrestling back the land that the player has just conquered in the previous battle, although it can prove repetitive over time.

In playing each campaign, the player will be pitted primarily against the other two houses. However, depending on choices made, the player may also be allied with, or pitted against, one or more of the five initially neutral factions:

In addition to the five factions listed above there are a few missions that let the player interact with smugglers. Usually the player will either aid them or anger them. This results in additional funds or reinforcements, or sabotage and smuggler raids respectively. This pseudo faction despite having at least one unique building (smuggler starport) and one unique unit (rocket quad) is not a playable subfaction in multiplayer meaning the player can never construct its building or vehicle. Generally smugglers use a mixture of the three houses light infantry types, possibly to place emphasis on the fact many of them are defectors from the "First Spice War" from Dune 2000, similar to Gurney Halleck and a few of his men in the novels.

The three Houses also feature new units in their ranks.

While having an interface similar to the Command & Conquer series, it added features - such as a 3D engine, in-battle reinforcements, as well as several other changes and additions to gameplay - to provide a change of pace. Features of note are the fairly non-linear campaign, featuring randomized events, and the fast pace relative to the earlier Dune games. The three Houses also featured more new units in their ranks than in the previous series, with new abilities.

Criticisms of the game are not as numerous as those of its predecessor, Dune 2000, but it still suffered from AI problems with the computer-controlled player attacking the human player with a similar strategy that can be predicted and thereafter countered effectively. Further, the game's AI includes a lack of combining units of different abilities as the missions cannot be won by building only a particular type of combat unit.



The Fremen are the native people of Dune, and are usually able to be allies with the Atreides and Ordos (through assistance and deception, respectively), but are typically enemies with the Harkonnens (their mentat dismisses the Fremen as being of little use to them). All Fremen units are stealthed until heavily damaged, and all are able to roam the desert and not attract worms as they traverse the dunes.

The Fremen Warrior, the basic infantry unit, is equipped with a powerful sniper rifle, and is generally superior to the Atreides sniper. However, the Fremen Fedaykin is equipped with a weirding module, which was a voice-amplifier weapon present in David Lynch's adaptation of Dune, capable of easily slaying infantry and vehicles alike. The Fedaykin are also able to deploy into the sands with a thumper, which will inevitably summon a worm that can be temporarily controlled by the unit.

Imperial Sardaukar[edit]

The infamous and fanatical shock troops of House Corrino, the demise of their Emperor left them without a leader to serve. The Sardaukar travel to Arrakis during the war between the houses to observe the fighting, and hope to ally with the House that proves to be the strongest. The Sardaukar are fearless and nearly suicidal in their own disregard for personal safety, as such, they refuse to duck under fire believing it to be a sign of cowardice. However, their fanaticism is not to be synonymous with foolishness, as all Sardaukar are generally superior to the basic infantry of each house, and are usually twice as durable as the standard soldier.

The Imperial Sardaukar soldier is a heavily armored warrior armed with a powerful minigun, which is usually capable of killing an enemy infantryman with a single burst. In squads, the soldiers are devastating against large amounts of infantry.

The Imperial Sardaukar Elite are the officers, equipped with a lasgun capable of severely damaging enemy vehicles and aircraft alike. However, when firing upon a shielded unit (like the Ordos Laser Tank, for example), the Sardaukar Elite and the shielded unit will both be killed. This effect exemplifies subatomic fusion and explosions resulting in lasguns interacting with Holtzman fields in the novels. However, the Sardaukar Elites are also equipped with small swords. When in close quarters with enemy infantry, they are formidable enemies.


Ix is one of the major subfactions. Within the game, Ix is described as a fascist, technocratic House, in which the scientist elite rules. Its people slave in factories to produce Ixian technology which provides the elite with profit.

In the War of Assassins, the Ixians now play a more direct role in combat, interacting with the three Houses as trading partners. An alliance with House Ix can be forged by aiding them in various missions, providing that the player doesn't ally with the Tleilaxu first, as the two are bitter enemies.

Once allied, the Ixians will provide the player with units built from the House of Ix. These include the Infiltrator (a stealthed mobile kamikaze unit that reveals cloaked enemy units when it detonates), and the Projector Tank (fast hover tank with light mounted cannon, which when deployed, is able to project holographic images of the player's troops that provides realistic damage, yet disintegrates harmlessly on impact).

The Ixians have also been known to be victims of the Bene Tleilax forces on Arrakis, having dead Ixians harvested for use in their Flesh Vats. There is also a mission involving a revolt of the lower class on an Ixian research facility that parallels the revolution mentioned in Dune: House Atreides (1999).

Spacing Guild[edit]

The Guild of Navigators plays the role of a subhouse, which allows allied players access to two units: the Maker (a Navigator-like infantry unit with a power weapon), and the NIAB Tank. The NIAB tank is capable of using the foldspace technology to teleport itself. It is generally accepted that NIAB is an abbreviation for "Navigator in a Box." When fought in the single-player campaign, the Guild can also use the plane-like NIAP vehicles; presumably "Navigator in a Plane".


The Bene Tleilax, known as only the Tleilaxu in the game, is a subfaction. In game, they are treated for practical purposes as a Great House. Within the game's fiction, the Bene Tleilax are portrayed as religious fanatics who believe machines are evil. This portrayal reflects the Bene Tleilax in Heretics of Dune rather than the amoral traders seen in most of the series. Because of their gruesome technology, they're largely disliked. They have two unique units, Contaminators and Leeches, neither of which appear in the original books.



A Contaminator is essentially a hideously deformed mutant spawned from the Tleilaxu Flesh Vats. It carries a lethal virus, capable of turning human beings into additional Contaminators. Any infantry killed in close combat with a Contaminator will be reborn as a Contaminator, under the command of the player controlling the original Contaminator. The Contaminator is only effective against infantry, however; its attack is extremely weak against enemy vehicles and structures.



The other unit of the Bene Tleilax forces offered to the three Great Houses during the War of Assassins, the Tleilaxu Leech, is a biogenetic tank that creates replicas of itself by implanting its larvae in enemy vehicles. It constantly damages the host vehicle until the target is destroyed and the larva hatches as another Leech. The infant larva can be removed by attacking the host vehicle or by using an infantry engineer to remove it surgically (the Atreides can also use their Repair Vehicle). A leech is extremely fast and can regenerate while stationary, making it efficient for hit-and-run tactics.


A cinematic sequence from Emperor. Atreides Mentat Kolinar Koltrass (Nicholas Worth) speaks with Duke Achillus (Michael Dorn).

Like Dune 2000, the game featured all new high-quality full motion video cut scenes throughout the game. Emperor contains significantly more and longer videos than the previous games. Several actors have returned from Dune 2000, including Adrian Sparks (Emperor Corrino) and Musetta Vander (Lady Elara).

In addition, several notable actors appeared in the videos, including Star Trek's Michael Dorn, who played the role of Duke Achillus of House Atreides; the late Vincent Schiavelli, as the Harkonnen Mentat Yanich Kobal; also the late Nicholas Worth as the Atreides Mentat named Kolinar Koltrass and Mike McShane, as the Baron Rakan Harkonnen. The theme of the cutscenes, including the costumes, sets and vehicles, were largely based on the David Lynch film of the original Dune novel.


Emperor: Battle for Dune Official Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Frank Klepacki, David Arkenstone, Jarrid Mendelson
Released 2001
Genre Industrial music, Video game music
Length 68:31

While the music was all included in the game itself, those who pre-ordered the game received an additional music CD with 13 tracks.[2] The soundtrack was composed by three individuals, with each handling the music for one of the game's factions: Frank Klepacki (House Atreides), David Arkenstone (House Harkonnen), and Jarrid Mendelson (House Ordos).

Two additional tracks, the Harkonnen and Ordos themes, were made available for download by Westwood Studios prior to the game's release.


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