Good morning. Today’s forecast is hot and arid because I’m currently knee-deep in the quicksand that is Dune’s transmedia universe.
At this point if you don’t have a hot take on the new Dune trailer — and aren’t plastering pics of your newly acquired Dune paperback all over social media with lies you tell yourself like “I’m going to read this” — I’m not sure what you’re doing with your life. (Hopefully not staring directly into our empire’s violent decline without the protection of pop-culture allegories.)
I’ve gone one step further and immersed myself in the Dune video games, beginning with Dune 2000. It turns out I drunk-ordered it sometime last year, no doubt during one of my own prophetic visions about what was to come in 2020.
1998’s Dune 2000 (longplay) has not aged well, but on the PS1 version I have it’s particularly ugly thanks to its low-poly buildings and muddy textures. A real-time strategy game, it’s difficult to control with a DualShock instead of a mouse and keyboard. It has creepy live-action cutscenes that, while well done for the time, have already absolutely haunted my dreams in the short time I’ve been messing with the game. But Dune 2000 does have one bright spot: its eclectic and highly produced soundtrack.
The music’s by Frank Klepacki (website), a longtime Westwood composer who made his name scoring games like Command & Conquer. Dune 2000’s soundtrack is legit, with triumphant militaristic fanfares, ambient electronic mood pieces, and even the occasional electric-guitar flourish. While Dune 2000 feels like a dated strategy game when you’re struggling to tell if your units are even firing at the enemy, its soundtrack feels like the more experimental and evocative B-sides to Toto’s soundtrack for the actual 1984 Dune movie.
Klepacki’s tracks for Dune 2000 bob back and forth between propulsive war marches and sinister background melodies. I find all of the tracks sweeping in their own way, with climatic upswells and menacing retreats. Unusually for PS1, the game lets you select whichever track you want at any given time and have it loop indefinitely while you pour foundations for your spice extractors.
Not gonna lie, I’ve been bummed lately. A haze of smoke currently hangs over large swathes of the U.S. following devastating fires along the west coast. Meanwhile Europe is apparently ensconced in another giant heat dome.
“No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt,” the new Dune film’s director, Denis Villeneuve, said in a recent interview. “That’s why I think that Dune, this book, was written in the 20th century. It was a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation — the overexploitation — of Earth. Today, things are just worse.”
Despite Dune 2000’s unwieldy design I find myself drawn back to it. My mind seems to have an easier time grappling with the threat of ecological collapse while Klepacki’s music is looping and the game’s computer shouts at me that reinforcements are on their way.
As the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam told a young Paul Atreides, “the mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” I’m digging Klepacki’s Dune 2000 OST. What music’s helping you handle all the turbulence and unhappy news these days?