Emperor adds more than just a third dimension to the mix with this new RTS. Several useful features have been added which enhance the possible strategies of the game, depending on whether you come from the Westwood camp or the Blizzard camp. Some of these features have been present in the C&C line, others in the *craft games, while a few are totally new.
Waypoints were available in Starcraft, and very useful, but not quite as good as they are here. In Starcraft, you could issue a waypoint set to a unit or group of units, and they'd immediately follow it as if it were a path. In Dune, however, you can set up a permanent waypoint guide, and just have units move to the first node on the map. I didn't try to set up multiple simultaneous waypoints, but I assume that it's possible, because this feature is just too useful to be held back by such short-sidedness. Another useful function of the waypoint system is that you can "wrap" the nodes by ending the path where it starts, effectively making a sentry path for units to patrol. This surpasses the Patrol feature given by Warcraft and Starcraft. And on top of all that, the waypoints are always visible, so managing them is easy. It'd have been nice to be able to toggle them off and on, however.
Rally points are also available, but without reading the manual to figure out how to do it, it's a near certainty that you'd not stumble upon it immediately. And really, that's the only area I can fault this game. The interface may be intuitive at times, but in breaking from the norm, it also makes the learning curve more difficult. Selecting units is a hassle too. Normally, you just draw a box around the soldiers you want, but unfortunately the box seems to favor excluding units rather than including them. I had a hard time trying to select a single unit in a sea of other soldiers from time to time. Also, there wasn't any way to select all the units onscreen of a particular type. Normally I'd think that it'd be right-clicking on the unit to select, or double-clicking, but neither of these is effective, nor do they seem to do anything anyway. In fact, the only function that right-clicking serves is to cancel whatever mode your cursor is currently in. Seems rather wasteful to me…
It's not a good day to be a Harkonnen.
Other elements of the interface were much more thought out, of course. The sidebar is transparent and has no background, so you can actually see activity through it, and it doesn't get in the way. I'd have liked to be able to move it from one side of the screen to the other, at times, but if it was in the way, I just rotated the camera until it wasn't bothering me anymore.
Outside of the gameplay interface, however, I was awed. I've never seen a game installer that really made me say "Wow"…and this game has it. The only other installer I can think of that I really enjoyed was for Final Fantasy VII, and that's because it showed some very nice renders while playing the Final Fantasy Prelude theme in the background. There's not one thing in the Emperor installer that just grabs me, but it just looks and sounds nice. Sure, it's just playing music while doing yet another slideshow, but the progress meter looked cool. This wasn't your father's InstallShield, for sure. And it's not just the installer. The menu system in the game is very well done, with nice 3D backgrounds and neat visual effects. It sounds lame for me to talk about it, though. You just have to see it for yourself…especially the game's configuration screen!