If you’re just here for my recommendation on whether you should pick up Dune: Spice Wars:
- I give it a thumbs up if you’re a fan of the Dune universe
- If you’re just looking for a new RTS/4x, keep this on your watch list for now
I’m a big fan of the Dune novels—the original is one of my favorite books. So I got stoked when I heard there was a new game based on the spice wars. It was a good decision to make a real time strategy game in the Dune universe. Because even though the story of Dune centers around one man and his progeny, it plays out at the level of grand strategy involving deception, espionage, military conflict, genetic engineering, economic warfare, and good ol’ fashioned political maneuvering.
The game has flaws, but it is in great shape as an Early Access title. And I am looking forward to the full campaign, multiplayer, and additional content we’ll be receiving leading up to the full release.
What is Dune: Spice Wars?
Dune: Spice Wars is a real-time strategy game with 4x elements developed by Shiro Games and published by Funcom and Shiro Games. It simulates the war over the drug “melange” (aka spice) on the planet of Arrakis—or Dune as it’s referred to colloquially.
You choose from four factions in the game:
- the honorable House Attreides
- the power-hungry House Harkonnen
- the criminal Smugglers
- and the native Fremen
And you start with a single base on a map. The developers broke up the map into territories sprinkled with villages, resources, hostile sietches, and Shai-Hulud—the infamous sand worms. You compete with the other three factions to gain control of the most valuable resource in the universe: spice.
Each faction has their own military units with different strengths. And combat feels better than I thought it would as I have found 4X-ish games generally lack combat that feels solid. I think the clash between melee units could use more weight. And the explosions could use more destructive effects, like occasionally sending a unit flying or putting a crater in the ground.
The style of this game is charming in the best way
The art style of this game surprised me given the dark and gritty nature of Dune. But I fell for it immediately. At this point in my nerd life, I appreciate artistic style over realistic graphics.
It doesn’t feel dark, but it does feel like Dune. And that’s what counts in my eyes.
And since we’re on the topic of the arts, the music and sound in this game are on point. Nothing but good things.
Why I don’t recommend Dune: Spice Wars if you are new to Dune
There’s currently no narrative to explore through tasks and missions. It’s a create your own adventure. So if you’re not already invested in the Dune universe, the game isn’t going to do an effective job of getting you invested. There’s no drama or story thread to draw you in.
But I want you to at least keep an eye on it, because the developers state on the Steam page:
- The game will be updated and expanded with a full campaign and multiplayer, including more features and improved balance throughout Early Access, based on your crucial feedback.
Easy to pick up but difficult to… figure out
The game currently lacks a tutorial. But the basic gameplay loop is simple enough to pick up that the tips presented to you by the game are adequate. And Dune: Spice Wars is a title with hype! So there are plenty of guides on YouTube to help you out if you get stuck on something like the Landsraad council screen.
So, the game:
You start with a base and expand outward by capturing neutral villages. Your first goal is to find the closest territory with a spice field. You build various structures around each village based on the different resources you’re managing. And you hire a militia to defend the village. The militia help in the beginning but once each faction has captured a few villages, the strength of attacking forces makes it so the militia act more to stall the enemy until your primary forces can arrive as backup.
Espionage and politicking both seem deep and complex, but I’m still not sure what I’m doing when I open the Landsraad Council window. The tips help, but this is one area where a tutorial will be especially valuable to new players.
It’s Dune, it’s fun, and it has great potential
I’m enjoying the game and I look forward to putting dozens of hours into getting a solid handle on it. But I would like to see some things evolve before the full release.
For one, Arrakis doesn’t feel that hostile. Shai-Hulud will devour a group of your units if you’re not paying attention, but I don’t feel invested in the units to care much. They’re easy and quick to build. And the spice harvesters have an Auto-Recall feature that removes any danger of losing them. You simply have to hit the Deploy button once the sand worm has cleared out to get the harvester back to harvesting.
Suggestion to spice things up
- Make the harvester act as a vessel for spice. Then you have to return the harvester to its village before you can collect the spice it harvested, rather than generating a constant stream to your spice account. This risk makes sand worms a greater threat since you want to leave your harvester out as long as possible at the risk of being eaten by a sand worm.
- As for Auto-Recall. I see the need for it in late game when you have several spice fields to monitor. So I think it would make sense to attach the Auto-Recall to a 3rd- or 4th level Development to research. In the beginning we could just have a basic timer function where every 2/5/10 minutes the transport will swoop down and pick up the harvester, bring it back to the village to drop off the collected spice, and then return the harvester to the spice field. You could incentivize players to stretch for the 10 minutes by giving bonuses to the harvesting rate past 2 minutes, and even more past 5 minutes.
Seeing the harvesters transported back and forth would also add more dynamic flavor to the map.
Dune: Spice Wars in a Nutshell
Like I said, I enjoy the game and I’m excited to see it grow throughout Early Access. I appreciate the depth of gameplay and the complex resource management. I’d like to see the combat improved, and I think Arrakis should feel more dangerous, but the game plays great right now. Dune: Spice Wars in Early Access has thoroughly impressed me with its quality.
If you’re thinking about picking it up and you made it this far, you already know what to do. And be on the lookout for our future guides.
HAVE YOU PLAYED DUNE: SPICE WARS YET? WHAT DO YOU THINK SO FAR? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE CHANGED OR ADDED? AND DO YOU HAVE ANY RESOURCES FOR LEARNING THE LANDSRAAD SYSTEM?
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