Dune: Spice Warsa new real-time strategy game developed by Shiro Games and published by Funcom will be released in Steam Early Access on Tuesday, April 26th With the positive reception of their Norse strategy title Northgard, Shiro Games has proven that they understand what it takes to make fans of the genre happy. But do they have what it takes to take on a universe as iconic as Frank Herbert’s Dune? We have an early look at Dune: Spice Wars, and I can tell you that Shiro Games got off to a better start on Arakkis than House Atreides.
Dune: Spice Wars takes a lot of its inspiration straight from the books, but Shiro Games has said Your adaptation will be influenced by all of the Dune source material, including movies, board games, and earlier video games. Players can expect many familiar names and locations, with each faction’s troops and abilities reflecting their strengths and weaknesses from the source material.
At the start of each game you have four factions to choose from – House Harkonnen, House Atreides, the Smugglers and the Fremen. All factions have different strengths and abilities that determine their playstyle. House Harkonnen’s suppression ability, for example, allows you to rapidly ramp up production in a region at the cost of unrest in your population that lasts long after the initial resource boost, while the Fremen can use Knockers to attract sandworms and ride the Map.
Each faction also has four advisors with unique bonuses that you can take advantage of as you play. You can only pick two of the four advisors, so mixing and matching advisors offers some subtle differences that affect your playthrough. For example, some Advisors have modifiers that make early expansion easier but less effective later, while others have bonuses that take longer to develop but can make or break late in the game.
Aside from their special abilities, much of the gameplay is identical for each of the factions. Regardless of your faction, you must find and start cultivating spices immediately. Without them, you won’t be able to pay the ever-increasing bribes the Spacing Guild needs to turn a blind eye to your activities. You must also gather water and generate Plasbeton, Fuel Cells, Manpower and Solari (cold hard money) to grow and maintain your territory. Running out of any of these basic resources will not only halt the growth of your territory and bring your war machine to its knees, but disaffected citizens will also begin to revolt, making it all the more difficult to generate the resources that are already scarce.
And that’s just the raw materials you need to boost your economy as you attempt to conquer Arrakis. Military units must be created to go on the offensive. Then there are military bases, missile batteries and airfields to help you defend your country, not to mention the variety of facilities you need to expand your intelligence network. And let’s not forget that Arrakis itself is a hostile environment to deal with. In addition to the main factions, players will have to contend with other minor sietches, and sandstorms and sandworms are always a threat to your operations.
However, this is all standard fare for an RTS. And frankly, the number of buildings and troop options available Dune: Spice Wars pales in comparison to some of the more complex strategy games out there. However, there’s a reason to keep building and fighting cities relatively simple.
The Dune universe has always had more than its fair share of political intrigue and subterfuge, and Spice Wars is no different. As you build your empire, you’ll also have to deal with espionage and politics on a regular basis. And unlike many other RTS games Dune: Spice Wars requires you to manually control all facets of your faction. That means you’ll spend time assigning agents to intelligence missions and visiting the Landsraad Council to sway the voting of resolutions in your favour. At first glance everything seems simple, but after your third or fourth harvester gets eaten by a sandworm, you begin to understand how much you have to manage when you don’t have AI controllers controlling all your day-to-day functions.
Although all of this is real-time, much of it is Dune: Spice Wars feels like a turn-based strategy game. For starters, unlike many RTS games where the map is a single entity full of random resource nodes, Arakkis is split into regions, each containing a village. There is no need to build a defensive perimeter around your starting point to expand your limits; You just have to take control of a village to control the resources that the area is rich in, be it spice or any other commodity. Only the owner of a given region can access all of the resources it owns, and merely entering a foreign region will begin to deplete your unit’s supplies, followed by their health once their supplies are depleted.
The need to supply your units means that area growth is very similar to a risk game, where your outdoor areas are always at risk of attack, while attacking your indoor areas directly is much more difficult. Even in the event that an enemy is able to penetrate deep into your territory, it will take some time to gain control of a village, giving the permanent owner time to launch a counterattack. This makes combat a slow, expensive proposition that all but eliminates the ability to overwhelm opponents with a Zerg-style attack. Instead, you must take the time to build strong infrastructure before launching a lengthy offensive.
When Dune: Spice Wars enters Early Access, that’s obvious Shiro games There is still a long way to go until the finished game. So currently there are no campaign or story missions to play through spice wars enters Early Access with only one default Conquest Mode. And while there are plans to add multiplayer support at some point during Early Access, for now it’s just you versus three AI-controlled factions.
But even in its bare state, it’s obvious that we’re not dealing with a simple military-oriented experience where might is the only means of victory. On my first try Dune: Spice Wars, I actually tried to take a purely military approach, only to find that my faction was unable to bear the cost of the fight. In later attempts to control Arrakis, I began using espionage and the Landsraad Council to weaken my enemies before striking, and this balanced approach worked much better. As Shiro Games continues to expand on these systems, I’m sure Dune: Spice Wars has the potential to provide a rich experience for fans of the strategy genre.
I would be particularly interested in how Shiro Games handles multiplayer. Will they give players the ability to work behind the scenes to form alliances? Will you be able to secretly trade resources for votes while trying to weaken another faction, or will multiplayer be just an extension of the single player experience, replacing the AI with humans with no additional means of communication? I really hope so because the Dune universe is about more than just military might, it’s about amassing power by any means necessary and from what I’ve seen so far, Dune: Spice Wars has a foundation primed to use whatever the universe has in store.
https://www.mmorpg.com/previews/not-so-mmo-dune-spice-wars-preview-2000124883 Not so MMO: Dune Spice Wars preview