It’s a great time to be a Dune fan. Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film brought an all-new fantasy look to the franchise and Shiro Games joins the hype with one of the first new video games set in Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi universe. Dune: Spice Wars brings us back to Arrakis with a new real-time strategy game and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the developers and see a demonstration of how the latest Spice Wars plays out.
Control the spice, control the universe
As is almost always at the heart of everything Dune, Spice Wars brings players back to the planet of Arrakis to wage war and claim dominance over its most valuable resources. For this company, Shiro Games has designed a real-time strategy game with 4X elements. Players will manage the establishment and well-being of settlements and outposts while enlisting combatant units to combat not only the hostile conditions of the planet, but also the other Houses that also seek to dominate the spice of the planet.
For our demo, Dune’s classic rivals, the noble and righteous House Atreides and the ruthless and cunning House Harkonnen, were on display, although there are other factions. More importantly, though the Atreides and Harkonnens are traditionally always right at each other’s throats, immediate conflict is not the path to dominance over this unforgiving world. I could see a certain level of diplomacy, including the use of spies to learn secrets and create mayhem and politics to form social and business alliances. A Harkonnen/Atreides alliance? It will never work! But here it could save you time and benefit you both when you grow your infrastructure and your collection of resources on the planet.
After all, Arrakis is still hostile to invaders and settlers. There are villages to discover, befriend and/or submit to your cause, and points of interest that can bring fortune like bonus resources and advancements to your side. However, in the fog of war that covers the country, there are also deadly threats. During the demonstration, I could see wandering raiders trying to intercept one of the colonies of Atreides. There are also the sandworms to consider, hidden under the winding dunes of the planet. They can attack out of nowhere at any time and make leaving your units on unstable or non-rocky ground a dangerous risk. This includes when you’re in the middle of a skirmish with raiders or a rival faction.
Perhaps one of the most important gameplay features Shiro Games showed me during the brief demo was a progression tree. From there, your faction can specialize in diplomacy/subterfuge, military, economic, or resource gathering/efficiency factors. What you choose to specialize in will help dictate your best path to dominance, but factions are likely to host their own specializations as well. After all, what good would a Harkonnen leader be if he couldn’t effectively lead his armies into brutal combat?
Put your mind in motion
My brief overview of what Shiro Games has put together in Dune: Spice Wars was brief, but rewarding. The game is shaping up to be a true throwback to Dune strategy with all sorts of new twists that stay true to the spirit of Frank Herbert’s iconic universe. The Spice Wars is never over and there’s so much more to see as the game aims for an early access release date of spring 2022. However, for what I’ve seen, exploring the desert planet , racing and battling against other factions, and, of course, battling the ruthless planet itself, seems like a strategic experience that will be rewarding to explore for hours. end .
This preview is based on hands-on impressions of a demo shown by the developer. Dune: Spice Wars will be available for Early Access on PC via Steam in Spring 2022.