Dune Preview: Spice Wars

We managed to take control of the strategy game Dunes: Spice Wars. Although in early access, it’s already a great game.

The film adaptation of Dune by Denis Villeneuve in 2021 brought back into play the mythology created by Frank Herbert for the general public. And when there is cinematic success, the desires of video games are never far away. The return of the Arrakis saga to the big screen immediately aroused in many players the desire to rediscover the sensations of games. Dune of the 90s, in particular those of Dune II: The Battle of Arrakis. Legendary strategy game released on MegaDrive and PC in 1992, Duna II credited with creating the RTS (Real Time Strategy) genre on his own, just that.

Immediately after the arrival of Dune de Villeneuve, Shiro Games (Wartales, Northgard) announced the upcoming launch of the game Dunes: Spice Wars, a real-time strategy title that we will place in the 4X category. 4X for Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate, a slogan that could have summed up the whole story of Arrakis. It was therefore the perfect play style to transcribe the barren and unforgiving atmosphere of Herbert’s universe. Why important point, Spice Wars it is not intended to be the adaptation of the 2021 film, but rather that of the original books.

The verdict after long hours of play in the Early Access version of the title is clear: Shiro Games’ title is on track to be one of the main strategy games of next year.

Dune planet, hostile and fascinating

Exterminator, Exterminator !!!

Exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination. Four pillars on which the Bordeaux developers of Shiro Games have built the gameplay Dunes: Spice Wars, and each of them is a royal road to victory. As in any good self-respecting strategy game, exploration is the backbone of the title. After choosing one of the four factions available to players: House Atreides, House Harkonnen, Faction Fremen and Faction Smugglers, it’s time to explore the hostile lands of Arrakis.

Thanks to the ornithopterans, you will have to cross the skies of Dune, in search of villages to conquer, plunder or assimilate, depending on your mood of the moment, or the specific affinities of each House. The Atreides are excellent politicians and will be able to unite the locals to their cause, the Harkonnen will gladly crack down on any opposition by force, the Smugglers are the kings of commerce, and the Fremen can explore the planet much faster than others. Included riding on Worms of the Sands, for a perfectly enjoyable moment of play.

Dune Spice Wars: photosWhat a handsome boy this Duke Leto

Unlike other 4X classics like Civilization or European, the worst enemies are not the opposing Houses, but the planet Arrakis itself. Territories are hostile, resources are scarce and the struggle to obtain them is bitter and brutal. Each meter traveled through these lands is both a victory and a step closer to danger.

The race for resources is essential and their management is complex. While the spice remains the main source of wealth, the other resources are equally important: water allows you to produce work and keep the peace in the annexed villages, Plascrete allows you to build buildings … However, Arrakis is inhospitable, and the management of resources can change at any second.

An enemy faction can raze a colony and take over the spice fields in minutes, the CHOM (Compagnie des Honnêtes Ober Merchants) can impose new spice taxes, everything can change in an instant. This is one of the great strengths of Dunes: Spice Warsthis difficulty and these risks wonderfully recreate the very special atmosphere of the Frank Herbert saga.

Dune Spice Wars: photosSandworms can engulf entire armies

No guts, no glory

What would the saga be Dune without his political intrigues? If you can get the win in Spice Wars by securing total military domination, by destroying the opponent’s base, or by killing the head of the enemy House, it is quite possible to be victorious by playing the politicians.

The shrewdest strategists will be able to secure a strong position within the council of the Landsraad, the political parliament that brings together the major chambers, and finish be elected as the rightful ruler of Arrakis. Merchants in the heart can also become the masters of Arrakis by accumulating sufficient resources to acquire total hegemony over the territory.

Between the permanent danger, the resource management that requires constant attention, the different possibilities offered thanks to the multiple approaches and a splendid artistic direction, the Early Access version of Dune: Spice Wars is already a big surprise. We regret only the absence of a tutorial worthy of the name, because newcomers to the land of 4X risk getting lost in the mountain of information and parameters to manage.

Early access a Dunes: Spice Wars does not yet have a Campaign mode and only allows single player single player games, with an average of between two and three hours. Although the title is still limited technically and in terms of content (skill trees are a bit scarce at the moment), we play with constant pleasure. Respectful of Herbert’s books, perfectly restoring the very special atmosphere of Arrakis, Spice Wars is on track to reconnect with the glorious hours of Duna II since 1992.

The developers of Shiro Games have already announced the addition of a scripted Campaign mode, a multiplayer mode and a series of new missions (spy missions, development of new technologies, etc.) before the final product is released. Expected only on PC for the moment, Dunes: Spice Wars it should be available in its full version by 2023.

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