Dune: Spice Wars is an upcoming real-time strategy game developed by Shiro Games. The game is based on the critically acclaimed universe created by Frank Herbert and will launch on Steam Early Access for PC on April 26th.
Shiro Games is the French studio behind the multi-award-winning Northgard which is considered among the most highly regarded RTS games of all time. So you know that gameplay is in excellent hands. If you’re not familiar with the history the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune was the inspiration for Dune 2: The Building of a Dynasty, released in 1992 and widely considered to be the first hit RTS game. It became an inspiration for classics like StarCraft. Making another RTS using the same intellectual property is a bold move for any studio, but Shiro certainly seems up to the task.
4X Elements – Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate
Dune: Spice Wars is being branded as a real-time strategy game with 4x elements. What this means is that the core gameplay will be revolving around – exploring, expanding your empire, exploiting your resources and exterminating your enemies.
Early screenshots show a vast overworld map featuring named landmarks from the canonical planet Arrakis. It also shows multiple markers all over the map, which likely indicate enemy and allied units, their force composition, and relative military strength. It also clearly indicates a fog of war mechanic, with includes limited information on distant units and distant regions that have yet to be explored.
Dune: Spice Wars will include multiple asymmetrical factions and the ability to sabotage, assassinate, and spy on your opponents. Players will even be able to pull at the political strings of power by leveraging their influence among the other noble houses of the Landsraad. The final game will include a multiplayer mode and a single-player campaign, but neither will be available when the early access version initially launches.
Dune: Spice Wars Factions
There will be four playable factions in Dune: Spice Wars. Will you choose House Harkonnen or House Atreides? Be the Freman of Dune? Or just go rogue and play as a faction of Smugglers. The game will pit the four factions against each other on the desert planet Arrakis, competing for the spice melange.
A fifth faction will be added to early access, along with “more later.”
House Atreides is one of the Great Houses of the Imperium and an important member of Landsraad, the parliament that brings together the major and minor houses of the Imperium. Led by Duke Leto (played by Oscar Isaac in the film) he is a good commander, who always has the well-being of his people firmly in mind.
One of the core strengths of the Atreides is their unparalleled political power. Their negotiating skills and their reputation for honor and loyalty allow many major and minor houses to place their confidence in them and in turn, give them more power, allowing them to benefit from many advantages with regards to laws or the reclamation of political power. On Arrakis, the Atreides can also rely on their skills and reputation to easily negotiate with the Fremen, giving them valuable advantages over other factions in the race to conquer the dangerous planet.
The Atreides are renowned for their exceptionally well trained and doggedly loyal army, with troops that are expensive but tough, they are designed, created and trained to last. A full description of the Atreides units in the blog post here.
House Harkonnen, hailing from Giedi Prime (a heavily industrialized planet that lives under the iron fist of their cruel Baron) are one of the most feared houses in the Imperium. They have a reputation for ambition, brutality, and malevolence and are well known for their devious and sinister political tactics. They are a force to be reckoned with, and feared by their fellow houses, with good reason.
A key strength of the Harkonnens is their formidable force on the battlefield and their lack of hesitation to employ any and all underhanded tactics at their disposal to achieve their goals. Whether it’s shady politics, assassination, or cutting-edge spying, they know how to implement and execute long-term plans to win wars without having to start them.
The main mechanic that binds the Harkonnen troops is this principle of expendable and fanatical soldiers, ready to die at a moments notice. A full description of the Harkonnen units in the blog post here.
The desert-dwelling Fremen will naturally move faster around the hostile landscape than the other factions, withstand its conditions better, and attract less attention from sandworms. They can even use sandworms as a fast-travel mechanism. They excel at stealth and guerrilla tactics, and their aim is to rally all the sietches (Fremen communities) across the planet and expel the Imperial invaders. Their leader is Liet Kynes (the character played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster in the 2021 film), and her daughter Chani (Zendaya in the film) features as one of her councillors.
The Fremen are experts in holding military influence over a large territory. They can cross long distances in the desert in a short amount of time using their legendary ability to ride sandworms, resupply less often and further from home and hold up longer against a superior force. A full description of the Freman units in the blog post here.
Wherever there may be profit, there will be Smugglers, just waiting to strike at a moments notice. As a Smuggler you have a smaller sphere of political influence and your own armed forces. But what you do have are agents that have the dealings of every planet, influencing public policies and trade everywhere.
Starting near the polar region, the smugglers are likely to encounter the other factions early. Luckily, this plays well with their unique capacity to infiltrate their opponents’ villages, profiting from their infrastructure and increasing their reach on Arrakis.
It also puts them at an advantage to benefit from the trade of polar waters. In all aspects of their development, Smugglers are specialists in optimising their economic outcomes. Parasitizing the development of their neighbours, embedding their underworld into the smallest furrows of their productions. They are renowned for their rapid and meticulous looting of even the smallest wealth of Arrakis.
A full description of the Smuggler units in the blog post here.
An Open-World Multiplayer Dune Game Next?
Dune:Spice Wars isn’t the only game from the Dune franchise that’s on the way. Currently German developer Nukklear is co-developing a Dune multiplayer survival game, alongside Funcom.
Funcom, developers of Conan Exiles, acquired the rights to make a game based on Frank Herbert’s Dune in 2020. According to the press release, the untitled Dune project will take inspiration from Conan Exiles. Tencent’s acquisition of Funcom in 2020 has also allowed the Dune game to greatly expand its scope. And to bring on Nukklear to help complete it.