Bless The Maker and all His water, because the opportunity to get hands-on with Dune: Spice Wars is finally upon us.
Through upcoming Steam Early Access, players can sample a colossal, multi-faction brouhaha which will continue to evolve through passionate community feedback. With all the bloodlust of a Harkonnen, this was the perfect chance to make a mark upon Arrakis.
For players new to the real-time strategy genre, here’s a quick word of advice: While the game seems complex, do not fear. Firstly, because fear is the mind-killer. And secondly, as-you-go tutorials will help everyone make their initial stand on the sand.
Conversely, players already experienced in command and conquering will find Dune: Spice Wars ways as familiar as if they were born to them. That said, the more subtle tactics, like subterfuge, political influence or economic supremacy will require a Mentat-level mind to master. Whatever the chosen plan, it’s best to be agile — in this desert, the line between life and death is sharp and quick.
The first step to ruling with eye and claw — as a hawk among lesser birds — is the decision to identify as either a noble Atreides, ruthless Harkonnen, opportunistic Smuggler or a resourceful Fremen. Interestingly, each team comes with three faction bonuses and one drawback.
Quick example: The goody two-shoes Atreides won’t pillage neutral villages. For the Harkonnen, that’s a normal Tuesday night.
Starting out as the Fremen — a faction like-minded uber-fans have dreamed of using since Dune (1992) on the Amiga — isn’t as simple as slipping into a stillsuit and going on a rampage, there’s still the matter of picking two councillors (from a pool of four) to support you.
Chani Kynes made the cut for her ability to Incite Rebellions in Landsraad Votes, as did Otheym. His 10% speed boost can prove invaluable when trying to outrun a sandstorm or hangry Sandworm.
Next up, it’s time to decide which victory condition to chase. There’s Domination, the good ol’ fashioned decimation of every faction through base destruction (or whacking their leader with a hunter-seeker). There’s also Governorship, cultivating a lot of Political Power to be legitimately voted in as A-Number One, Duke of Arrakis. Lastly, one could always scratch together 50,000 Hegemony points, by leaning into the unique fortes of the chosen faction.
When players touch down on the fog-shrouded, literal sandbox of Arrakis, an intoxicating scramble begins. Starting with the near-invulnerable ornithopter that auto-recons the areas around your home sweet Sietch, it’s time to put a plan into action. Step one: Pinpoint a nearby spice field. Step two: Turf out the militia ruling any melange-adjacent village, so it can serve as a harvesting hub. Step three: Profit from all of the above.
Just as players are getting a taste for blood and possibly eyeing other real estate ventures, Dune: Spice Wars will highlight the fact that a good Naib has many other duties. Owned villages require ample water or a rebellion will brew (so this means building wind farms). Also, as Leto once opined: Power bases are very dangerous because they attract people who are truly insane, people who seek power only for the sake of power. So yeah, best train some replacement militia to protect new interests against roaming raiders or enemy troops.
On the topic of aggressive expansion, improving the Command Points/size/abilities of the army is yet another concern. It is best to hit hard and fast when besieging some far-flung village or enemy Sietch.
Violence begets vibration. Oscillations create appetizers. Defending units will be safely holding their ground on solid rock; your army will be out on the soft stuff.
You can see where this is going. Sandworm digestive tract, population: you.
The thrill of dodging colossal annelids aside, this barely scratches the surface grains of the Dune: Spice Wars experience. Subjugating a corner of Arrakis is but one plate spinning. Players will also need to find a way to pony up enough Solari to meet Spice Tax Quotas, eyeball exchange rates, rig the game in their favor via Landsraad resolutions and trade with conniving foes.
Alternatively, it’s possible to “gift” said enemy’s operation with undercover agents. A shrewd commander doesn’t need a hit of melange to be prescient. To know what’s coming, the spies must flow.
Clearly, there’s never a dull moment or a straightforward path to victory in Dune: Spice Wars. See for yourself when Early Access opens officially on April 26th.
As the Fremen axiom goes: Be prepared to appreciate what you meet.