We played Dune: Spice Wars. The new strategy may become a hit, but it has a long way to go

In the pop culture space, the story of the desert planet Arrakis by pen writer Frank Herbert comes to life again, and after an excellent Oscar-winning film, Duna begins to roll like a worm on computer monitors. The developers of Shiro Games, the creators of the positively accepted Northgard strategy, decided to tap on Vikings and Norse mythology from their template, fill the map with sand and rocks, expand the game mechanisms and sprinkle the whole package with cinnamon-smelling mythical spices.

In their upcoming Dune: Spice Wars, you compete for influence over Arrakis. There are several ways to conquer the deadly planet and even more mechanisms to achieve this. There is no lack of open war, intrigue, politicking and plans in the plans of other plans.

If you played the Northgard mentioned above, you will find your way around the game very quickly. If not, then imagine such a truncated Civilization VI or Humankind, but in real time. Although Dune may not have much in common with grandiose turn-based strategies, the addictiveness and postponement of the “I’ll finish XY” party, on the other hand, are familiar.

I must not be afraid

The preliminary approach that Dune: Spice Wars is currently in will make you struggle in skirmish at the head of one of the four factions. The great families of the Atreides and Harkonnens differ most in their approach to the indigenous population of Arrakis. Where the Atreides can connect neutral villages to their territory nonviolently, the Harkonnens choose to intimidate the population and plunder. Where the Caladan family enjoys popularity, favor and support in the Grand Council of the Landsraad, the nobility of Giedi Prime seeks to turn the resolution to their advantage by blackmail and corruption.

The other two factions owe nothing to the great-grandchildren. The smugglers and Fremen do not have such a strong position in the Landsraad and must consider very carefully which decrees they will support. But again, they have other benefits. Esmar Tuek, at the head of spice traffickers, can set up illegal smuggling cells in enemy settlements. The Fremen, in turn, benefit from the knowledge of their home planet and do not have to worry that their spice pickers would be threatened by sandworms.

Fear kills thinking

In addition, each party can choose up to two advisors at the beginning of the game to give them their skills and attributes. If Lady Jessica’s concubine becomes Duke Atreides, you can impose diplomatic agreements on the other players. Among other things, the Fremen have the figure of Reverend Mother Ramallo, who reveals all the spice deposits on the map, and from the beginning you have the opportunity to build a temple in the regions dedicated to the shay-hulud, which increases the production of raw materials.

These options guarantee that even repeated playing for the same factions can be a little different each time, depending on the combination of advisors you mix. If I had to guess, the Corrino family, led by Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, will get into the full version, because otherwise there is neither sight nor hearing in the game after the Sardaukar (the emperor’s elite soldiers).

Fear is a small death that brings about complete annihilation

Whatever faction you choose, you are on Dune for one reason only – to benefit from the beneficial spices. You must regularly pay ever higher doses of melange to the Imperial Treasury. Mining is distinguished by an excellent tax system: For each period, the economic organization CHOAM announces a different exchange rate at which spices can be sold. You can decide how much of the extracted raw material you will store and how much you will monetize. Is the course unfavorable or did you have to stop mining because your combines are threatened by worms? With one click, you adjust your production by keeping most of your spices in order to pay taxes and sell it when the price of melange climbs to a more favorable margin.

The randomly generated map is divided into regions that, with a few exceptions in the deepest deserts, manage neutral villages. Each region then has different bonuses for the production of raw materials. Do you lack plastic steel for building construction and maintenance? You will be forced to find an area that produces minerals. Do you need water to supply units and connect other regions? You have to take over the lands plagued by desert winds and build up moisture collectors in it.

There aren’t many buildings, and except for the Fremen, all factions have access to the same, which I hope will change before the full release. In the vast majority of cases, however, each building produces a different raw material, or somehow affects the surrounding regions – either through discounts on maintenance or, for example, by strengthening military units in neighboring areas. And you will have to expand the regions, because outside the realm of your empire, your troops are running out of supplies and within a few minutes they are dying from dehydration or in the thousand-toothed maw of a sandworm.

I will face my fear

You can’t create hegemony over sparkling dunes and jagged rocks just by using brute force. You will negotiate bonuses and sanctions for warfare, economics or research through diplomacy, trading in hidden nets (desert cities of neutral Fremen) and, last but not least, the above-mentioned voting in the Landsraad.

At regular intervals, the Grand Council will present three resolutions to all rival factions. You can either support, reject or vote who will be affected by, for example, sanctions for the production of plastic steel. In addition, you can strive for special chancellor positions at a later stage, which will give you noticeable benefits or unlock the opportunity to train special units. And in the end, you can even run for the post of Governor of Arrakis, which is one way to absolute victory.

Landsraad is a great refreshment of the game and hides unprecedented potential in multiplayer, where I can clearly imagine plotting with other players. In addition, after each vote, you see who and how supported the decree, from which you can draw consequences and, for example, cut off business relations. Overall, this is an excellent strategic element that goes hand in hand with the intelligence network.

I will allow him to walk past me and through me

In addition to warfare and politicking, another valid way to win is espionage. By focusing on tricks and spies, you both unlock more information about enemies and their plans, and you can perform special operations. For example, by bribing you buy influence in the Landsraad, by poisoning water supplies you reduce the combat capability of units in the enemy territory, by firing a nuclear weapon you level the whole region and last but not least you can plan the murder of the faction leader and thus completely eliminate it from the game.

Dune: Spice Wars in early access offers a tasty portion of fun for hours. You can complete an average map of medium difficulty between three and four hours, which works great for living with the landscape and building relationships with opponents.

It can already be said that the game is built on a robust and fun foundation, which should not disappoint fans of the series. Although this is a real-time strategy, it is great for maintaining the feeling of “one more move and I’m going to sleep” so familiar from a number of great moves. Here it is just transformed into “one more region to come”, “I’m still voting in the Landsraad”, “I’ll open another level of space guild espionage through research”.

When he passes and disappears, I turn around and see where he went

Yes, Dune: Spice Wars will be a good game. But whether it will be an excellent game depends, in my opinion, on whether the authors work on the weaknesses. These are diplomacy and warfare, which so far have a shallow and frustrating impression.

For example, you can completely ignore diplomacy. The game significantly lacks the conclusion of war pacts, so you are in conflict with everyone from the beginning. You may have the best relationships, but that doesn’t stop you from attacking you and besieging your settlements. And if you actively defend yourself, the hard-built diplomatic relations will soak into the sand with the blood of the first killed enemy unit.

Fights are also frustrating. Primarily, you will command only a handful of soldiers, and warfare will turn into frustrating firefighting in the advanced stages of the game. You will often have at least one queue open with each opponent, so you will be forced to constantly commute between them and pray that you will be able to complete the militia of the villages.

Neutral rebels can always appear at the worst time, who will start sabotaging your economy in the heart of the empire, and God forbid you maneuver for a while and the harvester swallows a sandworm in an unguarded moment. You then want to open your veins with a krispel and give your moisture to the shay-hulud.

There will be nothing left where the fear has gone

I’ll go to the roaring sand and speculate a bit about what else could get into the full version of Dune: Spice Wars: So far the Bene Gesserit has no role in the game, which should not be overlooked, because their Reverend Mothers directly revel in pulling the strings of the world events. Following the example of Northgard, we could also get a story campaign that will also serve as a tutorial. Don’t expect the preliminary approach to explain something to you, you will have to figure out most of the mechanics and synergies yourself.

Artificial intelligence, which votes against its relationship to you, would also deserve some form of archetype (such as in Civilization VI). He also often tends to attack one and the same place.

Sandworms would need to balance. The only real risk is when moving in the open desert. If you are attacking a village (which is the vast majority of battles), all you have to do is get a little quick with the first warning sign of the worm track and you are suddenly safe. The same goes for mining harvesters – with a single click you call the caryol, which takes them back to the refinery, wait a while and with another click you send it back to the spice deposit. It’s more of a nuisance than a real danger.

I’ll be the only one left

Then there are the elements that I don’t even expect to get into the game. For example, the Dune would suit the air force or simply a technique other than infantry. Terrain that limits the movement of units more, giving better opportunities to defend, would also be useful, and last but not least, more research diversity would be nice. Thus, each faction has only a few unique technologies, and it is difficult to imagine that someone will not investigate such a Call to Arms to unlock the strongest military unit.

From the realm of phantasmagoria would then be my wish for Arrakis to be terraformed. To, similarly to the reign of Emperor Leto II. under the open sky, water flowed again and the trees turned green. It is clear to me that this mechanism does not come into play just because one map lasts several years in game time, not millennia. And so, even though the developers have managed to design the desert landscape in a variety of ways with a number of unique and special regions, unfortunately you will still be looking at shades of yellow and orange, which will sooner or later be interesting.

Preliminary approach Dune: Spice Wars shows a fun strategy that honors the template and offers immersive and addictive gameplay for many hours. But if the developers at Shiro Games manage to create a legend that will entice replay for years to come, it depends purely on how they deal with balancing and completing some mechanisms and delivering content. Let four playable factions remain, but let you do something different in the conquered territories than build moisture traps and plastic steel factories!

Source: Games by games.tiscali.cz.

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