Dune has a long history of very good strategy games, dating all the way back to 1992 when we got not one but two all-time greats based on the license. It’s been a while between then and now—with a little Dune 2000 in the meantime—but we’re now heading back to Arrakis in Dune: Spice Wars.
The game, announced tonight at the Game Awards, is an “upcoming 4X RTS”, which will let you play as a number of houses all vying for control of the planet at the same time. Without more to go on that’s a curious setup—4X games are normally very slow and deliberate, not real-time experiences—but then it’s also being made by Shiro Games, the studio behind the excellent Northgard, so I’m excited to see what they’re planning here.
Interestingly, while this has the Dune license, it doesn’t appear to have the Dune movie license. Notice how the logo is different, and how the brief glimpses of units and sandworms show they’re not the same designs as we’ve just seen in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation.
Not that this is a problem! This happens with these kind of licenses all the time, and Lord of the Rings’ recent games, drawing on the literary characters but not their cinematic appearance, are another example. It’s only an issue if you’re somehow desperate to play as Timothée Chalamet himself rather than Paul Atreides, though, and it should be noted here that Westwood’s classic 1992 RTS had nothing to do with David Lynch’s movie either (and in many cases featured better/more interesting unit design anyway!).
It also, like Westwood’s game, gives the developers the ability to increase the scope of the world beyond the setup of the book/films, bringing in other factions, systems and locations that something based directly on the film wouldn’t be able to:
Dune: Spice Wars will have several playable factions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as multiple ways to achieve your ultimate goal – control of the spice on Arrakis. You can deploy agents to sabotage, assassinate and spy on your opponents, use political means to influence the Landsraad and pass beneficial resolutions, amass incredible wealth and simply overwhelm the other houses through economic and technological supremacy, or you can opt for open war.
The game is coming to early access on PC in 2022.