We have included the new Dune in our selection of the most anticipated games of 2022, despite the fact that this year we will only see the early access version and the full one will most likely be released next year. The title from Shiro Games (Northgard) was announced at The Game Awards last December and we have been working on it repeatedly at Vortex. But now its developers have given Frank Herbet’s fans a behind-the-scenes look and answered some of the most common questions.
But first, let’s recap the main thing we knew so far. The game, published by the Norwegian Funcom, which now has the rights to titles from this universe, has been in development for over two years. This is a 4X strategy, but not a turn-based strategy, as is most often the case, but real-time. The authors want to combine the best of grand strategies and RTS classics. On the one hand, it may be a bit of a pity that we will not see the traditional tug-of-war, but on the other hand, the fans’ dream that we will return to Arrakis in real time will come true. Although in the end the former developers of Westwood (Dune II) from the Petroglyph Games studio, who already worked with Funcom on the strategy of Conan Unconquered, do not work on the game. It was more of a wish of the father of thought.
During the preliminary approach, Spice Wars will be expanded with additional factions, multiplayer and a complete campaign.
As usual, we will strive to control the famous desert planet and extract spices that prolong life, deepen consciousness and enable safe interstellar travel. We knew for sure that there would be at least four playable sides in the game and two families we knew – the Atreides and the Harkonnens. We will also come across the dreaded giant sandworms, famous characters and intrigues that are typical of the Dune series. As befits and belongs to 4X, only one road will not lead to victory and you don’t have to achieve it only on the battlefield. You can triumph thanks to deception, political influence and economic superiority. Sabotage and conspiracy should play as important a role as in the master.
We’ve learned before that the game will spend 9 to 12 months in the pre-access program, depending on how quickly the authors manage to implement all the features and other content. The authors want to take advantage of the Dune and turn it into an interesting game. At the same time, however, they want to use early access to make sure that the title is accessible to newcomers, but at the same time remain true to the original. During the preliminary approach, Spice Wars will be expanded with additional factions, multiplayer and a complete campaign. And now finally to the promised news from the last update.
The developers do not want to answer the question of how much the game will cost. They explain that their title is both a real-time strategy and a 4X. It runs in real time, but has a slower pace than typical RTS. You can also stop the game. Exploration, territorial control, economic growth, fighting, politics and espionage play an important role. According to the developers, these are the features that make Spice Wars a real 4X strategy, but not at the expense of the RTS basics that players expect. The game will also include building construction, but players do not have to place individual buildings manually on the site, as the title is said to have a much larger scope than typical real-time strategies.
The authors say that all elements of Dune: Spice Wars were developed from the ground up specifically for this game and do not recycle anything from Northgard. The authors do not want to reveal the other two factions that will be available on the day of publication. But they are already saying that a fifth and later another will be added during the early access. The players were also interested in why the Atreides represent green and not blue as in some older games. Shiro Games explain that they are loyal to books. They point out that many things have been portrayed differently over the years in movies, television, comics and games. The Atreides are supposed to have green-black uniforms and standards, and the team has stuck to that.
Of course, players are interested in other potential families, even those from older games. Specifically, they ask about the non-canonical family Ordos, which we also addressed in our series on the history of games from the Dune universe. The authors also explain that it comes from an encyclopedia, but Frank Herbert did not mention it directly in his books. First they want to start with the books and then they will see what is best to do next. The game has a slower pace with the game Northgard, but otherwise they are different according to the authors. Spice Wars focuses on a larger scope, including politics, trade, covert operations, and deeper resource management. The dune is also supposed to be two to three times longer than Northgard, but that may still change.
As for inspiration from older games, the authors said they played all the titles from this universe, especially Dun and Dun II. But also boards. According to them, there may be some influence, but Spice Wars is said to be a unique game with its own approach to the match for Arrakis. Maps should be procedurally generated, with different worm sizes and frequencies. The deepest deserts should initially be a barrier like the sea in other games, but even here we will eventually learn to survive thanks to new technologies. Maps will also contain unique places known from books.
The stylized art page came up with things that are supposed to bring more variability in colors and shapes. So that the world is rough, but not boring.
The authors again chose early access instead of releasing the full version, because they say they have good experience with it in the past. They can balance the game based on feedback. The players were also interested in why the game does not have more realistic graphics and bet on stylization. The developers say that making the game a desert planet brings various challenges. They didn’t want to bore players when he watched the sand for hours. For a long time, they worked on the environment and teamed up with a geologist who specializes in deserts to create interesting things that could exist on such a planet. The stylized art page came up with things that are supposed to bring more variability in colors and shapes. So that the world is rough, but not boring.
So far, the authors focus on the single, but according to them, it will definitely be multiplayer, as has already been said. We will see it during early access. Likewise, it will be time for a campaign that will not be available at the beginning of the pre-accession program. The authors do not yet promise 100% support for modifications, but if they see the demand, they will certainly look at some possibilities in this field. They do not plan any DLCs yet, as they focus on development and early access. If, after the release of the full version, there is interest in additional content and they find a good reason to expand, it can theoretically happen at DLC, but now, according to the study, it is too early to think about it.
Currently, the game only targets the PC, but the team will try to look at other platforms during early access. Shiro Games are responsible for the development itself and Funcom for the rights, publishing and marketing. The game will arrive on Steam in an unfinished version later this year, as it was at the beginning. In time, it can come out elsewhere.