Prepare to control the spice, and thus, the universe in the upcoming Dune: Spice Wars from Funcom and Shiro Games. If you’re at all familiar with the Real-Time Strategy game Dune II from the early 90’s, you’ll be happy to know that Dune: Spice Wars has not strayed too far from that original formula. Coming in as more of a Civilization type game, Dune: Spice Wars still holds its RTS roots as all players, AI or otherwise, operate at the same time, no turn-based rounds whatsoever. This means not only keeping an eye on your army, but also keeping aware of incoming villager raids and enemy houses or groups.

“My Desert, My Arrakis, My Dune”

The currently available sides to choose from are House Atreides, House Harkonnen, The Smugglers, and The Fremen. Each group comes with its own attributes and weaknesses and within the side that you choose are four high ranking members of each faction which you choose two of to take into war. Each faction member has their own personal bonuses that affect how your chosen side can operate from the very beginning of your game like being able to see all spice fields on the entire map or giving your army units an extra experience bonus. Each of these faction leaders also show the difficulty spike that bringing them with you can have on each match which in turn helps you decide early on how you’d like to approach the game as there’s definitely a lot to learn before really getting the hang of Dune: Spice Wars. Again, if you’re familiar with Civilization, grasping the various military and economic workings, bonuses, and detriments that can come with all aspects of a game of this scope should be no issue at all once you start picking up what various sections of the map are best used for.

Though going to war in Dune: Spice Wars is a big part of the game, the strategy portion is really where the game will make or break your conquest of Arrakis. While mining spice is key to surviving Dune as well as using it to pay the ever increasing monthly fees that the Imperium enforce on each faction, there are various elements on the map to gather in order to supply your faction. Ornithopters are used to discover uncovered parts of the map and scan for villages, spice fields, materials to harvest, as well as exploring various points of interest such as Arrakis ruins or crashed harvesters. Every faction starts with one Ornithopter but you can build more as well as find and repair crashed ornithopters that can be discovered during the game. Solaris, the main form of currency, is used to pay for soldiers, structure upkeep, as well as trading with Sietches discovered across the map. Plascrete is essential to the construction of not only your main base of operations but also to add to villages once your army captures them. You definitely need to keep an eye on the amount of Plascrete you have in your upkeep because it can disappear fast as you’re constructing buildings, especially the much needed Wind Traps which are used to collect water on the desert planet. It’s incredibly easy to watch a great House fall because their Plascrete upkeep dwindled and they weren’t able to supply enough water to all their soldiers and captured villages which can then lead to villager unrest and revolutions. Manpower is also an important commodity in Dune: Spice Wars. Having enough Manpower at all times means you have enough people to grow your army, increase spice production, as well as guard your villages with Militia members while your faction’s soldiers are away fighting for bigger parts of Arrakis. Much like running out of water can cause uprising, running out of Manpower, Plascrete, or Solaris can have a negative impact on your faction like your soldiers not being able to heal themselves in friendly villages because Manpower is at zero or building upkeep and construction being slowed due to a lack of Plascrete. Most importantly is Authority upkeep. Authority is used mainly to turn captured villages to your faction. Even if your army is successful at invading a new village, not having enough Authority (or water) prevents your army from taking ultimate control of that area. If your army then leaves a village without being able to capture it, they’ll have to fight more militia members upon returning once enough water and Authority has been gained. Last but certainly one of the the most important gains to make in Dune: Spice Wars is Hegemony, which determines your faction’s overall power on Dune. The higher your Hegemony, the more buildings you can add to your faction’s main base of operations. These buildings include massive buffs for your army and upkeep but come at a steep price, especially in Solaris so choose wisely which main base structures are going to have the greatest amount of positive influence on your faction.

To keep you on your toes, there’s monthly in-game voting for each faction imposed by the Landsraad Council, the governing body of Arrakis, on issues that can make or break a spiraling House. Three varying propositions are voted on each month by the factions in each match and each proposition can have a positive or negative return depending on which faction the voting results bend towards. An increase in Authority production for the month, or a higher than normal upkeep on the amount of Plascrete you’ve harvested can turn a faction on its head if they didn’t have the votes to sway the decision to one side or another and each faction’s amount of votes they can use each month varies not only between which House you choose but also the amount of Influence gained during the match. While House Atreides and House Harknonnen have a higher starting amount of votes than The Smugglers or The Fremen, gaining Influence through various means can greatly change your faction’s ability to vote on the issues that might have more of a positive or negative outcome. There may even be issues you don’t spend any votes on at all simply because the outcome wont have an effect on your particular playing style at that point in time. Just make sure you keep an eye on that upkeep after each voting session ends because that’s also an incredibly quick way to watch that economic spice train come off the rails. Keeping a positive reputation with the Landsraad Council (like consistently paying your spice dues each month) can help increase your amount of Influence and votes. Oh, and lets not forget about those Sandworms which can devour entire armies in a single gulp on anywhere across the map outside of your base and villages. Wormsigns pop up all the time so be sure to heed those warnings and clear your soldiers or harvesters before Shai Hulud takes them down as a permanent part of Arrakis.

Dune: Spice Wars is an incredible RTS that is closely tied to the recent Dune film and after 30 hours of playtime, I’m still hooked. While I’ve already achieved victory with both House Atreides and House Harkonnen, I’m now searching for the illusive wins while controlling The Fremen and The Smugglers. Matches can last hours at times so be ready to put that strategical mindset to work keeping an eye on everything that can be used to crush your enemies or implode your own faction. A match can turn at the drop of a dime due to poor upkeep or an unexpected vote that didn’t go your way so keep your head on a swivel while you mold Arrakis into your faction’s ultimate conquest.

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Originally from Los Angeles, California, Jon Autopsy resides in Tucson, Arizona where he works for the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!). Jon is also an accomplished music producer and sound designer, having created the soundtracks for Halloween events and haunted attractions around the world. In his spare time, Jon plays paintball, hockey, and enjoys reading.