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Dune: Awakening will change its map every week thanks to rogue sandstorms

Dune: Part Two, the long-awaited sequel to the 2021 Oscar-winning hit Dune, has finally been released and is having a smash opening weekend at the box office. For those who are experiencing Dune for the first time in theaters, the film ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and longtime fans of the story will be left eagerly awaiting the adventure’s end. Whichever camp you fall into, you’ll surely be left wanting more — and thankfully, everyone is getting more today with a new look at the upcoming survival MMO Dune: Awakening.

First announced at Gamescom 2022, Dune: Awakening is being developed by Funcom, the Norwegian studio behind real-time strategy gem Dune: Spice Wars, survival MMO Conan Exiles, and rhythm-shooter Metal: Hellsinger. We haven’t seen anything but concept art until this new trailer.

Digital Trends learned more about the cryptic project ahead of its new trailer reveal, getting insight from Funcom Creative Director Joel Bylos. Adapting a film based on a book with such deep lore was quite a challenge, according to the development team, but their primary goal at all times was to portray the immensity of Arrakis. Each player will feel very small in this world, as they should.

Surviving Arrakis

Dune: Awakening – Survive Arrakis Trailer

“Arrakis is a test, is what the Fremen say,” Joel Bylos explains in a new recorded Q&A about the upcoming game. “And the player comes into the very heart of that test immediately in Dune: Awakening.”

Players will start their experience on Arrakis alone in the desert, scavenging for equipment, shade from the blistering sun, and, most importantly, water. Water can be found by consuming scarce plant fibers or, if you find a stillsuit, by killing other players and converting their blood into water. Harsh, but necessary for survival. But even if you best your enemies and find yourself well-equipped and hydrated, you still might be eaten by a massive sandworm. They are always lurking beneath the surface.

“You’re going to be really, really worried every time you walk on the sand,” said Bylos. “You always need to be thinking about what you’re doing.” Sandworms are impossible for a player to kill and are a constant threat to everyone on Arrakis.

As you progress through the game and traverse the vast desert, players will eventually find safe haven. Each server will have static parts of its map where players are safe from Arrakis’ deadly sand storms. Here, players can customize their appearance, socialize with other players, build homes, and even sell their building blueprints to other players. Like the canon Dune plot, the planet is just a backdrop for a story about political intrigue.

Once survival needs are met, players can lend their hand to one of the game’s great houses and complete scavenging missions to rise through the ranks and become powerful political leaders. While Dune: Awakening takes place on an alternative timeline from the main story, the two major factions are still House Atreides and House Harkonnen. Players can also create their own guilds to support a specific house. We still don’t know much about what these great houses will ask of players, but like any MMO, how each server operates and competes depends entirely on the player base.

“You can be a crafter selling wares on the Exchange. You can be an architect building massive bases for others,” Bylos says. “You can definitely stay safe if that’s how you want to play the game.”

The shifting sands

If you’re more interested in the PVP aspect of Dune: Awakening, there will be specific zones on each server dedicated to all-out warfare. Players can venture far from safety and into the “deep desert,” where the most ferocious sandworms and best loot spawns.

A leveling system throughout the game allows players to learn new abilities and specialize in different forms of combat — you can choose to be an elite sniper, a hand-to-hand combat specialist like the Freman, or a vehicle operator who assists your guild from an ornithopter as they harvest spice and explore ruins for gear and materials. You can design and build massive bases out in the outer desert, creating a stronghold of soldiers and dominating lesser clans on Arrakis.

Players running from a massive sandworm in Dune: Awakening.

But unlike the designated safe areas on the server, nothing lasts forever in what developers are calling “the shifting sands.”

“Each week a Coriolis storm sweeps in and completely alters the landscape in this area,” Bylos says. The storm destroys everything — landmarks and bases. “Players who explore these areas will have a completely fresh map to explore each week.”

Bylos compared this zone to the popular survival shooter Rust, which uses weekly and monthly server wipes to keep the game fresh and to keep dedicated groups from reigning over a server forever. Players compete to build massive bases and horde resources for a wipe cycle, but everyone starts off on the same level at the start of the next wipe.

Long live the fighters, as the Freman say.

Funcom hasn’t announced a release date or a timeline for Dune: Awakening‘s launch. It is expected to be released on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.

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Sam Hill
Sam Hill is a journalist and the gaming guides editor at Digital Trends. He's also written tech guides for Input and has…
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