Skip to main content

Dune: Spice Wars is for strategy die-hards more than Dune fans

As a recent Dune fan thanks to the recent film adaptation and a newbie to the world of real-time strategy games, I was excited to try out the new Dune: Spice Wars. I’ve seen the acclaim gained by the old Westwood Dune titles, so this fresh take on the series quickly grabbed my attention. Sadly, Spice Wars made me look to the past for a better introduction to the genre.

Dune: Spice Wars - Announcement Trailer

Strategy in the sands

Dune Spice Wars is a 4x real-time strategy game that places players in control of one of the famous factions of the series: The Fremen, House Atreides, House Harkonnen, or the Smugglers. Each faction comes with their own special abilities. The main goal as the leader of one of these groups is to control the mining resources and use them and the profit economic power gained from them to become the strongest of the four sides.

The big problem when it comes to this is I had no idea how anything worked.

Dune: Spice Wars - First Gameplay Trailer

While I expected a real-time strategy to be complicated, I didn’t think the learning curve would come from the actual tutorial. There are so many pieces to the puzzle that I found myself wishing the text blocks were much more in-depth. The game expects you to quickly learn how to use your armies, what to do with your obtained assets, how to deal with other factions politically, how to satisfy the people of your faction, and how to pay your taxes (seriously) after barely going into detail on each mechanic. It really feels like the game is chasing the the dedicated RTS crowd, but its not friendly for newcomers hoping to hop in the genre through a fan-favorite IP.

I had to capture civilizations near spice farms, which is easier said than done. It involved sending out a recon drone maintained with spice and water, but those resources are crucial to keeping my people happy. This is a relatively normal balance for the genre, but its not explained well here. I found myself fumbling back and forth when something like a political conference came around because I had no clue what I was really voting on. I also ended up committing tax evasion since I didn’t know how to optimally mine my spices until it was too late.

Lack of ambition

I was thinking a new Dune game would be eager to welcome in new players, especially since the franchise just saw the release of a blockbuster film with an all-star cast, making it a perfect starting point for the RTS genre. Instead, Dune Spice Wars had me fending myself from the giant sandworms with nothing but a half-baked instruction manual.

When I finally figured out how the game worked, I found myself enjoying certain aspects. I loved seeing the world around me grow and watching the faction I selected, the Fremen, gain more power to take on the seemingly higher houses like the Harkonnen. Watching my armies slowly take over surrounding territories and seeing my spice count constantly grow gave me that buzz I was hoping to get from a slow-burn RTS experience. The visuals are all a Dune fan could ask for too, giving players familiar with the source material a narrative through scenery.

Still, there are elements that left me clicking around until I found how something like espionage worked and wishing I could read a more fully formed tutorial.

Troops scavenging in Dune Spice Wars.

Dune Spice Wars is a game that has less ambition than it should in its current early access build. I really expected an eye-opening journey into the genre through a franchise I already enjoyed. The world of Dune has so much that a title like this can capitalize on, but so many potential creative opportunities miss the mark. Instead, this is a game created mostly for those that were already enamored with the classic Dune titles.

While Dune Spice Wars may have some enjoyable mechanics for fans of the RTS genre, I don’t see it as a great jumping-in point for those unfamiliar with how they work or Dune fans. And for RTS fans, just know that you’re diving into an early access experience that’s not going to be as fleshed out as other strategy games currently on the market.

Dune Spice Wars will be available on PC via early access on April 26.

Editors' Recommendations

DeAngelo Epps
De'Angelo Epps is a gaming writer passionate about the culture, communities, and industry surrounding gaming. His work ranges…
The best GTA characters of all-time
The protagonists of GTA V pose for the camera.

Ever since the GTA franchise became what it is today with Grand Theft Auto 3, Rockstar has packed their worlds full of colorful and rich characters. While we've only been able to control male characters up until now (though that is set to change if the GTA 6 rumors are true), they have all had distinct and interesting personalities and stories. That said, sometimes it's the side characters that can steal the show too. Looking back at the entire series, we've come up with our picks for the best GTA characters of all time.
Carl 'CJ' Johnson -- GTA: San Andreas

Good old Carl Johnson, better known as CJ, is way more than just a meme. San Andreas was the second game in the series to really focus on character in a major way, and the team nailed it with their lead. Not only was the entire cast filled with bonafide actors, but CJ's personal story as a gang member whose mother is murdered was far more nuanced and emotional than the media would lead you to believe. The real draw was the relationship CJ had with the main antagonist Officer Tenpenny (who may or may not be mentioned later on). This game set the standard for how Rockstar would reveal more about the characters and world through casual conversation throughout the story.
Tommy Vercetti -- GTA: Vice City

Read more
Alan Wake 2: release date, trailers, gameplay, preorder, and more
Alan Wake.

The original Alan Wake is a game that went through quite a troubled development before it was finally released. After many iterations and changes in scope and direction, the final product was initially a cult hit but didn't hit the mass market it needed -- at least not initially. After two DLC episodes, a sequel was in the works to build upon the first game and revive some of the elements that had to be cut from the first in order for it to ship, but this was ultimately not meant to be. The sequel was canceled and a smaller downloadable game, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, was released instead.

Since then, we hadn't heard from our intrepid writer until he showed up in a very unlikely place. Featured in the AWE expansion for a completely different game, Control, Alan was back in the picture. With a remaster of the initial game catching everyone up on his first appearance, now was the perfect time to announce that the long-awaited sequel was back in development. We haven't found all the manuscript pages yet, but here is everything we know about Alan Wake 2.
Release date

Read more
Best Buy knocked $550 off one of our favorite gaming laptops
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 2023 front view showing display and keyboard deck.

ASUS' line of ROG (Republic of Gamers) gaming laptops has been a staple the modern gaming scene. The line has given Alienware and the HP Omen a run for their money. This is largely because of the focus on quality components and sleek designs. Of course, it helps that they often get large discounts. For instance, this ROG Zephyrus G14. It's a great choice for gamers who need a smaller, more portable screen.

Unfortunately, it still comes with a big price tag, and while finding great gaming laptop deals on these smaller laptops can be hard, luckily, Best Buy is selling the Zephyrus G14 for $1,100 rather than the usual $1,650. That's a substantial discount for a laptop that can go head to head with a log of gaming PC, so if you're looking for a small but powerful gaming laptop with a large discount, the Zephyrus G14 is your best bet, so lets take a look at it.

Read more