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After watching Dune: Part Two, go play this Xbox Game Pass title

Key art for Dune Spice Wars

Dune: Part Two has taken theaters by storm after a relatively quiet start to the 2024 box office. It’s getting even more people into this franchise, which is the grandfather of a lot of modern sci-fi stories. Dune also has a more storied history with video games than you may think. If you’re in the mood to return to Arrakis and experience more entertainment set within the Dune universe, you don’t have to wait for Dune: Awakening.

There’s a Dune strategy game available right now on Xbox Game Pass across PC, consoles, and cloud called Dune: Spice Wars. If you’ve ever sunk time into strategy games or are most intrigued by the political machinations that happen in the background of Dune’s narrative, then I recommend you try out Dune: Spice Wars after watching Dune: Part Two.

Spice is life

Developed by Shiro Games and published by Funcom, Dune: Spice Wars is a 4X strategy game. For the uninitiated, 4X is an abbreviation of “explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate,” and those kinds of strategy games allow players to do those four things on a massive scale. The most mainstream 4X strategy game series is Sid Meier’s Civilization, and Dune: Spice Wars shares a lot of elements with that game. Of course, it’s set on Arrakis instead of Earth.

In Dune: Spice Wars, players choose a faction — each of which has their own unique strengths and weaknesses — and fight to maintain the most political power, wealth, and Spice within their faction. In the early game, the biggest worry is ensuring that you are collecting enough water and spice for your campaign to keep going. Ornithopters can scout out the desert, expanding your house’s reach and protecting your Spice Harvesters from Sandworms.

Eventually, you go head-to-head against the other houses to control Arrakis. All players will have to deal with the other factions at the Landsraad, the governmental body that makes decisions that can apply to any of the playable houses. Players have to work to secure enough votes to pass the initiatives they want, adding another layer of strategy to account for. Dune is a critique of government and religion’s constant need to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate, so it makes sense that a video game adaptation of Dune would make for such a fitting 4X game given its fair share of political intrigue.

A harkonnen in Dune: Spice Wars.

If you’re embracing your inner Harkonnen and prefer to annihilate your enemies, you can also do so in combat against both independent villages and other Houses. Unlike some of its 4X peers, Dune: Spice Wars is more of a real-time strategy (RTS) game than a turn-based title. Keeping an eye on the whereabouts and health of the units you’re fighting with and the buildings you’re constructing around the area your faction controls is critical to success.

Given the 4X political machinations of the Landsraad, it makes sense for Dune: Spice Wars to partially be an RTS game because Dune has a deeper connection with that genre than you might think. In 1992, Westwood Studios and Virgin Games released Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty, and it cemented the core resource gathering, base and unit construction, and combat gameplay loop that would go on to define most games in the RTS genre. Without the foundation laid by Dune II, we might not have series like Warcraft or Age of Empires. While Dune II has never been rereleased, Dune: Spice Wars keeps the franchise’s strategy game roots alive in an experience that stands toe-to-toe with its RTS peers.

RTS and 4X game campaigns can usually go pretty long, and Dune: Spice Wars is no different. It features six faction campaigns, but it also benefits by having modes that can give you entertainment in more bite-sized chunks. Skirmish limits games to just four factions, while Kanly Duel is a 1v1 mode that can wrap up much faster than your standard 4X game. That last option is your best one as you ease into the game for the first time after watching Dune: Part Two. It’s even more fun if you have a friend to play with in multiplayer.

Gameplay from Dune: Spice Wars.

Dune: Spice Wars will let you face off against AI bots if you don’t want to do that, though. While you’ll probably be outsmarting them by the late game, they are worthy opponents for newer players who have come to this game more so for its Dune connection rather than its genre. If you play through all the tutorials, Dune: Spice Wars is approachable.

Being a 4X RTS game, Dune: Spice Wars plays best on PC. It has been on all versions of Xbox Game Pass since November 2023, though, so you can also play it with a controller on Xbox Series X/S or via Xbox Cloud Gaming if you prefer.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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