Dune: Awakening Preview – Spicing Things Up


With some unbelievable heat surrounding the Dune franchise following last weekend’s release of the critically acclaimed Dune: Part Two, Conan Exiles developer Funcom provided a huge update for its anticipated MMO, Dune: Awakening, during a livestreamed Dune Direct today. Last week, Funcom and Warner Bros. invited me to the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank, California for an advance Dune Direct and Dune: Part Two screening. While I entered this event lukewarm on the Dune franchise, I emerged enamored with the film and excited about the promises being made by the game.

Dune: Awakening is an MMO that uses the survival genre as its starting point. Players set out in Arrakis’s harsh, unwelcoming environment in an alternate timeline separate from the films. While finding refuge, crafting resources, and, perhaps most importantly, water are your top priorities initially, as you progress to the experience’s later stages, the Dune series’ political aspects step into the forefront. 

Dune: Awakening

Amassing political power is one possible endgame, but not the only one. Funcom hopes to create a sandbox experience where players can choose their own path, even if the title was designed with the series’ political intrigue as a main underpinning of the late-game portions. For example, one player may want to become a scouter who maps out the world and then sells those maps to other players, while another might want to become an in-game architect who uses the in-game marketplace to sell blueprints of buildings to other players.

“We took what we started with in Conan Exiles – our other survival game – we brought that over, then we started to add to it,” creative director Joel Bylos said in the Dune Direct. “We’ve now created a system for co-op building, where you can place out holograms, and other players can fill them in, so you work with your friends to build bases. You can also save your bases, like an architectural blueprint, that you can then sell to other players on the Exchange, or you can give to your friends if you make something cool.”

Dune: Awakening

Dune: Awakening features what they call “Combined Arms,” giving players the option of using melee, ranged, and abilities. While conventional means like sniper rifles and swords may feel in line with what a lot of MMOs and action titles offer, you can also attend the Great Schools and learn special abilities like Voice from the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, allowing you to compel your enemies to obey your commands. 

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Dune without the iconic sandworms. These mammoth beasts serve as a tension mechanic in Dune: Awakening. You cannot hurt or defeat them, but what you can do is expect them. “We wanted you to be really worried every time you walk on the sand, so you really need to think about what you’re doing,” Bylos said in the video. “The only thing you can do is avoid the sandworms. So, you craft yourself a Thumper and place it out to distract a sandworm, maybe use it to lure a sandworm onto some friends of yours.” 

Dune: Awakening

Perhaps one of the most innovative ways Dune: Awakening leverages the desert setting of Arrakis is through its Shifting Sands mechanic. Within the massive PvP area, each week, the Coriolis Storm sweeps through and changes the entire landscape. This also means players will need to be strategic about where they build their bases, but they can also use bases that aren’t long for this world to their advantage.

“There are good place to build and bad places to build,” Bylos said during a group Q&A session. “They have this thing called the Shield Wall, and outside the Shield Wall is the deep desert. The deep desert is where the Coriolis Storms hit their strongest effect and will just destroy everything – and I mean everything. Inside the Shield Wall is a safe place where you can build; it diminishes the force of the storms. What I expect to happen is – we put very valuable things in the deep desert – and […] what I’m expecting is that players use the blueprint system to take a copy of their buildings, they take them out with them, the set up logistics bases in the deep desert with the knowledge that those things are gonna get wiped every week. And then they have their home, they keep that decorated and nice, but they’re continually going out to compete with other people over the big spice blows in the deep desert and compete for harvesting operations.”

Dune: Awakening

All of the footage shown during the Dune Direct looks promising, consisting of high-fidelity graphics and compelling gameplay set within the Dune universe. However, though the game has been running closed betas for a while now, the team does not currently have a window for when the game will be released. If you’d like to take part in the upcoming Closed Betas, you can head to the official Dune: Awakening website.

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