Dune: Spice Wars impressions: a strategy adaptation with uneven results

An hour later Dune: Spice Wars, I feel a bit nostalgic for the old Westwood Dune games, when the graphics were fun, the text was clunky, and everything was stylized from the real-world appeal of Frank Herbert’s books. Original Sand dunesVibrant pearl tones and clumsy vibes make for a delightful translation for David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation. Dune II is considered by many to be the godfather of modern real-time strategy games, but it’s also uncanny, and has been given an incredible score by Frank Klepacki. Year 2001 Emperor: Battle for Dune features great cutscenes starring Michael Dorn and Mike McShane, which elevates its cool visuals and user interface into a memorable part of the first full motion video game history .

These games don’t really delve into the real-world ugliness of Dune, because playing up the weirdness of the franchise, especially using features of old-school graphics, helped propel Arrakis into an imaginary escape. Spice Wars – at least in its current early access state – split from this stylistic legacy to create an uncomplicated 4X real-time strategy game with uneven results.

All in all, Dune is an allegory of mental space filled with magic worms, interstellar drugs, and neo-feudal brutality. Its most famous character, Paul Atreides, came to power as a messianic symbol, only to give birth to tyrants. While many people (myself included) consider Dune a cherished part of their youth, that doesn’t mean Herbert’s work is immune to higher standards of criticism. For starters, Dune is often used as a lazy validation for proper alternative views, like the fascists’ love for the Warhammer 40k. With a story centered around a coveted exotic resource – spiced melange, which has the power of interstellar travel – the world of Dune seems well-suited for a resource-mining game. But it also means recreating the same tedious structures and systems that define the 4X game, fueling the need to literally explore, expand, exploit, and destroy.

Dune: Spice Wars Early Access Leader Selection Screen

Image: Shiro Games / Funcom via Polygon

There is also a lot of orientalism inherent in Dune. Critic Roxana Hadadi points out that the latest film’s Fremen have been turned into generic brownies, divorced from their roots in MENA and Islamic culture. “Dunes have always been more than just desert, but Season One of Villeneuve can’t see through the sand,” she wrote for Vulture. Spice Wars seems to adopt a similar flat approach, although it would not be a better solution to leave brown people (as opposed to predominantly white developers) responsible for putting them in a predetermined context. For all its significance as a work of science fiction, Dune is ultimately a white man’s story about what he felt was important at the time – ecological issues, kings oil nation, faith, extremism. MENA and Muslim writers have other stories to tell outside of this Western framework. In the end, Dune has a lot of cultural and historical baggage, and it’s odd to see the better points of its story thrown into a genre that ironically uses the colonial system. A 4X Dune game in 2022 that follows a rote formula isn’t very exciting, especially since it doesn’t offer anything new.

Spice WarsThe main factions are House Atreides, House Harkonnen, Smugglers and Fremen. While many other Dune games have a bit of an opening or pretentious narrative that directly describes your actions towards Arrakis while serving the Empire, Spice Wars get straight to the business: start growing spices, or try to die. Frequently you are introduced to the business of Landsraad – the congress of great houses where House Atreides, ostensibly the home of velvet-gloved “diplomacy”, thrives. The idea is to accumulate as much Hegemony as possible – 30,000 is the norm – while paying the Royal spice tax, voting on strategic decisions, and going against your neighbors.

The 4X game has fixed win conditions – for example: Civilization The game features scientific, cultural, diplomatic and military victories depending on the methods you use to achieve certain criteria. Civ Players who don’t want to fight can use insidious forms of cultural imperialism (music, art, etc.) to win culture. There does not seem to be a direct resemblance to these types of situations in Spice Wars, but it has a spy system capable of leading to victory. (I didn’t get a chance to find out.) I feel a bit immature at the moment – each agent may have distinctive characteristics (like “Psychologists”), but these don’t seem to be. great effect. There is also no difficulty level between different espionage operations (like stealing resources, or weakening enemy units). I’m not sure if there are other win conditions other than a standard Hegemony victory, or taking the entire map, which seems like a military victory; you can hire nomadic water sellers to propagate you, but that still rewards you with Hegemony.

A wide shot of Arrakis and a new settlement in Dune: Spice Wars

Image: Shiro Games / Funcom via Polygon

For my first infiltration of Arrakis, I chose The Smugglers, led by Esmar Tuek. The dubbing of some of the units is comically jarring – I realize the desire to emulate the catchy tunes of Dune II female voiceover, but my thopter pilot’s soft babble voice doesn’t work. Smugglers’ abilities leaned towards supermarket exploitation and black market manipulation, and I eventually abandoned them in search of a more immediate gratifying approach. To be honest, Esmar Tuek is not someone I would have chosen to head a major faction – he has always had an affiliation with Atreides and has no real sense of friction when pitted against them. I’ve had better times with Fremen (and their tank-filled Fedaykin units), and predictable times with Atreides (lots of Harkonnen invasions and more village uprisings) Fremen).

Again, this is minor, but the voice acting and minor grammatical errors (“Fremens” and “stuff”), are all over the place, including some of the actual written dialogue, where Baron Harkonnen talks about seeing your troops “roaming before” [his] yard.” Ornithopter’s autopilot also goes sideways after a certain point – you have to constantly push them to investigate points of interest, and they don’t seem to work as new ones pop up over time. The info trading windows could be adjusted to be easier to read (especially since trade offers from other factions are having a tight time) and the user interface doesn’t clearly show a some key currency or resource.It’s also not easy to keep track of the passing “days” unless you monitor each unit, village and handle wheel for ongoing goals. (Time bar is set. Dune AG’s calendar year system – “After Guild” – is difficult to read.) However, the game is in early access and a lot of this could be patched.

Now, Spice Wars doesn’t give the actual narrative of why you’re in Arrakis in the first place – maybe because it assumes you’re getting hooked on the movies or books and doesn’t need explanation. Perhaps Shiro Games has plans to add a contextual trailer or something like that, to set the tone for the campaigns (even the Dune II intro has a few seconds of the Emperor setting up his mission). Royal). For now, it’s not immediately clear why the Empire is wreaking havoc on the planet – the game simply begins.

It is also puzzling that the Fremen – an indigenous people with no interest in cosmic politics – must appease their oppressors by using the same language and receptive attitudes that have taken hold of their planet. . Playing with Fremen meant working within the same system of colonial design as House Atreides and House Harkonnen – paying Imperial taxes and voting in the Landsraad, even in a limited capacity, just didn’t make sense. . It is not only the opposite of immersion but also a fundamental misunderstanding of why Fremen exists.

Map view of the settlements on Arrakis in Dune: Spice Wars

Image: Shiro Games / Funcom via Polygon

Dune is an infinitely eccentric well, and every new project set in its universe has the exciting potential to get weird with the original material. Spice Wars miss out on all these creative opportunities to explore the more fascinating parts of the world of Dune. For every rote depicting the ambitious Great House seeking spice and glory, we’re deprived of something new – perhaps a Bene Gesserit offshoot, or an end-game scenario play where Fremen get the infinity ability. It’s not just a matter of re-imagining win conditions, balancing grow (tech) trees, or improving faction characteristics – it goes back to the broader, more messy issue of how developers approach the finer points of Dune.

I’m sure some of these issues can be resolved with patches and DLC, and I hope that Shiro continues to deepen the mid- and late-game gameplay. Visually, the mid-00s cartoon vibe is the work – the desert environment and palette are pretty lovely, and I’m a fan of the easy zoom/scroll features on the original. thing. It’s always interesting to watch invaders get cleared by a sandstorm (or a sandworm). But on a broader topic level, it’s hard to imagine that the end product would be significantly different when it didn’t have early access, and it’s unreasonable to expect Spice Wars to get too experimental within the conventions of the 4X genre – most strategy fans are drawn to these types of games for the ultimate conquest, with all its struggles. (Tell me you like to lose at Civand I’ll call you a liar.) My biggest problem is Spice Wars It doesn’t seem like it really understands why it’s a Dune game or even what makes the Dune installation so appealing in the first place.

Anyway, who plays 4X games for nuances? I’m here to watch Arrakis burn.

Dune: Spice Wars will be released in early access on April 26th on Windows PCs. The game is played on Windows PC using pre-release download codes provided by Shiro Games and Funcom. Vox Media has an affiliate partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy can be found here.

https://www.polygon.com/23040700/dune-video-game-spice-wars-4x-strategy Dune: Spice Wars impressions: a strategy adaptation with uneven results


Aila Slisco is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Aila Slisco joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: ailaslisco@interreviewed.com.

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