Entering Steam’s Early Access program today is the Shiro Games release Dune: Spice Wars. In a new real-time strategy (RTS) based on the popular sci-fi novel series Dune, players will take one of the various roles from the universe. So how is the Shiro Games RTS? Find out in our Early Access review of Dune: Spice Wars.
Story: Lots of Dune lore, but little of it to be seen here yet
Here players may be expecting something to be here since this game is based on Frank Herbert’s groundbreaking series. Players will find the factions on the planet of Arrakis, House Atreides, House Harkonnen, Smugglers, and the Fremen. They’ll also find the resources, vehicles, and soldiers that players will know from Dune.
Unfortunately, there is little to find storywise when playing Dune: Spice War. When the other factions communicate with you, it can feel generic, and there is no campaign yet. However, as This game is still in Early Access, it’s fair to assume that there will be much more to come from the team at Shiro Games. So, even if there isn’t a story now, they have a wide breadth of lore to pull inspiration from.
Gameplay: A solid RTS that’s not too complex
The gameplay is the bulk of Dune: Spice Wars, an RTS game. There is a decent amount of depth for a game about to enter early access. While you won’t find the same level of depth when comparing it to a game like Civilization VI or Crusader Kings III. This is not to say that Dune: Spice Wars doesn’t offer enough depth in its gameplay to be rewarding or replayable.
Given one of the four factions, they can also choose two of the four generals to join them. Of course, each general will have its bonuses and losses, so the player must choose wisely. From there, the game begins.
From a single colony
The player will be given a central faction building which can be upgraded throughout the match. In addition, the player will have one scout, which can be sent out to find other territories. Dune: Spice Wars landscape is separated into territories with distinct bordering.
Most territories will be generic, with a handful of territories that contain a unique resource. These territories also include cities that will first be occupied already, which you will have several options to deal with. The player will use the scouts to recon all the various territories and find different side objects dotted throughout the landscape, which can be picked up by the scouts, spies, or soldiers and reward you with various resources.
The beginnings of a kingdom
Once the player feels confident enough, they can begin to move to each territory and decide how they should deal with them. For this Early Access review of Dune: Spice Wars, while we did try all the various factions, our favorite to use was the House Atreides which allowed us to take over cities peacefully. So while it took longer to take the city, there was less chance for rebellion in a territory where a resource was short.
Once the player has obtained a new territory, they can build up to five spots to build facilities in the territory. One’s that will produce resources or lessen resource cost, defensive measures, and diplomatic bonuses. We found it was best to head straight for a territory containing spice to mine right away during our review.
Stave off destruction in the dune
Players will have to manage the various resource requirements while paying the imperial spice tax. Doing this will make keeping your factions head above water difficult, but Shiro Games designed a way out. This is through the use of trading and diplomacy. Players can trade various materials with the other factions to gain whatever they need. They can also make additional agreements regarding borders, spice, science, etc.
This will not be the only time you have to practice diplomacy. After several in-game years have passed throughout the match, the Landsraad Council will have a vote. These votes will allow each faction to impose buffs and debuffs on one another or the entire region and take benefits for themselves. The players will have to learn to juggle all these different management areas. While also keeping an eye on their territories for attacking small cities, other factions, and rebels from within.
Now in Early Access, the Shiro Games release Dune: Spice Wars will offer players enough depth in its gameplay to offer replayability and enjoyment. While also not being too difficult to grasp after a bit of play, Dune: Spice Wars provides a decent balance between the two.
Graphics/Audio: Pulling inspiration and making it work
The graphics and audio of Dune: Spice Wars are where it lands closest to a game like Civilization or Crusader Kings. While playing, the game plays almost the same, moving your army across bordered territories that look almost like a board game. Players will receive communication from the other faction offering messages of pleasure or displeasure in the same Civilization style. This is not to say that this is a bad thing at all.
The character models look great, and there is enough lore there where you wish the developers added more lore-friendly conversations. But, of course, more may come as the game reaches the end of its Early Access state.
The land of Arrakis looks excellent, with all its sandstorms and sandworms. Dune: Spice Wars plays smoothly but had two issues: the occasional issue of your mouse disappearing from the main menu, which requires a game restart. Then there are the UI issues which, at random points in the game, would signal an attack by another faction and leave a bunch of permanent attack icons pushing out other UI elements.
The audio is also what you would hear in many other RTS genre games. A slight orchestral soundtrack in the background when playing with in-game sound effects. While it may not be something that will win any awards for best soundtrack, you will find solid audio work delivered with no issues.
Conclusion: An excellent real-time strategy with room to grow
Whether you’re a fan of the Dune series or RTS game, you’ll find a good choice in the Shiro Games release, Dune: Spice Wars. While the game’s story hasn’t been developed yet, the developers have a large amount of lore to use. However, the gameplay depth is enough to offer players new to the genre a fun experience and allow veterans to have complex matches. While pulling inspirations from other titles in the genre, Dune: Spice Wars offers its spin on its gameplay leveraging the use of spice.
After reading our Early Access review of the Shiro Games release Dune: Spice Wars, you can find it currently on the Steam Early Access program or its product page. Additionally, if you are interested in the developer Shiro Games, you can check out their developer webpage.
- Easy to learn
- The voting system is clever
- Solid replayability
- No multiplayer (yet)
- No campaigns or story
- Some UI problems