Dune: The Spice Warscreated by Shiro Games, the company responsible for the City Builder-RTS hybrid Northgard, was released in early access last week. The game is set during the Desert War as players fight to control the planet Arrakis. Which makes Spice Wars What makes it special is how it combines real-time strategy and 4X (explore, develop, exploit, exterminate) into one cohesive experience.
Dune: The Spice Wars has an excellent basis for a fantastic Dunes 4X game. From sandworms to spice harvesting, every mechanic has been implemented with care and respect for the series. However, at the moment the game seems to be lacking. Fortunately, Early Access allows players to get their hands on the game and build a community during development. Shiro Games has already announced plans to include new features during Early Access. Here are some suggestions for how Spice Wars might improve before its official release.
Extensive tutorial would help acclimate players
Spice Wars‘ the current tutorial is extremely simple. It consists of a handful of pop-up tooltips explaining the basics of gameplay. However, most of the mechanics don’t get a proper explanation or introduction, and a new player may have trouble understanding their importance. The tutorial should especially emphasize the importance of operations and espionage.
During the first reading, the operations are passed over in silence. Their power and ability to change the game is not properly transmitted to the player. This is especially apparent when operations contain assassinations, one of the ways to win the game. More tooltips properly describing how to interact with these mechanics would go a long way in giving new players some much-needed guidance.
Spice Wars is perfect for multiplayer games
It’s a tragedy that multiplayer isn’t already available. Spice Wars it looks like it was designed with multiplayer in mind. The ability to play with human opponents over voice chat would make the game even more Dunes. Humans can make promises, lie, and stab each other in ways AI cannot. Trading with another player would provide much more freedom when trading, including the ability to trade otherwise untradable resources.
Everything from military support to entire provinces could be included in trade deals if you play with other people. Players could also exchange information, letting another player know that their neighbor is planning to attack them. Alternatively, deliberately false information could be exchanged for resources, or the player could back out of a deal, promising to send military support but never doing so. The possibilities for intrigue and deception are endless with the inclusion of multiplayer.
Dune: Spice Wars could use more factions
All four Spice Wars factions are well designed and each feels thematically appropriate. However, complex diplomatic networks and intrigues are difficult to form when there are only three other factions to interact with. To better represent the formation of power blocs and alliances across Arrakis, additional factions should be added. Imperial House Corrino, the Spacing Guild, and the Bene Gesserit are all potential factions to include.
Each of these factions could provide interesting interactions with existing mechanics and the ability to add new ones. Corrino could ignore spice taxation and gain access to powerful Sardaukar units. The Spacing Guild would grow in power as other players dispatched units. The Bene Gesserit would have powerful agents and additional influence from The Voice.
Spice Wars would benefit from more victory conditions
spice war has three victory conditions; domination, politics and hegemony. Domination requires the player to eliminate all other factions. Politics sees the player become the governor of Arrakis. Hegemony is a score victory taking into account all the actions the player has performed throughout the game. While these three victory conditions are thematically appropriate, there might be room for another.
A “terraforming” victory would also be thematically appropriate and play into Freman’s story. This victory could be likened to a scientific victory for the Civilization series. The player should advance through the tech tree, hold multiple territories, and construct unique buildings in those territories. The player would win after erecting a number of buildings and setting Arrakis on the path to becoming a green oasis.
While none of these changes or additions are guaranteed to be implemented, many of them are already underway. Shiro Games said they want to include multiplayer, a campaign, and at least one additional faction while Spice Wars is in early access. They also promised other smaller additions, tweaks, and balance changes. With a solid foundation to build on and a committed development team, Spice Wars is destined to become one of the best Dunes games of all time.
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