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Dune: Awakening Is Looking Supremely Cool – As It Was Written

As a massive fan of survival games and Dune, I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical about an open-world survival game that takes place on the famously barren planet of Arrakis, but after an hour-long presentation of the upcoming Dune: Awakening, those concerns have disappeared entirely. Based on the hands-off showcasing of what’s to come when this MMO survival game hits early access later this year, it certainly appears that developer Funcom has taken their hard-won learnings from the underrated Conan Exiles and applied it to this ambitious multiplayer world set in one of sci-fi’s most beloved galaxies. Whether it was the impressively detailed character creation options, the intricate RPG systems filled with skill trees and craftables, or the absolute insanity of trying to outrun a Shai-Hulud or escape a massive sandstorm, Dune: Awakening appears to be on track to become the sci-fi survival game I’ve always dreamt of, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

How do you make a survival game set in an utterly desolate wasteland of sand? Well, according to Funcom, the answer lies in the “hidden spaces” of Arrakis. Described in Frank Herbert’s novels, these hidden pockets of shade and refuge are home to life and micro-biomes that will be altogether unfamiliar to those who have only seen the movies, but Dune: Awakening hopes to lean pretty heavily on their existence to fill the massive desert with things for players to do – whether that be finding a pocket of shelter to build a base in, delving into a cave that’s home to hostile creatures, or taking down remote enemy bases in search of loot and resources. In fact, the wide-open empty spaces filled with hot sand might be more of an asset than a hindrance, as it allows for a heat stroke mechanic where players are punished for spending time in direct sunlight with some pretty devastating debuffs, meaning players will instead need to dart from shelter-to-shelter, battling the elements as they explore the world and its many hidden spaces.

Combined with the forever game of “the floor is lava” that is dodging sandworms on Arrakis, players will need to remain on the move constantly, and develop strategies for managing their water reserves, protecting against the heat, and, of course, engaging in the never-ending struggle for all-important spice. In one leg of the demo, players worked together to claim a massive deposit of spice while keeping an eye out for the ever-looming threat of the Shai-Hulud, drawn to their activity in the desert…only to be unexpectedly overwhelmed by a sandstorm instead, which swallowed them and their precious cargo along with them. In another section, a group of players worked together to infiltrate a high-level facility filled with rare materials and dangerous enemies, making sure to harvest the blood of fallen baddies to replenish their rapidly depleting water reserves. Before the demo, I had a lot of questions about how a Dune survival game would even work without becoming extremely monotonous in short order, but by the end I found myself wondering why in the heck someone hadn’t made one sooner – seeing all the clever ways Dune: Awakening plans to make brilliant use of Dune’s unique lore made me a believer.

Seeing all the clever ways Dune: Awakening plans to make brilliant use of Dune’s unique lore made me a believer.

Beyond the major things Dune: Awakening aims to get right, the demo also included all these little details that took my hype to the next level, like how they showed off an incredibly detailed character creation engine that included things like choosing your home planet and origin to decide some of your starting traits and aspects of your appearance, or how the in-depth skill trees and crafting system allowed you to drastically augment your playstyle from a telekinetic mentalist with a bag of supernatural tricks to run-and-gun soldiers with a bag of high explosives. As someone who has spent a good deal of time with the Dune tabletop RPG, dreaming up the characters I’d like to portray in that universe, this looks like it’ll scratch an itch I’ve had for decades, and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on it when it hits early access later this year.

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