Dune Awakening preview: A lot spicier than just Rust with worms

By admin Mar5,2024

Stocks in worms, sand, and knife fights have never been higher, which is great news for both the youth of Margate and the developers of Dune Awakening, who now find themselves owning a golden goose of an IP following Dune 2’s release. That should have the good folks at Funcom excited, but it’s handy that their upcoming survival MMO looks especially rad, even without the theatrical context.

Let’s start at developer level. The minds behind Conan Exiles and Anarchy Online bringing their talents to the Dune IP is one of those pairings the especially nerdy of you might have brought up at a bar years ago. It being real is a treat, because we get to see their dedication to lore brought to Arrakis with earnest passion and striking detail.

That means giant worms that can chase and eat you exactly as they should. It means that Ornithopters look, fly, and sound exactly as they should too. It also means that Dune Awakening’s setting – the sweeping deserts and mountainous spines that run along its surface – seem as though the Funcom gang hoarded original novel illustrations and Ocean 11’d film reels from Villeneuve’s house.

The short of it: Dune Awakening looks exactly as I’d wish it would, and that’s all thanks to Unreal Engine 5. Aesthetically, I’m down. Five stars. But there’s more to a game than its looks, of course. We know the game will have both a PvE and PvP aspect. Players can build up their own settlement and strive to survive Arrakis without some fancy prophecy and a genocideal twink on hand to help them out. From there, you expand, eventually delving into the deep desert where other players will try to suck you dry.

Harshness is kind of the point of Dune. While it’s good that the entire game isn’t some free-for-all PvP fest, like Rust, purely down to accessibility reasons, it probably shouldn’t be a cakewalk either. It seems like players will be strongly encouraged to venture into the deep desert late game for all manner of goodies, but I sincerely hope Funcom applies pressure throughout the entire experience. It’ll be a tough balance, but its an important one to nail given the source material.

Dune Awakening helicopters flying over rocky canyon.
Ornithopters are here! Getting them to fly right should prove tricky. | Image credit: Funcom

We also know that there will be ample weaponry available in Dune Awakening, ranging from snipers, shotguns, melee weapons, laser weapons, and – of course – The Voice. I can only imagine the difficulties in balancing this all within the Dune universe, with its shielding and selection of vehicles you can mess around with. It sounds like hell. It’s hard enough making all this feel good to use and authentic to the source material, but to make everything feel viable in a multiplayer survival MMO? I pray the Funcom team give whichever gameplay lead responsible for this crucial task as many high fives, drinks, and backrubs as they want. This thing can really make or break a game like Dune Awakening.

As can the political alignment system. Eventually in Dune Awakening, you can align with either House Atreides or the Harkonnen. This impacts your bases’ decor, as well as your approach to politcs via sweet, sweet violence to please the Landsraad. I remain curious as to how exactly your political representation and achievements will be rewarded, though: is it just a elaborate coat of paint on your home? Or are there unique skins, titles, and other prizes depending on which despotic Great House you set your warrant to?

One faction can outperform the other when it comes to Landsraad missions, but what does one earn for being part of the winning team? Flip that coin – if the rewards are luxorious, how do you prevent World of Warcraft-style faction imbalance? Yet again, another tricky challenge for the Funcom team.

Dune Awakening bio area green
Location diversity is also something Funcom will need to get right, in a setting that can prove very…sandy. | Image credit: Funcom

You may be sensing a trend here. While Dune Awakening looks fantastic (and absolutely is the sort of thing I’d throw myself at), its longevity and overall quality relies upon leaping over a few challenging hurdles. The studio’s previous experience on Conan Exiles should help, but that’s no guarantee Funcom can nail it here with all of Dune’s intricies and roadbumps.

Do I think Funcom will struggle to get folks through the door on release? Not really. As mentioned at the start, it’s sitting on solid gold with the Dune IP, especially right now, so unless it announces the game is $100 or somehow delays it so long that we’re still sitting around watching hype trailers in 2030, people will be keen.

The legacy of this game will come from how engaging the actual survival gameplay of Dune Awakening is and how diabolical that end game political warfare ends up being. Do we have another Eve on our hands? It’s a curious predicament. For what it’s worth, Conan Exiles had great endgame content, but survival aspects often feel a touch boring. Here’s hoping Funcom can maintain the former elements of its sand-blasted MMO while enhacing the latter.

And sure, we’ll be losing Conan Exiles’s (in)famous cock slider this time around, but teh developer is swapping that out for a whole different type of worm that I reckon will be more popular with a wider audience. I do think being chased down by Shai-Halud is the sort of thing that can get people hyped on its lonesome, even if it lacks the vulgar virality or Conan’s beefy wangs.

WFrom what I’ve seen so far, I’m encouraged to keep tabs on Dune Awakening to see if Funcom can actually hit the high bar expected by new waves of Dune fans, or if it’ll merely be another MMO experiment consumed by the desert. Seeing the game is one thing, how it plays and how it launches (bugs, server issues, balancing problems, etc) is a whole different monster. It’s a big task, but one I hope Funcom is up to.

This preview was written during a press and influencer preview event which Funcom organized, and provided travel assistance.

By admin

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