Interesting. I was just playing my first game and I was pleased/ shocked by the AI choices. It felt above what I am used to in RTS games. In my game there was sort of a triangle of territories. Harkonnen was bottom left of the triangle and Ecaz was bottom right. I was technically at conflict with both although I was only engaged with Harkonnen. I crossed the sands to engage Harkonnen and saw Ecaz come out with me, but not shooting. “Great, the good guys are going to fight the evil guy.” As soon as I engaged the Harkonnen village, the Ecaz attacked me from the rear. I then retreated and both nibbled at my retreat. Ecaz followed into my zone and swept me off but retreated to my militia. Then Harkonnen, who were healing as Ecaz harried me, then rotated in to take the territory. Afterwards both sides were trying to kite me out of the replenish zone with single troops, but would charge at me with their force as soon as I followed the bait. It all was cool, but frustrating.
Having also played my first Northgard this weekend (much more than Dune until it convinced me to try Dune), I do think the AI is competent in Northgard. However, I also think it doesn’t like to go on offense until the player exposes weakness. That is, the AI can clean my clock, but it won’t necessarily come after me until it sees that my army is exposed. And the AI will foolishly shift focus for odd reasons. In that Northgard game, Blue was ignoring me even as I swept the strongest player off the map. As soon as I set foot on a Blue territory though, Blue engaged, shoved me off, then followed with a ship landing on the other side of my territory.
Maybe Dune has a similar good, but (often) passive AI? It feels like some aggression bar is tuned too far down, but when it engages, it can be rough.
All that said, if you will permit me to put on my tinfoil hat, I have a theory on Dune’s current form (no longer EA, but seemingly unfinished). I am guessing they were pushing to go 1.0 when the second Dune movie was released. However, when the movie got pushed back, someone still saw the infamous Christmas release window and pushed the “Go” button anyway. However, it was not ready. There are bugs, it feels like a tool-tip pass is needed, and the tutorial section seems to awkwardly be missing the bottom 5 tutorials. They released a patch shortly after release last Friday that has seemingly created several documented (Steam forum and their bug report area) bugs. I would not be surprised if @tomchick’s Agent text is a bug (either the text or the numerical execution).
Having just had a fresh look at Dune Spice Wars, Northgard PC, and Northgard PS5 (considerably behind and apparently abandoned), it seems the developers have a history of long development windows and a propensity to release bugs. They pile on features over time and also introduce/fix bugs. The console version of Northgard is a crazy bare bones shadow of what a basic PC copy has. Heck clan Boar is unrecognizable in Console versus PC iterations.
I guess what I am saying is, I think Dune is still in the oven and I think we got this version maybe because of when the movie was expected. I would not be surprised if it gets polished up and maybe a new house DLC and/or story campaign mode is released right as the second movie actually hits.
While I am still composing my thoughts, I enjoyed Northgard and Dune a fair bit. I think they both occupy interesting spots that are far from the traditional RTS roots and each other.