Dune: Spice Wars: RTS? 4X? Or something else entirely?

Here’s another example of what bugs me about this game: I can’t trust it.

There’s a bunch you can do with a steady trickle of agents given to each faction. Most of them have little abilities that benefit you in addition to their agenting. For instance, Thora just showed up and I see she’s an Engineer:

Hello, Thora. Glad to have you and I’m especially glad for your engineer skills boosting my income for the resource that builds buildings, plascrete. Since I can use a plascrete boost, let’s stick you someplace with a higher information level. Let’s make you an Arrakis agent, so you’re working at level 2:

At level 2, you should be boosting my plascrete production by 4%. Let’s check the scoreboard!

Thora isnt meeting her work quota

Hmm, I’m producing 112 plascrete, and checking the Engineer tally second from last, I see Thora is contributing 2 of that. Which isn’t 4% by my math. So either the tooltip about Thora is wrong, the tooltip for plascrete is wrong, or the game isn’t doing what it tells me it’s doing. I don’t know if developers realize it, but when you try to tell me 4% of 112 is 2, I don’t believe you. I furthermore question the other things you’re trying to tell me.

But on the upside, hey, I only found out there’s a shortcut to find production buildings because I was taking a screenshot:

how to find your buildings

If only I’d had the presence of mind to read the part of the manual that details the interface, I would have been using this feature by now!

Hmm. Fencer boost is to attack speed not attack stat. How can you confirm that? What defines “nearby ally”? This further proves your point @tomchick.

Yeah, that’s a whole other separate complaint. Bonuses to units are an absolute black box. The game will show you the adjusted values, but there’s no breakdown for modifiers like there is for economic values.

BTW, they kind of have these in the game! Here’s an example:

Old World style events

They’re pretty minor, but they pop up from time to time, usually giving you lots of time to grab either option.

I am hoping dastactics can talk more on the Fencer’s abilities as he sort of forgot about them in the episode I watched (1). Maybe that would clue me in on how a player maybe could process a term like “nearby”. Same region? X distance? The game does seem to have a unit of distance mechanic as suggested by the Authority(?) resource drain. How does one measure the distance though?

But how about theme? I really like that water is a non-cycling resource that is the limiter for how much the faction can grow. It’s like farms or houses in other games, but fits so well as a resource of, well, water. On Dune. If one wants to grow there must be enough water. Stiltsuits were not just cool cosplay, but an adaptation to needing to preserve a sitch’s water. Thematically, on Arakis, I think the water limiter is cool and much cooler than some farm or house widgets. Stuff like that plus the obvious Dune trappings of worm sign and the like have me trudging on.

This brings me back to the idea that I agree with your black box & documentation take. But I’m also intrigued enough to want to learn more as there does appear to be something here and the dastactics video is helping. Perhaps it is that sort of frustration/excitement polarity that maybe what has you in a Stockholm Syndrome place with the IP within this game. I may be about to join your Syndrome from my currently outsider standpoint.

Yeah, I think this is one of those former early access games where a lot of features were only documented in dev blogs or update notes.

I actually like learning games by playing them but Spice Wars is way too light on the tooltips. And even when they’re used, they hide other mysteries. Like this:


I don’t know what 4 of these things are and I can’t find them referenced anywhere else in the interface.

It’s bizarre this game is so opaque and badly documented because Northgard was obvious and well documented (at least by tooltips).

I think the bonus only triggers when the information level bar actually reaches level two.

Ah, I bet you’re right. So you’re saying although the readout says level 2, it’s not actually level 2 until the bar fills up. Let me see if I can check that with a saved game…

EDIT: Nope, you’re wrong. : ( The Information bar is at level 2, as indicated. It’s empty because I’ve made no progress towards level 3, and won’t until I put a third spy into play. Something is absolutely broken in the game. Actually, many things, most likely, but I can verify this minor but particular broken thing with multiple saved games.

Had to restart on Conquest because it was too easy and the game spawned a planet without any Harkonnen (the game randomly drops one House at the start of every Conquest for some reason).

Still too easy on Hard, the AI seems content to stay on their side of the map and not fight me for anything. It’s been a while since I played Northguard but I remember the AI kicking me ass – could use some of that here.

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.

Are you going to do a front page review? I think you’ve got a lot of good detail here for one.

Also, the Devs are actively tracking their bugs via the Landsradd here:

So I wanted to circle back to some advice now that I’ve won a game. How does one:

  1. Catch someone who is ahead on CHOAM shares? Just attack their spice fields to force selling to survive?

  2. Catch someone who is ahead on Hegemony? Just take their regions with focus on hegemony modifiers or spice fields?

  3. Catch up on influence? (Especially when mine is plummeting for starting all these wars)

It feels like the answer is to be at war. And I love that. Except random Landraad votes kept putting me at a truce status. Not only was it bad, but it felt weird as Atraides to spend most of the last third of the game as a “traitor” for breaking truces I didn’t start. Is there a less traitorous way to return to a war footing?

Is there a way to have an allied victory? I played nice with the Fremen all game for lore reasons, but that also meant we were both moments from beating everyone and each other. The game came down to a last territory and that felt weird when we were working together the whole time and suddenly they lose.

What I’d always ask is: how did we get into this situation? What did their current position cost them and how can I punish that or prevent it next time or do it myself?

Selling spice and buying shares both keep upward pressure on the CHOAM price. You don’t necessarily have to catch up on the CHAOM market, just delay them enough to win by other means.

Hegemony tends to reflect a strong position and snowball, but a big lead will also invite dog-piling on that threat. Consider selling CHAOM to hire mercenaries and buff them with your support units, then target the key buildings.

Diplomatically breaking truces early has a cost, but IIRC they have an expiration date that makes it free again. Breaking it by attacking is what gets you labeled a Traitor (incidentally, assassination attempts don’t). Asking for Tribute (requires a tech) lets you break the truce for free if they refuse.

Atreides strong influence generation should be enough to buy out a truce now and then, and they can afford to save some up instead of always spending it on votes. However, their bonuses are defensive and diplomatic, so make treaties with other lagging factions to help them keep the pressure up. Definitely scout the leader so you can pick off assets when they’re busy fighting elsewhere.

I expect that only pre-made teams have allied victory.

I admit I am feeling shaky on my grasp of the influence and voting element of the game. I focused primarily on building a giant economy then wielded it as military might to counter bully Hakonnen off the map and then to grab just a bit more territory for the Hegemony win. The Fremen were crazy close behind as I avoided fighting them. But if they only had a few hundred more points, I would have lost instead of won. And that feels weird to truce myself into a loss. As I did all that, perhaps I didn’t fully grasp how much Atreides influence attributes were allowing me to stay mostly ignorant of influence stuff.

Where I did notice it was when I attacked factions that I had a truce with, I lost a chunk of Landsraad standing and could not vote for awhile. The truce status was hoisted on me by Landsraad. It really sucked as the votes happened right when I had Harkonnen on the ropes after the Barron had started it all. I did wait out about 30 days, but I still got branded traitor with the negatives. It sounds like I am missing the diplomatic way to end a truce rather than attacking? Outside of the tribute option can I just remove the truce over time somehow?

On the “how did I get into this situation” stuff, I guess I was RPing a bit too much. I saw Fremen as my friends so I ignored them. As I counter attacked then obliterated Harkonnen, this removed all pressure from the Fremen so their Hegemony grew and grew. I saw Ecaz as another friend (minus their early backstab) so I left them alone as well, but was in a stock market war with them all game as they kept buying up all the CHOAM. Eventually I broke the truce by attacking their spice fields in an attempt to halt their exploding CHOAM dominance. Then I accidentally won by territory/ Hegemony (my economic territory + conquered Harkonnen territory + Ecaz spice fields) probably moments before my buddy the Fremen beat me.

I guess there is no peace on Arakis. But I do need to then figure out how to get to war without such a heavy diplomatic hit (even as I was not fully utilizing Landsraad, the standing levels gave me nice bonuses).

I just noticed this was on PC game pass and I’m a little curious. Would you say this might work for someone who isn’t terribly experienced with 4X or RTS (outside of stuff like Civ and War/Starcraft) or should I just pass on by?

If you already have game pass, I’d say give it a shot! If you’re looking at it for a reason to subscribe to game pass, my take so far is that you’re not going to miss much if you pass. I don’t think it’s terrible by any means, but I haven’t found much enjoyment out of the game yet.

Already have Game Pass, was just paging through and noticed this game. I was just curious how much “homework” would be required to get up to speed on the game if I’m not terribly familiar with the genre, at least not recently.

I think you can jump in and do the tutorial and be fine. It’s pretty different than the traditional RTS genre, so I don’t think lack of familiarity will hurt you here.