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

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.

I enjoyed my time with it last weekend a fair bit and look forward to more next weekend. It is in a unique place in that it’s not a 15-20 minute frantic RTS, but it’s not a 15 hour 4x game either. It feels a bit like a real time board game with its layered independent strategy systems. In computer RTS terms, I feel it shares a lot of the feel of bits of Sins of the Solar Empire or Kohan. I dig it for all of that, so the Dune theme is a bonus.

I give it a thumbs up, but caution anyone who might be approaching with nostalgia for the Westwood games. Also, despite it being 1.0, it is clearly a work in progress by the dev team. I bet this version will look like early access 2.0 from the viewpoint of the game’s state a year or more from now.

Edit: fixed typo on Koran to Kohan

I’ve never heard of this, and it’s hard to Google. What is it?

A typo of Kohan, which is an excellent non-traditional RTS classic.

There are typos and there are typos, man…

Yeah, that was an unfortunate typo or maybe autocorrect. I’m not sure as I typed it up at bedtime.

@Fifth_Fret Sorry, I meant Kohan: The Immortal Sovereigns/ Ahriman’s Gift. It was an excellent RTS that to me shares the slower pacing, independent village capture, captured village slots for economy, minimal unit counts, and blob adjacent combat of Dune Spice Wars.

While I am at it, the mixing of point to point fast travel with slower tactical travel, resource purchasing, stock crashing, buy low/ sell high, varied resource needs based on map start location, independent invaders that grow in strength over time, and blob adjacent combat of Sins of the Solar Empire seem shared in Dune Spice Wars.

@divedivedive if you end up trying it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Enjoying this quite a bit. I’ve only played Atreides so far, but based on facing off against the others there is a decent amount of asymmetry. The game systems are quite a bit more complicated than it looks like at first - there must be almost two dozen “resources” to track. For me, the complication is good. And the devs did the setting justice.

This is where I was at. Before that, I started to shift into the idea that each faction was just a statistical shift from the others, but then I got into a few more games. Or more accurately, I replayed the same game from an earlier save several times. In that one game I was Smugglers against the Atreides in a Kanly Duel. The first time, I played the game like my previous games with the knowledge that CHOAM matters, Hegemony matters, and Landsraad matters, but choking someone militarily helps all of that. If their spice stops flowing, they can’t pursue much.

However, Atreides gets a fair bit of political boosts. And while the Smugglers have a cool underground network that the Skaven only wished they could have, the Smugglers have a pathetic 50 votes with little to help Landsraad unless you lean WAAAAAAY into it. “Whatever,” I thought. “I will use my military might gained from the underworld economy to starve them before it can matter.”

But then the AI decided my ignorance should be punished and I got assassinated. This threw me off and I reloaded the game a few times trying to understand not just how to assassinate, but how to avoid being assassinated. I then spent a few runs at the same game learning more about the game than just “kill them until I win.” I learned a lot about agents, captured agents, freeing agents, using intel, slowing assassination, and purging cells. “Ok, this game has an intrigue layer, that is pretty… Dune.”

But then I still lost to (and folks probably saw this coming) Atreides DOMINATING the Landsraad as I sniffed out the assassination. They ate up all the Charters then became the Governor and won. There was nearly nothing I could do about it as it was a major uphill climb to get influence and votes as Smugglers while it was an easy glide for Atreides. This was especially so as I was spending resources to dominate the spice and avoid assassination.

It was all pretty great.

And this is where I have landed. To return to my board game analogy, Dune Spice Wars doesn’t feel like a traditional video game. Certainly not an RTS one. I feel like there are all theses resources and axes to monitor, you know, like in many board games. You constantly have to make sure to watch for vulnerability on one or a few strategic mini-games that are filling or emptying an axis that can lead to a sudden end of the game. Watch that hegemony, but don’t neglect influence! Watch the influence, but don’t neglect your spice taxes. Watch the spice taxes, but watch the CHOAM shares! And military presence tips the scales on many of the axes so you get a lot of conflict, but with an ever present subterfuge filter that is isolated from the military conflict. So Dune ends up being a 4x game with a lot of combat, while also having a lot of intrigue. To me, that is rather thematic.

I even ended up booting up the decades old classic Kohan (watch that spelling Chap!) and it felt ponderous with lots of waiting for resources while using military to pressure the same clock watching of the other side. I then felt like it was just one axis of Dune. I greatly missed the other elements. And those other same elements are a bit too overpowering in other 4x games to the point that the war axis (of something like a traditional RTS like Kohan or Sins of a Solar Empire) feels fleeting.

I think Dune Spice Wars is a pretty unique game. The more I understand it, the more I appreciate its unique place between genres. I am enjoying it and greatly look forward to how it grows over time.