4X games light up my brain and starting Dune Spice Wars the first time was almost like the expanding brain meme came to life. The genre is enough to interest me, but add a sci-fi fantasy that sets the promise for deep political and economic systems that revolve around conflict over a basic resource, and will make me very happy.
In theory. Dune Spice Wars has all of these things, but it’s also in Early Access. Management systems are too complicated and extremely restrictive. You have few meaningful options on how to campaign, and that means few incentives to keep playing. It’s promising, but the current version is a bit disappointing that betrays its own possibilities.
Dune Spice Wars Early Access Review: Not so spicy yet
Dune Spice Wars opens with a dramatic narrative sequence depicting the motivations of the four factions. I opted for Fremen, initially. They are the only indigenous race left on the planet and the one that wants to “green the planet” by regaining its rightful place. I discovered shortly after starting the game that my choice really mattered very little. Aside from a few minor perks and a few slightly different advisors, the Fremen play similarly to the Smugglers, who play similarly to the Atreides, who play similarly to the Harkonnen.
Your goal is, as always in a 4X game, total mastery. It doesn’t matter how you achieve this goal, especially since there is only one way to do it: to satisfy the trade unions with regular shipments of spices and conquer the other three factions. . You will earn species by harvesting spice fields near certain villages, conquering settlements for more resources, and customizing those villages and towns with buildings that increase your resources in one way or another, such as gold, extra water. , Dune’s supplies or food version. .
Everything is pretty standard stuff, albeit with a dune skin drawn on it. Combat revolves around a limited list of unit types that, despite their apparent strengths and weaknesses, tend to work the same in most circumstances.
I’m one of those people who likes too complex games. If you let me take notes to keep track of your systems, I’d love to. Spice Wars aims for complexity, but the current version fails in several ways.
It takes the political system. In my first meetings in Landsraan, meetings of national councils that pass laws and shape the government, I used all my influence to pass measures that benefited me, even at the expense of the citizens. There are some issues with this, though. One is the corruption inherent in this process, a submerged and submerged political method that goes against the house of honor of the Atreides or the Fremen nobles.
The other is unnecessary complexity. In addition to the influence, there’s a second statistic I’ve already forgotten that determines how many votes you can cast and how likely you are to get what you want. You’ll automatically end up having influence no matter how you play, so the end result looks like a tricky façade placed on top of a too-linear system.
The problem also affects other areas of the game. Authority, for example, comes naturally from the colonies you conquer. If you want to subjugate a new people, you need a little authority, but getting it is just a matter of waiting a day for the game. It doesn’t matter how you manage or mismanage your territories.
The same goes for the espionage branch. Aside from the tricky menu and advisor statistics, infiltration comes down to sending agents on a search and waiting for them to succeed. Here, too, your actions have far less influence than you think.
Faction advisers and leaders also seem like a missed opportunity. They are one of the few aspects after the initial introduction with a text of substantial flavor that gives them personality and, one might think, a dynamic role to play in the world. Instead, they perform essentially the same functions.
I was surprised to see that my spy-oriented advisor had the same espionage tasks available and even the same chances of success as my second advisor, who was less skilled in espionage work.
Early Access Review of Dune Spice Wars – The Conclusion
- Strong potential.
- Material of rich origin to build.
- 4X strategy solid foundation.
- The factions are too similar.
- Land management is pretty basic.
- Unnecessary complexity in multiple systems.
- Superficial narration and characters.
Spice Wars has a rich source to take advantage of to create meaningful moments suitable for these different personalities, and hopefully eventually do more with their characters to differentiate themselves from similar games.
I still enjoyed my time with Dune Spice Wars despite all this. It’s a strong 4X game with everything you’d expect from the genre, so if you’re looking for a Dune-flavored strategy game, it’s a good idea to keep going and get started now. There are many more possibilities here, and with a few tweaks, Spice Wars could be a standout strategy game once early access comes out.
[Note: Shiro Games provided the copy of Dune Spice Wars used for this Early Access review.]