Dune: Awakening will turn me into a blood-drinking, spice-addicted survivalist

A survival game based in the world of Dune makes a lot of sense. Both the books and the films spend a lot of time explaining the mechanics of survival in the harsh desert world of Arrakis, which made me quite curious to learn more about Dune: Awakening during a recent hands-off gameplay preview from developer Funcom. The MMO does a lot of the standard survival stuff, like crafting equipment, harvesting resources, and exploring dungeons. But what makes it interesting are the parts that are Dune-specifically. That means players are forced to think a lot about water, heat, herbs and – of course – sandworms.

In the game you take on the role of a prisoner aboard a transport ship that crashes on the surface of Arrakis. Funcom is keeping the story largely secret for now, but Awaken is set in a time when the Fremen – the only humans to thrive in the harsh desert environment – ​​all seem to have gone missing, which seems to be the central mystery. I watched a presentation with about 30 minutes of gameplay led by creative director Joel Bylos, and there were a few details that got me really excited about donning a still suit.

Hydration is an integral part of Dune. It’s the reason characters wear suits that collect sweat and tears to recycle as water, and that’s of course turned into a gameplay mechanic in Awaken. You need to keep a close eye on your temperature in the desert sun; If you get heat stroke, you will get thirsty very quickly. You can avoid this somewhat by sticking to the cooler shades or heading out at night, but no matter what, you need to be in tune with your hydration levels, shown by a big blue bar.

First of all, you have to be creative to quench that thirst. Early on, players can draw moisture from the few plants they find, but this only provides a small amount of water, and too much will make you sick. On the grosser end of the spectrum, you can use a device to extract the blood from dead enemies. Once you have the right equipment, you can filter the blood and turn it into purified water. But in a pinch, you can just… drink it, although consuming blood will reduce your health. Funcom used the term ‘water progression’ to describe the evolving way you can hydrate as you progress.

Seasoning – or blend, if you prefer – is what keeps the economy going Dune The universe moves, and that is no different here. According to Funcom, you need to gather the resources to 1) pay off taxes for the land you eventually build a base on and 2) feed your growing addiction to the substance. It is not yet clear how addiction works and whether you will go on psychedelic trips. But actually, acquiring spices seems quite dangerous. At various times, clouds of spices appear in the open desert, looking like a large purple dust cloud. You must then rush to get there before the other players and move fast enough to collect herbs before attracting a worm.

From what I saw, harvesting herbs seems like at least a two-person job. One player controls an ornithopter that transports the harvester to the hit, and the other controls the harvester to collect spices. While that’s happening, the pilot can keep an eye out for dangers: other players, approaching sandstorms, and any signs of sandworms. Technically you can do it solo, the developer says, but I can’t imagine it will be easy. (Aside from worms, spice flows, and sandstorms, the desert will also have random ship crashes for you to loot and, at night, marauding bands of Sardaukar troops.)

And worms are of course the big danger. “You can’t beat a sandworm,” Bylos noted in the presentation. “They are not in charge. You don’t fight them. They are a threat throughout the game, from start to finish.” When you are in the open sand, on foot or in a vehicle, there is a meter that lets you know how much noise you are making so you can avoid the worms for as long as possible. But once they appear, there’s not much you can do but run: you’re safe on one of the rocky outcroppings, but if a worm catches you in the sand, you’re done for.

There is much more Awaken, including building cooperative bases and what sounds like some political stuff once you’re more established on Arrakis. But most of all, my brief look at the game showed that it takes the franchise’s survival core seriously – and I can’t wait to drink some blood.

Dune: Awakening coming to PC, PS5 and Xbox, but currently has no release date.

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