Dune: Awakening is an open-world survival MMO in development by Funcom that was revealed in 2021 and given a 4K announcement trailer in 2022. It is based on the Frank Herbert novels with visuals inspired by the award-winning Denis Villeneuve 2021 film. Creative director Joel Bylos recently gave an interview with PC Gamer where the Dune: Awakening developer shared details about its survival mechanics and systems. Bylos explains that there are essentially three core survival systems that players will need to be mindful of; shelter from sandstorms, worms, and water. In regard to the giant sandworms of Arrakis, Joel’s comments are a bit reminiscent of a nightmarish version of Field of Dreams.
Shelter, Sandstorms, and Worms
“We’re very focused on a few tight-core survival mechanics. Like shelter: sandstorm shelter,” Bylos said. “Sandworms themselves are a giant threat in the world. If you walk on sand, they will come. If you create vibrations, they will come. So you have to think about how you approach traversal in the game world. And obviously, water. Those are our three key [systems].”
Bylos goes on to explain that the team intends the game to constantly push players to be aware of their survival needs.
“We want them to be continually thinking about, if I’m going across the open sand, I have to think about the sandworms. If there’s a sandstorm coming, I have to know where there’s shelter nearby. If I haven’t built something I need to know where I can hide and where I can get away from the sandstorms. So we’re trying to create this tension. But we’re also approaching it from the viewpoint of a little more accessibility, something like Valheim, where it’s not like just gonna kill you instantly. So you have a little bit of leeway.”
Another factor of the sandstorms is something the developers are calling “infinite expansion” where the landscape is constantly in a state of total flux. This mechanic will allow players to find and lose, items, spaceships, and locations as the storms alter the landscape. It will also allow players to find schematics before others, craft those items and be able to sell them on the exchange as a unique item, at least until another storm uncovers the same schematic later on and is found again. Crafting will play a large role in survival and prosperity, from shelter to weapons and resources, players will always need to think ahead.
The Dune: Awakening developer also expands on how spice will slowly play a factor in character development throughout the game. There will be a “spice level” for each character and as it increases so does their abilities and skills.
“Spice is power.” At the start of the game, players have no strong affiliation to spice but over time it will begin to permeate their bloodstream, which will allow them to enhance their abilities and learn new skills. In some ways, spice sounds like Valheim’s food system: something important to the game but not deadly if neglected.”
The developers have been releasing new screenshots for the game since its 4K announcement trailer in December 2022. They show off a number of the survival mechanics mentioned in the interview along with more of what to expect, in terms of exploring and interacting with Arrakis.
One last detail for those hoping to experience the original plotline from the books is that the game is said to take place in an alternate timeline. Joel Bylos explained how the game is set about eight years after the events of the recent Dune movie and how the team worked both with the Herbert family and Legendary Pictures to create a sort of “what if” type of scenario for the game so players could have their own unique experience.
“It’s similar to the books, but we’ve gone with an alternate history, like a ‘what-if’, if you want,” Bylos said. “We worked closely with the Herbert [family] and Legendary [Pictures], and we found a point, a single point, the single pebble that starts a landslide.”
Bylos shares that players will encounter familiar places and characters from the books and even align themselves with pivotal characters such as Duke Leto. The Dune: Awakening developer, however, does not go into more detail about this. No release date has been given for Dune: Awakening but it is possible that it could launch around the time the next movie gets released.