Dune Awakening could be leading the way for the next generation of MMORPGs

Character from Dune Awakening first trailer in front of two gameplay screenshots
Credit: Funcom

Character from Dune Awakening first trailer in front of two gameplay screenshots
Credit: Funcom

Dune Awakening is in an tough spot. The hype surrounding the sci-fi franchise is at an all-time high, with the Timothée Chalamet-led Dune and Dune: Part Two becoming major hits at the box office. At the same time, a video game based on the haunting Arrakis has always been a tough sell. However, with the arrival of an MMORPG, there's no better way to introduce a new game in the franchise. And best of all? It looks superb.

The Dune Awakening release date, unfortunately, hasn't been confirmed. However, from a recent presentation recorded at GDC 2024 for press, Dune Awakening looks like it could be a huge hit for Conan: Exiles developer Funcom, so long as it can stick the landing.

From the short amount of gameplay we've seen, Dune Awakening looks stunning. The heat coming from the surface of Arrakis' sandy plains looks absolutely inviting, even if the scorching sun would burn off most people's skin. Even the terrifying thought of a Sandworm doesn't sound too bad when you witness such a beautiful-looking experience. Unfortunately though, you can't ride them at launch.

During the presentation, the game's Creative Director, Joel Bylos, led press through a variety of gameplay segments. First up, was the character creator, which looks... as you'd expect. Fortunately, there's a variety of tools and sliders to adjust your character, and the UI is heavily Dune-ified in nature, but there's nothing surprising here.

Player character using a laser tool to mine rocks in Dune Awakening
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Credit: Funcom

The actual core loop of the MMORPG is where things get really enticing. Dune Awakening's version of Arrakis looks both difficult and fun to experience, requiring you to constantly look out for water sources. The deadly sun is a constant reminder that you're at the mercy of the elements, and it seems to be a consistent concern for your survival on Arrakis.

Harvesting resources looks more involved than simply swinging tools at rocks or trees - instead, you'll have to analyse and laser structural weaknesses, requiring a bit more effort. Jumping forward, Bylos showcased some combat, which differs depending on your class and build. Gunplay looks a little clunky, like the majority of MMOs, but it can be forgiven considering the absolute immersion baked into the core of the game.

World Events, such as a spaceship crashing onto the surface or Spice Blows that signal a major amount of Spice has become available to the server will certainly keep players constantly on the watch for something that could turn the tides to their favour. Vehicles link together, with the Transport Ornithopter able to pick up vehicles, like the Sand Crawler, making harvesting and collecting the Spice even easier. Bylos also mentions that the Transport Ornithopter can pick up enemy vehicles, which will definitely cause chaos in PvP moments.

There's a clearly passionate team behind Dune Awakening. The presentation is keen to show off elements that the recent Dune movies haven't even touched on, at least not in depth. And, if Funcom needed to change any existing lore to fit for a better gameplay experience, the team has been working with Legendary and the Herbert Estate to ensure that it fits within the universe of Dune.

There's a huge focus on immersion and survival from the little we've seen of Awakening's Arrakis. The aforementioned World Events will certainly be chaotic changes in pace that could become life or death for some players, but the intricate details and the focus on creating an original narrative seem like a big part of Dune Awakening, just as much as creating a successful gameplay loop.

I'm really excited, and hopeful, that I'll get to play during the Dune Awakening beta. Honestly, this game looks like it was built to use the best graphics cards to their advantage, and I cannot wait to explore Arrakis soon.

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