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Everything we know about Dune Awakening

Everything we know so far about Dune Awakening and its upcoming beta

Paul Atreides makes an appearance at the end of the latest Dune: Awakening trailer.
Image credit: Funcom

Want to learn more about Dune: Awakening ahead of its release? Funcom's announcement of a brand new upcoming MMORPG set in the Dune universe has predictably turned a lot of heads. Who here isn't a fan of watching a colossal sandworm swallowing up a spice harvester whole? And who doesn't want to be there on the ground watching it happen?

That's what Funcom promise with Dune: Awakening: a massive open-world survival MMO with a focus on keeping yourself alive and watered in the dunes of Arrakis, avoiding attacks from sandworms and rival factions, and building your power bit by bit in the most hostile planet ever colonised.

Below we'll walk you through everything we know so far about Dune: Awakening, from its expected release date to details on gameplay, combat, story, and how to sign up for the upcoming beta.

In this guide:

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Dune Awakening release date speculation

Dune: Awakening has no official release date yet, but our best guess is that Dune: Awakening will release in early access in 2024. We know that developers Funcom are already asking for sign-ups to the beta, so the game is well past the early pre-alpha stage of development.

It's quite likely that the game will follow in the footsteps of many a survival game and release into early access at first, which is why we could see players get access to the game as early as 2024 - or perhaps even the end of 2023. That may be a stretch, though.

It's worth remembering that this is all speculation, and that until an official release date is given by the devs, we won't be able to do any better than some educated guessing on when Dune: Awakening will come out. Bookmark this page for all the latest info as it arrives!

Dune Awakening beta

There will be a Dune: Awakening beta, and you can sign up right now by heading to the Dune: Awakening website and clicking on "Beta Signup" in the top-right of the browser page.

According to the website, signing up to the beta will also "register your interest in joining future beta tests" - so it's likely we'll see several betas, and multiple opportunities to play Dune: Awakening before it actually releases.

We don't yet know when the Dune: Awakening beta will start or end, but hopefully we won't have to wait too long. If Funcom are indeed planning on running more than one beta test between now and release, then we'd hope to see at least one before the end of 2023. So if you want to partake and see the game early, then better sign up now!

Dune Awakening platforms

Dune: Awakening will launch on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S when it releases. The game is currently available for wishlisting on Steam.

So far we have no information on whether or not Dune: Awakening will have crossplay or cross-save functionality, but hopefully Funcom will reveal this information later on down the line.

Dune Awakening gameplay

Dune: Awakening combines the MMORPG genre with the survival and crafting genre, all set in a massive open world filled with the myriad dangers of Arrakis: desert heat, lack of water, and of course, attacks from the iconic sandworms that prowl the dunes. Several of these scenes can be seen in the game's latest trailer, which is aptly dubbed the Survive Arrakis trailer.

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According to an exclusive video interview with PCGamer, the game begins with the player stranded in the middle of the desert with nothing but a knife made from scrap metal, and your first step is to ensure your survival by obtaining water from the nearby enemy camps at the point of your newly crafted blade.

The core gameplay loop of Dune: Awakening is built upon five "pillars":

  • Survival - water discipline, and surviving the sandstorms
  • Politics and Intrigue - siding with factions and fighting other factions
  • Infinite Exploration - the world changes with every storm
  • Combined Arms - vehicles, abilities, and melee and ranged combat
  • Expression and Customization - making your character look and play how you want

After ensuring your own survival, Dune: Awakening's systems will then encourage you to start thinking long-term, growing your standing on Arrakis by starting guilds, harvesting and selling spice from giant geyser-esque spice blows, running fleets of vehicles, engaging in politics with the major houses, and trying to hang onto the power you've generated over the course of your character's story.

A base built on solid rock in Dune: Awakening, with a Groundcar parked outside.
With a little luck - and a lot of spice - your endgame base in Dune: Awakening may look something like this. | Image credit: Funcom

Building and crafting

Storms and sandworm attacks are very common on Arrakis, so your survival depends on finding shelter in the form of hard rock, where the sandworms can't burrow. This is where you can start to build your own base piece by piece out of sections and modules of various styles and materials.

A screenshot showing base building mechanics in Dune: Awakening.
Base-building in Dune: Awakening should be familiar to survival fans, with all the usual hallmarks of the genre intact, including building weapons and structures from schematics. | Image credit: Funcom

But no matter how well you establish yourself and your base on solid ground, you'll still need to venture out into the desert in order to obtain schematics that you can use to craft items and equipment. Bylos explained in another PCGamer interview that progression is less about working your way through a tech tree, and more about exploring the desert to find these schematics and other secrets.

The world changes with every storm

The Coriolis storm system changes the desert with every storm. Certain points of interest may be covered by sand and become lost, while the storm may uncover other long-untouched areas. Basically it's a clever way for the devs to keep changing the map of Dune: Awakening at regular intervals, encouraging exploration of the desert. The desert also looks to be a vast, treacherous place full of infinite dangers, but luckily there will be methods to get around quickly, including sandbikes for zippy desert traversal.

A spice plume emanates from the landscape while an Ornithopter flies nearby in Dune: Awakening.
Expect the terrain to constantly change in Dune: Awakening, throwing up regular new challenges for players to contend with. | Image credit: Funcom

Upgrades and Spice addiction

As you'd expect from a game set in the Dune universe, spice is key to everything. It's the most valuable substance in the universe and can be used for a variety of purposes. You can choose to simply sell it and gain fame and power through the market; or you can consume spice to upgrade your character and unlock new skills and abilities.

However, Dune: Awakening is attempting to make things more interesting by adding a flipside to this upgrade system. If you consume enough spice then you'll become addicted to it, which forces you to keep consuming spice regularly in order to avoid certain negative effects, such as reduced maximum health.

How does combat work?

Combat in Dune: Awakening looks to be a fairly involved affair. Funcom's "Combined Arms" system looks to seamlessly integrate different types of combat: there are various land and air vehicles (including everyone's favourite ornithopters) that can be piloted and used to attack others; or you can stay on foot and make use of a variety of melee or ranged weapons. Familiar, over-the-shoulder scuffles with lasguns - one of the standard weapons used on Arrakis - can be seen in the Survive Arrakis trailer, as well as more robust vehicular combat interactions.

A screenshot showing over-the-shoulder combat in Dune: Awakening.
The deserts of Arrakis are harsh and full of intrigue, but there's nothing a little laser-piercing aggresion can't solve. | Image credit: Funcom

There are also special abilities that you can gain through the Great Houses, the most well-known of which is the Bene Gesserit school which gives you access to the ability to influence others through use of The Voice, as well as various other heightened abilities.

You'll have to think not only about the best kind of weaponry or machinery you need to win the fight, but also how likely you are to attract the attention of a sandworm. If your fight with another guild is interrupted by a gigantic sandworm attack, then everyone present is in big trouble.

Concept art for Dune: Awakening: smoking a spice cigarette, an irreverent Harkonnen shows her disdain for the Atreides by pouring precious water out; while an assassin surreptitiously grasps his dagger, readying himself for violence.
Note the dagger concealed behind the back of the figure on the right. Assassination missions will play a part in Dune: Awakening's story. | Image credit: Funcom

Dune Awakening story

Dune: Awakening puts players in the role of person referred to as "Sleeper" who wakes amid the deserts of Arrakis, and must fight to survive on the most dangerous planet in the universe. As players survive and thrive, they'll come into contact with various characters - some of whom will be familiar faces from the books and films.

We don't know much more about the Dune: Awakening story at this time, but we do know that the story takes place in an "alternate history" which does not fit with the story of the books or films. In an interview with PCGamer, Creative Director Joel Bylos told them the following:

"Dune: Awakening is set in the year 10199 AG, Bylos said, which is about eight years after the events of 2021's Dune film. But in the MMO, those events won't play out quite the same way people familiar with the books or films will remember them."
A vast orange-coloured sand world of treachery and intrigue awaits the player in Dune: Awakening.
Dune: Awakening begins with the player absolutely at the mercy of Arrakis, but the endgame will see them rubbing shoulders with vital characters from the Dune mythos. | Image credit: Funcom

This gives Funcom the freedom to play around quite a bit with the source material. We may, for example, get to rub shoulders with key characters like Paul Atreides and the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen without having to massage events such that they fit with the current canon. From the PCGamer interview, we know that there are notably changes from the source material, including the vital fact that Paul's father, Duke Leto Atreides, remains alive in thie alternate telling, which is not the case in the original Dune canon. It remains to be seen what other linchpin events have altered the timeline for Dune: Awakening, however.

We do know that there seems to be some separation between the ecology of Dune in the film and the game. In a developer update blog regarding the Art of Arrakis, Tech Art Director Richard Cawte writes that "the Dune in the movie shows no natural vegetation whatsoever, which is not the case for our Dune."

A player doing a cool spin on a sand bike in Dune: Awakening
While predominantely sand-laden, Dune: Awakening will feature an Arrakis with considerable more vegetation than what was seen in Denis Villeneuve's films. | Image credit: Funcom

Dune Awakening developers: Funcom

Dune: Awakening is being developed and published by Funcom, a developer with plenty of experience in the MMO genre. They're the developers behind the Conan games, including 2008 MMORPG Age Of Conan, and the more recent survival game, 2018's Conan Exiles. Go even further back and they're well known for their The Longest Journey adventure games, released in 1999 and 2006 respectively.

Back in 2019, Funcom announced that it had signed a deal with Legendary Studios (who own the movie and TV rights to Dune) to create at least three games set in the Dune universe.

One of these three games turned out to be Dune: Spice Wars, an excellent strategy game developed by Shiro Games (creators of Northgard) and published by Funcom. The game is currently out in early access - but just to be clear, aside from the source material there's no link between Spice Wars and Dune: Awakening, and you don't need to have played either one in order to enjoy the other.

Dune Awakening trailer archive

There have been three trailers to date: the Dune: Awakening announcement trailer released in August 2022, the Dune: Awakening pre-alpha teaser trailer which gave us our first glimpses of gameplay during The Game Awards 2022, and the most recent Dune: Awakening - Survive Arrakis trailer, which offered up detailed glimpses of survival gameplay. Both the original announcement trailer and the Survive Arrakis trailer have been embedded above.

With the release of the Survive Arrakis trailer, Funcom also revealed behind-the-scene footage, showcasing developer interviews on the inspirations and goals behind Dune: Awakening. The teammembers interviewed in the footage all speak on their efforts to develop a survival adventure that does something unique with the Dune setting, while also acknowledging the blueprint laid by the original Frank Herbert novels and the film series.

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Otherwise, Funcom have been marketing Dune: Awakening with a series of micro-trailers called "Shigawire Reels" - 30-40 second videos which combine some stunning concept artwork for the game with tidbits of lore. The first Shigawire Reel is shown below, and you can also view the whole playlist on YouTube.

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Here's a gallery and writeup of all the sections of lore that have been released so far as part of Dune: Awakening's Shigawire Reel trailers:

  • Sandstorm: The sandstorms of Arrakis are huge and deadly, capable of tearing flesh from bone. If caught in one, a stilltent may be your only hope.
  • Out-Freyn Stillsuit: Outdated design and low-cast mass production mean that no native of Arrakis would be caught in the open wearing this offworld stillsuit.
  • Desert Construction: Structures on Arrakis must be built on solid rock or will eventually be destroyed by sandworms. Each piece is fitted individually, allowing for infinite variety.
  • One-Man Groundcar: These nimble vehicles are favored by scouts and scavengers for short distance travle. They can carry light loads and can be customized further with modules.
  • Groundcar: Versatile all-terrain vehicles with space for up to four passengers, groundcars can be outfitted with several specialized modules, and can even serve as light combat vehicles.
  • Heighliner: The immense Spacing Guild Heighliner transports are a constant reminder of offworld scrutiny. Without consuming spice from Arrakis, Guild Navigators cannot foresee safe paths through space.
  • Day And Night: When the sun sets, the scorching surface temperature plunges. Fremen water discipline teaches us to travel by night, and at dawn to harvest dew from shrubs that survive in the shade.
  • Villages: Home to mostly non-Fremen locals, the villages of Arrakis are trade hubs for resources and information. Keep your weapon holstered or be prepared to face the overseeing Sardaukar.
  • The Exchange: Those in search of player-sourced tech, schematics, weapons, and raw resources like spice can find them at the exchange, or they can try their luck with one of the many other vendors that crowd the villages.
  • Ecology Lab: Ancient stations build and forgotten by the first imperial explorers, a few were later rediscovered by the Fremen. Some were dedicated to the study of Arrakis and the adaptation of species, others were used for less conventional research.
  • Safety In Numbers: To survive and secure the most valuable resources on one of the most dangerous planets in the universe, many seek safety and power in numbers.
  • Desert Mouse: This desert mouse has deep roots in Fremen mythology and culture. It is respected for its ability to survive in the desert, earning it the name Muad'Dib, making it a model of guidance for young Fremen.
  • Moons Of Arrakis: First to rise in the sky is Krelln, followed by the smaller Arvon, also known to the locals as Muad'Dib due to the surface markings that resemble the desert mouse.
  • Ornithopters: Ornithopters are extremely versatile craft used for scouting, combat, and transport. Modified 'thopters are capable of carrying other vehicles such as spice-collecting Sandcrawlers.
  • Spice Blow: Spice blows are violent eruptions of unrefined spice resulting from a buildup of underground pressures. They can be seen from huge distances.
  • Air Combat: Always listen for the telltale sound of an ornithopter's wings, as they can appear at any moment to devastate the battlefield.
  • Ground Vehicle Combat: Armored groundcars and other ground vehicles can provide impressive firepower and protection, but be wary of wormsign. A large sandworm can devour vehicles and passengers whole.
  • Infantry: Not to be underestimated in combat, those fighting on foot have access to gadgets and an array of deadly weaponry. A select few have even been taught to stretch the limits of human potential by the Great Schools of the Imperium.
  • Sandworms: The great sandworms of Dune roam the open desert and are sensitive to any rhythmic vibration, including footsteps. Seek the safety of rock islands and learn how to use a thumper to distract worms.
  • Shai'hulud: The Fremen word for sandworm has many meanings, including Old Man of the Desert and Old Father Eternity. They are the embodiment of their faith and essential to the creation of spice.

That's everything we know so far about Dune: Awakening, but keep an eye out for updates to this page as we learn more information about Funcom's ambitious upcoming MMO.

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