The hybrid 4X and RTS set in Frank Herbert's universe of Dune will launch out of Early Access this week, on September 14th, as Shiro Games releases Dune: Spice Wars. First released last year, Spice Wars is a surprising hybrid of the two genres that you'd expect from modern RTS innovators Shiro Games, who previously made Northgard.
Dune: Spice Wars is notable for its emphasis on not just RTS combat, but exploring the desert planet Arrakis and interacting with the other factions. War is an option, sure, but true to the political nature of the Dune setting and the pre-book Spice Wars you can just as easily make deals with others or win via economic stranglehold over the galactic Spice corporation.
On launch, Spice Wars will include six factions. House Atreides, House Harkonnen, House Corrino, Fremen, Smugglers, and the new launch faction, House Ecaz. You'll be able to take control of them in one off skirmish or multiplayer matches, or steer one through an extended campaign of Conquest Mode. Conquest mode is a series of singleplayer scenarios as one of the four Great House factions that stretches you with unique situations and procedural maps, as well as randomized perks and challenges.
Adapted from the extended world of Dune, newcomers House Ecaz are patrons of entertainers and artists who control a multi-world empire. They're a historical ally of House Atreides, but they're independent in the conflict on Arrakis. Their primary power will be to build sanctuaries, towns which glorify the local culture and cannot be captured. You can read more about those on the Dune: Spice Wars website.
It's an interesting idea for a faction, and I think it'll fit well into the types of soft power that made Spice Wars so interesting to me when I first previewed it last year. "Truly taking control of Dune will require clever use of soft political currencies, in addition to agents to infiltrate and lobby important organizations," I said at the time. "Meanwhile, your hard resources go towards backing up those plays by expanding your holdings on-world."
You can find Dune: Spice Wars on Steam for $30.