Spice battles and shipbreakers

A couple of sci-fi gaming recommendations…

Dune game image

Dune: Spice Wars
Shiro Games

Finally got my hands on this RTS from my New Year wishlist at the beginning of the year, in which I was hoping it would follow in the lineage of the two quality retro Dune games from the Amiga era.

I’ve played around 10 hours and it’s safe to say it’s on the simpler side of where the genre is at these days, much in the vein of the enjoyable Norse-themed Northgard by the same company.

That means it’s more about managing your faction strengths and limitations alongside the various economic factors than it is about clever command of loads of units on a battlefield. In play terms, it feels like a little like a mobile game to me, basically eschewing lots of fiddly micromanagement for a broader, more macro-economic and diplomatic decision-making type of gameplay.

This is no bad thing if you want a less stressful experience than, say, a Company Of Heroes, and I believe Northgard itself has spawned many imitators elsewhere as a consequence of its high chill-factor.

Aesthetically – despite lacking the extremely detailed modelling and physics of some other games – Spice Wars still presents a curiously compelling and immersive Arrakis-themeed chessboard for you to move your pieces around on, and it’s very much in the visual and audio style of the new cinematic masterpiece, too, which works for me. 

Overall, it turns out to not be quite a direct descendent of the mighty Amiga version of Dune II, but well worth a look for strategy players nonetheless.

Shipbreaker game image

Hardspace Shipbreaker
Blackbird Interactive

This is another one I’ve had people badgering me to play for months, and the fact that it’s firmly in the marmite Work Simulator category put me off.

Upfront here I’ll say, never let the fact that a game simulates a day job put you off giving it a go – if that job is something as cool as salvaging knackered spaceships in orbit.

I’ve only played the tutorial so I can’t speak for the longevity, but the brutally unfair, humorously drawn industrial dystopia the game sets up from the very first menu screen is an instant ‘will play more’ vote from me. Think Portal and Portal 2, because the worldbuilding is that good.

It’s fundamentally a puzzle game where one wrong cut with a laser or jetpack boost can lead to you being crushed, blown up or catapulted off into space, so what’s not to like? It’s also newly out of early access and still a little bit buggy when you delve into it as I understand it, but I can tell you already that if Blackbird get on top of the gripes and do commit to implementing a multiplayer, this will be a must-have.

Don’t wait on it like I did, give it a go.

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