Dune Awakening: Everything we know so far about the open-world Dune MMO

Dune: Awakening
(Image credit: Funcom)

Dune: Awakening is on its way, turning desert planet Arrakis into an expansive sandbox MMO world to explore (at your own peril). Game developer Funcom is an established name among the best MMORPGs like the Conan series, so we have every faith that its new Dune survival MMO is in safe, capable hands. This is one upcoming MMO we're hoping to count among the litany of new games for 2024, especially after all the gameplay and lore hints that the developer has been drip-feeding us. We've reason to believe that a beta should be out the doors early this year, according to Funcom, so it shouldn't be long now before we get our hands on some MMO-style Dune goodness.

A recent in-engine trailer, titled Survive Arrakis, has given us an even closer look at what to expect when Dune: Awakening gives us the chance to experience Frank Herbert's iconic sci-fi world in this whole new light. We'll be doing so alongside thousands of other players in a massive open world arena where water is scarce, spice is vital, and night and day cycles will pose respective dangers. Here's everything we have uncovered about it so far, including details on accessing the beta, Funcom's mysterious open world, and its newfound focus on social interactivity. 

Recent updates

This Dune Awakening hub was updated on April 5, adding a new trailer captured in Unreal Engine 5.2 and the latest news from Funcom.

Dune Awakening news

Dune: Awakening trailer - Watch it here

The first Dune: Awakening trailer features Paul Atreides' iconic "fear is the mindkiller" monologue from the Frank Herbert novels. Paul speaks this monologue as we see a shot of him from behind, then watch as the camera pans towards ornithopter flying towards a sandstorm. We see a spice harvester get swallowed up by a sandworm before we see Paul's face, his eyes the blue-within-blue that means he has become one of the Fremen. He then launches himself off a cliff to ride the incoming sandworm before the trailer fades to black. 

The latest Dune Awakening trailer treats us to just over two minutes of in-engine footage. "Arrakis is a test," a voice speaks. "Few survive it." It's no wonder that so few do, because a sandworm emerges from the arid landscape just moments later. This new taster of Funcom's sandbox (heavy on the sand) playground shows off what exactly it takes to stay alive in this harsh desert world, from crafting and building bases to scavenging, clambering, and deploying high-powered scifi tech weapons to do the dirty work for you. We're left with some parting words to get us hyped up: "Arrakis is a test. Few survive it, but the humans that do...awaken."

What will Dune: Awakening MMO gameplay be like?

Dune: Awakening

(Image credit: Funcom)

According to creative director Joel Bylos (via Twitter), Dune Awakening is "a survival game, first and foremost, where you must search for water, search for shelter, and walk softly on the sand to avoid the sandworms. In addition to this, you'll be doing it online with thousands of other players."

Case in point, it's a survival MMO. Dune: Awakening is being developed and published by Funcom, a studio best known for another survival game called Conan Exiles. Conan Exiles is set in the world of Conan the Barbarian , tasking you with surviving in the fictional prehistoric age. You create a character, swear allegiance to one of seven religions, and here your journey begins.

Conan Exiles' gameplay requires you to manage hunger and thirst gauges by using natural resources that can be found, as well as fending off dangerous animals. You can capture thralls to help increase your crafting speed or get special crafting recipes and a whole host of other benefits. One update even added pets! 

Now, the thought of managing hunger and thirst on Arrakis for Dune is daunting as hell. We know that Funcom was inspired by action RPG Valheim's water gauge, so we might expect a similar thirst meter in Awakening. 

True to the lore of the source material, Arrakis-dwelling Fremen have to wear stillsuits in order to survive. These special full-body suits capture all bodily fluids and filter the impurities out so that they're potable, so that should be an interesting feature to play with in Awakening; perhaps you'll be able to upgrade your stillsuit in order to increase your water retention? The Dune: Awakening Steam page gives us some clues:

  • "Build shelters against sandstorms, maintain your stillsuit, and master the old ways to walk even the deepest deserts. Avoid or be devoured by the colossal sandworms that dwell beneath the sands."
  • "Hunt for spice blooms and deploy your harvester, then protect it from opportunistic raiders and rival factions"
  • "Tailor every aspect of your character. Consume spice to conquer your senses and acquire powerful abilities. Hone your craft to become sought out for the finest creations. Construct your fortress in the style of your choosing"
  • "Head into unmapped sectors and be the first to discover secrets and riches before the coriolis storms once again shift the sands and alter the landscape."

With these "enemy factions" likely representing other players as well as NPCs, there's a lot to glean from Funcom's notes. Since Dune: Awakening is an open-world MMO, it seems like Arrakis will constantly shift and change in front of your eyes. Sure, some fans think Dune would make a terrible MMO, but we are thinking positively here

Dune: Awakening survival systems

Dune: Awakening Arrakis

(Image credit: Funcom)

Not only is the new Dune title a sprawling MMORPG, but it straddles the genre boundaries to double as a survival game. This makes sense, given the harsh conditions of the planet of Arrakis and its reputation, according to the game's Steam page, as "the deadliest planet in the universe."

In an interview with PCGamer, Funcom creative director Joel Bylos explained the survival mechanics of Dune: Awakening in greater detail.

"We're very focused on a few tight core survival mechanics. Like shelter: sandstorm shelter," he 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]."

It's not just Freman-chomping sandworms, freak sandstorms, and the scarcity of water that you've got to contend with. Arrakis boasts a worrying host of environmental threats, such as extreme temperatures and quicksand to navigate around.

Bylos says this is done deliberately to keep the player on their toes. "We want them to be continually thinking," he told PCGamer. "If I'm going across the open sand, I have to think about the sandworms. If there's a sand storm coming, I have to know where there's shelter nearby. If I haven't built something I need to know where I can hide where I can get away from the sandstorms. So we're trying to create this tension."

We also know that sand crafts will play a large role in the game, with crafting being another core component of the survival genre. Gathering spices will also give you new abilities and boosts, so expect a lot of looting and harvesting when you play Dune: Awakening.

Dune: Awakening Shigawire Reels

Dune: Awakening preview clips and info

(Image credit: Funcom)

The official Dune: Awakening Twitter has been sharing small glimpses of the game's story and world lore via what they call Shigawire Reels. These short clips give you a taster of various elements we can expect to see in this "alternate timeline" version of the Dune universe (via PCGamer).

Here are the Shigawire Reels available to check out so far:

Whether these Shigawire Reels contain actual game footage or not, Dune: Awakening is certainly shaping up to be a heavily detailed MMORPG already.

 Dune: Awakening platforms - What is it launching on?

Dune: Awakening

(Image credit: Funcom)

Dune: Awakening will be available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S. You can sign up for the next beta at the official Dune: Awakening website right here. Because of the sheer scope of this game, it makes sense that it would be on current-gen consoles only, as last-gen consoles may struggle to handle the visuals and sheer size of it.

There is no Dune: Awakening release window yet

Dune: Awakening

(Image credit: Funcom)

As of early 2024, Dune Awakening doesn't yet have a projected release window, let alone a date. This is unsurprising, since we first caught wind of the MMO at Gamescom 2022, so we can expect the title to stay in development for some time longer. The fact that a beta is already up and running is good news, so we can definitely add it to our list of upcoming Xbox Series X games and upcoming PS5 games to watch out for in the near future.

While we wait for news on Dune: Awakening, why not dip into some of the best survival games around to test your will to live?

Alyssa Mercante

Alyssa Mercante is an editor and features writer at GamesRadar based out of Brooklyn, NY. Prior to entering the industry, she got her Masters's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University with a dissertation focusing on contemporary indie games. She spends most of her time playing competitive shooters and in-depth RPGs and was recently on a PAX Panel about the best bars in video games. In her spare time Alyssa rescues cats, practices her Italian, and plays soccer.

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