Exclusive Gameplay Footage of Dune Awakening from PAX East

Funcom continues to actively share snippets of their upcoming new survival sandbox MMO Dune Awakening with media outlets and the wider community. Just recently the Devs have shared another Exclusive Gameplay Footage of Dune Awakening at PAX East and, while veteran gamers are most eager to test game systems through hands-on demos, what the community received is probably the next best thing. Funcom showcased a 30-minute hands-off gameplay presentation, including a walkthrough of in-game environments and a showcase of multiple systems from character creation and specialization to base building, combat mechanics, Spice gathering, and weather effects! But before diving in and discussing all of this in greater detail, let’s recap what the game is all about.

Dune Awakening is an upcoming survival sandbox MMO inspired by Frank Herbert’s sci-fi universe and based specifically on the desert planet of Arrakis. The game is set to offer experiences based around four core pillars – survival, exploration, resource management and combat. Survival aspects will range from personal survival (water and temperature management) to political survival and expansion in the later game and the combat is expected to range from small party outpost raids to massive PVP battles with heavy machinery. The game is also set to feature gathering, crafting and strategic decision-making, all while navigating the challenging environment of the harsh desert planet.

Exclusive Gameplay Footage

What did Exclusive Gameplay Footage Reveal?

While the PAX East gameplay presentation was heavily narrated and scripted, it was still set within the Dune’s game engine (powered by Unreal Engine 5 by the way) and explored many game systems and environments. This demo was accompanied by a lot of new information and details shared by the Devs alongside the gameplay itself. So let’s dive deeper into each aspect of the showcase and discuss what was presented in this latest Beta build of the game.

Character Creation and Classes

The Exclusive Gameplay Footage started with character creation which feels heavily inspired by the most recent Dune films. In fact, you can hear and read more about the influence of the movies in our recent article about Art Direction. The character creator is already very detailed and includes all the standard body customization sliders like height and body composition as well as multiple options for hairstyles, face, eyes and potentially even how aged and weathered your tattoos look! The Devs promise that the variety of options will improve even further in the future.

Character Creation

Another interesting aspect of this Exclusive Gameplay Footage showcase was the Class Selection. After you create your character, you are taken into a room to talk with the Reverend Mother who ultimately leads you to decide your Backstory and Starting Class through a series of questions about your character’s origins, your caste and previous training paths.

Your Backstory then determines some of the various dialogue options available to you throughout the game as well as some unique emotes, which could be interesting for an MMO, where some players aim to collect everything. Little things like this could encourage players to run multiple classes/playthroughs keeping the game healthy for longer. There are currently four Class choices – Trooper, Mentat, Swordmaster and Bene Gesserit acolyte.


This class seems to be the all-rounded Offence archetype shown to utilize a variety of weapons in the exclusive gameplay footage. You can approach a fight with a ranged weapon while also utilizing your frag grenades and positioning correctly with the help of the grappling hook ability available to the Trooper class.

Trooper Class


The Devs explained that this class is all about strategy and reconnaissance. Mentats’ starting ability is called Assess Weapons, which works like a scan that reveals enemies and provides information to their team. It feels like this could be the ultimate Support archetype with further options for specialization. The Gameplay footage also showcased their Hunter-Seeker drone ability, which focuses on stealth approach and taking enemies out in one precise hit.

Mentat Class


The Swordmaster class seems to have a bit more focus on the melee weapons which they will utilize mostly to dominate close-quarter combat situations. Their Deflection ability allows them to deflect ranged attacks – this can be especially useful when aggressively pushing an objective and trying to close the gap between you and your enemies.

Swordmaster Class

Bene Gesserit acolyte

According to the exclusive gameplay footage, this class seems to be all about physical mastery, which could put them as the closest class to the typical MMO Tank archetype. Bene Gesserit acolytes specialize in manipulation with their starting ability being Voice Compel, which uses Dunes’ famous voice powers to force someone to your position, effectively working a bit like a “taunt” ability.

Bene Gesserit acolyte

Specialization and Combat

While the Class Selection is very important to determine your Background and starting abilities, Dune Awakening will feature an extensive Specialization Tree. Every player will be able to utilize their range weapons, melee weapons, three active and three passive skills. While it seems like you can dip into the specialization trees from other classes to utilize one of their signature abilities such as levitation or the grappling hook, you can only fully specialize in your own class tree and veering outside of that might potentially cost more Skill Points – this is yet to be explored.

Specialization Tree

The combat itself was also showcased in the Exclusive Gameplay Footage with a lot of focus on the ranged playstyle. The Devs explained that they focused on the ranged combat for this demo and generally for this stage of development more because they wanted to nail it and make it feel “just right”. Funcom being the developers of Conan: Exiles and having previous extensive combat system experience, seem to be much more confident in their ability to implement melee combat and polish it at a later date.

Perhaps this is why melee combat felt somewhat clunky in this PAX East Gameplay showcase with certain attacks not connecting precisely and feeling generally less impactful than expected. The community also echoed the sentiment that movement animations felt a little rigid but other than that, gunplay looked smooth and we can look forward to being able to experience a wide variety of Dune-themed weapons in the future.

Movement and Combat

Base-building, Harvesting and Crafting

This most recent exclusive gameplay footage also showcased some interesting Base-building mechanics. The players will be able to build out modular bases and outposts by placing hologram outlines of the building and then filling them with resources to “build it out”. This seems to be a great system promoting cooperation – holographic blueprints can be filled in by fellow players carrying resources, allowing certain players to focus on base architecture, while others are gathering and hauling valuable building resources to the base.

Another cool aspect of base-building is the ability to save blueprints of the entire build to take with you on your adventures. This should allow players to design small and efficient structures that can be dropped and quickly “filled” with building materials somewhere on the field in a tense situation such as an NPC outpost raid or a PVP battle.

Harvesting was shown to have an interesting mechanic, requiring you to use specific tools to first scan for resources and then trace along specific patterns with your harvesting tool, in order to “break down” a resource. It was explained that as players encounter more rare resources at higher levels, the trace patterns become more and more complicated, requiring more precision and time to gather any specific resource. This might play into the PVP aspect of the game, where players will not be able to drop in, quickly sweep all the resources by pressing one button and get out without being contested.


The crafting system was also discussed and the Devs mentioned unique crafting schematics that will be very rare at the beginning of the game allowing players to temporarily corner the market. These schematics could include weapons and vehicles and provide a significant advantage as well as a compelling reason for people to specialize in a certain area of crafting. The Devs have also mentioned the fact that these schematics will be limited-use, promoting strategic use of these rare items and crafting resources and potentially counter-balancing any unfair monopolistic economies that could arise from players cornering the market early on.

Shai-Hulud: The Sandworm Threat

Funcom has shown us a few Dynamic Events in their exclusive gameplay footage, which will be present in Dune Awakening. These will include dynamic Ship Crashes creating points of interests bound to attract other players as well as Sandworms. Large freighter Patrols – which will drop a squad of elite NPCs on you if they spot you at night, potentially escalating into a challenging fight that can attract unwanted attention. And finally, larger-scale Spice Gathering Operations that will require the use of heavy machinery and will undoubtedly attract Sandworms.

Spice Gathering Operations

You can probably spot a common theme here – the Sandworm is set to be an ever-present looming threat in this upcoming survival-focused MMO. Sandworms of Arrakis are arguably the key unique feature of Dune and the Devs explained that they want the players to respect the Sandworm and the threat it symbolizes. The Exclusive Gameplay Footage presented the Sandworm early on and the only option the player has when faced even with a Juvenile Sandworm is to quickly get to safety – meaning shelter or a rocky outcropping, where Sandworms cannot easily traverse.

The sandy dunes are and will always be Sandworm territory – you cannot outrun the Sandworm on foot and as a guest, your best option is to watch your threat meter and avoid attracting any unwanted attention. The Devs also explained there will be certain tools, such as Thumpers, that will help players distract the Sandworm for a while, but ultimately it will come for you anyway forcing the players to take risks and make strategic decisions about their positioning and resource management.

Sandworm Threat

Dungeons and Server Systems

Eco-Labs is the Funcoms’ take on the conventional MMO dungeons – these will be designed as multiplayer locations, similar to Vaults in Fallout, which players can explore in a party to hopefully score some valuable resources, schematics and other goodies as a reward for clearing them. These Eco-Labs can feature a variety of enemies (some will be packed, others might be almost empty) and a wide variety of environments to explore.

This concept allows the developers to experiment with environments that otherwise would not be found amidst the deserts of Arrakis – Eco-Labs might feature icy terrain, lush green jungle environments, tech-riddled cyberpunk-style bases, or perhaps even water levels. This should provide more variety for the players who are concerned about spending countless hours staring at yellow dunes and “kicking sand”.

Eco-Labs dungeons

The developers also explained that the game will feature Player Hubs and other multiplayer environments, ultimately promoting cooperation and reinforcing the MMO feel in the safe zones. Overall, there is speculation that server infrastructure will be based on player-phasing, rather than separating the player base into different servers/shards, but we will have to see more from Funcom to understand how this will work in practice and especially for large-scale PVP which the community is eagerly waiting for.

Exclusive Gameplay Footage Summary

The Dune environment and the overall unique sci-fi universe created by Frank Herbert is an extremely exciting premise for a survival sandbox MMO on its own. Combined with the glimpses of gameplay and the snippets of systems shared by Funcom during this Exclusive Gameplay Footage showcase at PAX East really help build the hype and media attention around the game. And there is a lot to be excited about! The gunplay, weapon and skill variety seems interesting, clases and characters are very theme-appropriate and well-designed, events seem to be thought-out with PVP and PVE aspects considered throughout the development.

However it is concerning that this PAX East Gameplay showcase was still hands-off this late into the Beta build – it would be much more exciting to allow the public to experience the gameplay firsthand, especially considering that closed testing is happening in parallel. The community can only hope that Funcom has the combat and movement aspects of the development well under control and will let the players try the game hands-on very soon before the hype and trust that has been generated so far starts to dwindle.

MMO Wiki will keep the hand on the pulse for all things Dune Awakening, if you want to join us on this journey, make sure to join our Discord community and check the Dune section of our website for more information about the game!


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