Dune: Awakening is About to Wildly Change Everything We Know About Dune

Imagine there's no Muad'dib.

A screenshot from the game 'Dune: Awakening,' featuring a person in a stillsuit watching ornithopter...
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In all versions of Dune, there are many possible futures that protagonist Paul Atreides can see with relative clarity. But once he locks himself into a certain path, he can see “a narrow way through” that brings victory to his family and the Fremen on the planet Arrakis. Paul’s decisions come with a great cost, of course, because once he ascends to the throne, the fate of the universe is nearly set in stone.

It’s widely known that Paul is the most important character in the first two Dune novels, and thus, the central figure of the major movie adaptations to date. But what the new MMO game Dune: Awakening asks is...what if he wasn’t? A new cinematic has been dropped by developer Funcom, which outlines a massive canonical shift for the big Dune game. And it literally changes everything we know about Dune, by setting the game in an alternate timeline.

Previously, the creative director of the game, Joel Bylos had mentioned that Dune: Awakening would “sort of sidestep religion.” Meaning that in this version of Dune, players wouldn’t be worried too much about recruiting Fremen to fight in a religious conflict, but presumably fighting to control the spice flow on Arrakis through more conventional means. Now we know how that works from a plot point of view. If Paul was never born, then in theory, the Fremen would never have found their messiah. The prophecy of the Lisan al Gaib — the voice from the outer world — was seeded on the Arrakis centuries prior by the Bene Gesserit’s Missionaria Protectiva project. But in this version, the prophecy doesn’t get a chance to come true. This is probably better for galactic peace, but sadly, would also create a universe in which there are no hilarious memes of Stilgar feverishly uttering “Lisan al Gaib!”

In the Dune: Awakening, the new story video features a version of Paul saying: “The only peace I find is a future that never happened...one where I, Paul Atreides, was never born.” How can he know this and be talking to us? After taking the Water of Life, Paul can see various possible futures, even ones that come from alternate pasts, apparently. This implies the new game takes place entirely inside a dream or vision that Paul is having. The player is inside of Paul's vision. Or something.

In this alternate past, Paul suggests that Lady Jessica gives birth to a girl, instead of a boy, which was what the Bene Gesserit had ordered her to do in the first place. If this happened, then the entire story of Dune and the shape of its history would be alternated in countless ways. But Dune: Awakening goes further than that. In this version, House Atreides doesn’t fall the second they take over stewardship of Arrakis. Instead Dr. Yueh is exposed as well in advance, and as a result, Duke Leto is alive.

Jessica with a baby that isn't Paul.


In other words, Dune: Awakening has removed the original storyline of Dune while keeping the set-up of Dune. You’ve still got House Atreides on Arrakis trying to figure out how to control the spice, but now, Sardaukar soldiers are guarding it, and apparently, the Fremen have been exterminated.

Essentially, Dune: Awakening seems focused on a version of the Dune mythos that has more options for a player, but also paradoxically contains fewer. If the Fremen are really not around (maybe there’s still some hiding?) the dynamics of the control for Arrakis will be really different here, and also, a bit smaller. The idea of a Paul-less universe is interesting, but this also suggests we’ll get a different Atreides heir in the form of Jessica’s daughter. We haven’t glimpsed this character yet, but it feels like the game may still be hiding a few secrets. Because if there’s really no Fremen around, and really no super-powerful Atreides child, how will the player ever learn how to ride a sandworm?

Dune: Awakening does not yet have a release date.

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