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Dune Awakening fixes the worst survival game mechanic, at a cost

One of the most irritating survival game mechanics is the almost never-ending search for water, but Dune Awakening fixes that - at a cost.

Dune Awakening fixes the worst survival game mechanic, at a cost: A hooded figure wearing a gas mask raises a gun at the camera

If there’s one thing I’m bad at in both my real life and videogames, it’s staying hydrated. While water is, indeed, the font of life, it’s also my arch nemesis despite how many tracker bottles I buy. In survival games, I’m equally as bad at remembering to hydrate, oftentimes scrabbling to find the nearest puddle to quench that seemingly never-ending thirst. It’s one of my least favorite mechanics to manage – especially because it doesn’t feel like anyone’s really innovated upon it in recent years. Enter Dune Awakening – the first survival game that makes drinking water exciting.

Now I know this is a weird choice: there are sandworms slithering around, and myriad other dangers on Arrakis; why, Lauren, are you excited about how Dune Awakening handles thirst? Well, as someone who’s played many a survival game, the monotonous grind of finding water and purifying it seemed destined to remain the same forever, but Funcom has created a genuinely unique way of mastering the issue in its sci-fi adventure.

If you’ve seen Dune Part 2 or, alternatively, have a Dune obsessed boyfriend, you’ll know that the Fremen have a handy little device that magically transforms blood into water – almost Jesus, but in reverse and more gruesome. At an exclusive first look at GDC ahead of the Dune Awakening release date, creative director Joel Bylos reveals that this mechanic has, in fact, made it into Dune Awakening – but if you’re looking to use it, there’s a cost.

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“One of the key sources of water in Dune is the blood of enemies,” Bylos says. “If you’ve seen Dune Part 2 the movie, you see that the Freman have these very sophisticated devices that they use to draw blood out of their enemies and turn it into water. Unfortunately our player isn’t that sophisticated, so they just need to use a rusty needle and a bag that they create out of plant fibre right at the beginning of the game.

“Every time you kill somebody, you have the option to exsanguinate – take blood out of their body – and put it into your blood sacks. If you’re a smart player – or not a desperate player – you can take that back to your base and begin to refine it into pure water using a water purifier.

“But if you’re an unlucky player who just needs water on the fly, you drink the blood. You’ll get an increase to your water, but you get a massive debuff to your max health. You’ll need to think about this as you play the game.”

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Our lovely GDC correspondent Nat informs me that this debuff is called ‘Blood Drinker,’ and I love it. Everything on Arrakis has a cost, and this, while a small part of the game, is a reminder of just how hostile this barren desert world really is. Water, the body’s essence, has its price – but if your desperate enough to pay it, it may just cost you everything.

As we wait to be deployed to Arrakis, we have a list of all the best space games if those stunning interstellar vistas are your lifeblood. Alternatively, if exploring sprawling universes is more up your alley, we have a rundown of all the best open-world games, too.

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Additional reporting by Nat Smith for PCGamesN at GDC.