Microsoft Flight Simulator launches Dune expansion where you can fly an ornithopter

The worlds of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and Dune are coming together, as you can download the Dune expansion and fly an ornithopter through the desert of Arrakis.

The Dune Expansion comes out today just ahead of the March 1 launch of the Dune: Part Two film, the sequel to director Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 Dune film. You’ll essentially be in a craft like a helicopter, except the wings flap like a bird’s.

I downloaded it and tried it out enough to get the thrill of diving. An ornithopter has oscillating wings like a dragonfly. They flap fast and get you going at high speeds quickly. You can also dive by folding the wings and plummet to the sands at a high speed. It’s a nice rush, even for occasional virtual pilots like me.

I played it on a Razer Blade 15 laptop from last year. It sported a slightly aging 12th Gen Intel Core i9-12900H central processing unit (CPU) running at 2.5 GHz. It also had an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti graphics processing unit (GPU) with 8GB of GDDR6 graphics memory. Instead of breaking out my joystick, I used an Xbox game controller to fly.

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It took me a few times to learn how to take off and dive. But landing — that’s another story. It is interesting how well it fits within the Microsoft Flight Simulator universe, which is really about flying mostly real planes in a realistic environment on Earth.

But the Dune expansion takes place among the tight canyons and desert of Arrakis, the planet known as Dune where fierce coriolis storms can interrupt your flying fun. Those storms can have winds of up to 700 kilometers per hour.

 The ornithopter craft has seen several renditions through the decades in movie adaptations, but never before has the ornithopter been brought to life in such detail. The ornithopter featured in this epic is the Royal Atreides Ornithopter, renowned for its sleek form, lightning acceleration, blazing speeds, and precision maneuverability.

Dune ornithopter in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024.
Dune ornithopter in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024.

This version maintains both fidelity to the story’s essence as well as pushes bounds of the imagination with its stunning form and details, from the motion of the wings to the intricacies of the cockpit. Through a collaboration between Legendary and Microsoft, the Royal Atreides Ornithopter has been recreated.

This is the first time in Microsoft Flight Simulator’s decades-long history where pilots can operate a craft on another planet, and the version meticulously created by Asobo is a fitting tribute to both the imagination of Dune author Frank Herbert and to human aspiration to explore from above.

This unprecedented release contains three tutorials to get pilots comfortably into the sky of Dune in a Royal Atreides Ornithopter: take-off, landing, and freefall where the wings are tucked; and then six activities for Microsoft Flight Simulator aviators to test their mettle on another world: five time trials to push the limits of the machine with freefall and afterburner use, and a daring rescue where time is of the essence as a monstrous sandstorm approaches.

Little-known fact: Leonardo da Vinci created an ornithopter design. In the 1965 sci-fi classic novel Dune, ‘thopters come in variants like general transport, military use, and then the Royal Atreides Ornithopter. The Royal Atreides Ornithopter is sleeker, faster, and more nimble than other variants, and it is beautifully rendered in Microsoft Flight Simulator’s latest offering.

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