SAND LAND

Review

Based on the manga from Akira Toriyama (which was recently made into a new anime), Sand Land is an action RPG that tells the story of Prince Beelzebub who lives in a world that is now turned into a wasteland after numerous wars and natural calamities. The King of these lands has gathered all the sources of water for himself, while Beelzebub and his demonic friends try to survive by stealing the water shipments for their village. Things change when an old sheriff called Rao reveals that he is looking for a Legendary Spring that can offer unlimited water to the whole land. Beelzebub and his friend Thief join him in the search and along the journey they also meet Ann, a mechanic who helps them steal a tank and fight against the Royal Army. While this partially sounds like the story of Mad Max Fury Road, the atmosphere here is much more relaxed. I was never able to read the manga (or watch the anime), so I can’t really say if the story is 100% faithful to the original material, but I definitely enjoyed the story, with its mix of dramatic and comedy moments. Prince Beelzebub is a very likeable protagonist (it reminded me of child Goku fighting against the Red Ribbon) and his companions aren’t bad either (some are better than others, of course). The game keeps the iconic character design from Toriyama, which makes each character very distinctive. Unlike the manga, the story includes a new arc that has never been showed before, which should be enough to attract players who have read the manga but wants to see more.



Developer ILCA already showed their talent through Dragon Quest XI and One Piece Odyssey, but Sand Land is a much different game due to the depth and attention to vehicle combat. Vehicles are used not only to traverse the big open world and explore multiple locations, but also to fight enemies and solve environmental puzzles. This is a big part of the gameplay and probably the most engaging, especially during boss fights. Combat is also supported by many crafting and customization options, with every vehicle showing a great level of detail, variety and a different feeling when controlled. The fun thing is that you can summon vehicles instantly (like in Dragon Ball) and you will likely switch a lot during battles. The vehicle design is one of the aspects that I really loved, but unfortunately the experience outside of them isn’t equally satisfying. Beelzebub and his team can use meele combat and despite the presence of a classic skill tree (also for your companions), the combat itself becomes quite shallow and repetitive over time. During certain moments, the game will force you to use melee combat by disabling the ability to summon vehicles. There will also be some forced stealth sections that are poorly designed, but luckily most of the stealth is optional (can be used to infiltrate bases).

An important aspect for the gameplay progression is the village of Spino, which is basically the player’s main hub that needs to be expanded in order to welcome new residents, unlock new shops, vehicles and upgrades. This is all optional, but it’s a great opportunity to dedicate some time in side quests, bounties and other activities, exploring new locations and receiving useful rewards. Not all activities are worth your time unfortunately and you can easily spot fetch quests and other repetitive tasks, but it’s hard to get bored unless you are a true completionist. Some side quests are actually really well-crafted and will make you more invested in the world of Sand Land and its characters.

Despite having three difficulties to choose from, the game is very easy, even at its max difficulty. This has been a recurrent problem with these types of action RPGs, which are primarily aimed at kids and young teenagers, leaving all the grown-up and bearded adults very unsatisfied. This is also visible during simple exploration, unfortunately. There is a lot of useless dialogue coming from your companions; for example, after six hours they can remind you of things you have already read during the tutorial, or they can give you tips so you don’t get lost. It gets quite annoying and you will probably end up hoping for a mute button just to enjoy the silence of the desert.

Graphically speaking, Sand Land looks quite impressive compared to other games that use the cell-shading aesthetic. It really feels like being inside Akira Toriyama’s colorful world filled with distinctive characters, beautiful lighting and special effects. It’s hard to turn 2D into 3D but once again ILCA managed to create a fantastic visual adaption. The PC version also seems incredibly well polished and I didn’t notice any bugs or glitches.

After spending quite some time in the beautiful world of Akira Toriyama, I realized what was keeping me playing despite the complete lack of difficulty and some repetitive, but optional, side quests. The first reason is the quality of the story, which for me was something new (as I haven’t read the manga) and very intriguing, also thanks to the wonderful protagonist and the general world building. The second reason is vehicle combat, which is always fun and engaging, with a great level of detail and variety that constantly encourages you to look out for more parts, upgrades and vehicles. I think that if you enjoyed the One Piece Odyssey quality of adaption, you will likely enjoy this one too (even if you don’t know the story, like me), but you must also appreciate vehicle combat more than melee combat because that’s the main part of the gameplay.

Review written by Sonic Punk for Zeepond.com

SAND LAND Steam Store Page


Positives

+ Unique character design and art style
+ Memorable story with a lovely protagonist
+ Engaging vehicle combat and deep customization
+ Plenty of activities (side quests, bounties, town building etc.)

Negatives

- Stealth sections and melee combat are too easy and mediocre
- Some activities and side quests can be very repetitive
- Too many dialogue tips during exploration

Review Summary

Sand Land is a gorgeous visual adaption that perfectly captures the spirit of one of Akira Toriyama’s most iconic worlds. Highly recommended to action RPG and anime fans!

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Zeepond Rating: 8/10

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