Sand Land

Review: Sand Land

Akira Toriyama’s Sand Land series may never have made the same waves as Dragon Ball, but more eyes are on the lesser-known series.

In recent months, we’ve seen an animated series land on Disney+ that’s been a lot of fun to watch. A new game from ILCA and Bandai Namco has arrived and has potential.

Sand Land is faithful to the manga

Sand Land is set in a vast desert where water has become extremely scarce, leading to a harsh and unforgiving environment. The story follows Sheriff Rao, a laid-back and resourceful anthropomorphic dog, and his unlikely ally, Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Together, they embark on a quest to find a new water source and ensure the survival of their arid world.

As they journey through the barren landscape, they encounter various characters and face challenges from a human-dominated military force that controls the remaining water supply.

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The manga explores themes of environmental degradation, the consequences of human greed, and the importance of cooperation in the face of adversity. The story told here is not as deep as the manga in some places, but it has an engaging premise that hooks you. Throughout the journey, the party unpacks their dark histories, and the story focuses on building resistance, making amends, and the lengths villains will go to maintain power and control.

Before introducing new content, you’ll spend several hours retreading the same story featured in the manga and recent anime. However, it’s told well enough to keep you captivated and invested in the plot.

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Tanks for the Memories

Sand Land features a vehicle system that is essential to its gameplay. Up to five vehicles can be loaded and summoned instantly, each with unique abilities and uses. The tank is a reliable option for combat, while the Jump Bot’s maneuverability offers an advantage in tight spaces, and its mortar shells can take down enemy bots. Later in the game, Beelzebub unlocks an excellent mech suit called a Bot that’s the best of both worlds and easily a highlight for the series.

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There’s also a lot of freedom to customize your rides with various parts to swap out. Vehicles use materials found worldwide to upgrade them; you can acquire new skills once they are crafted. Tanks can earn new weapons and upgrades, but I noticed the weapons had limited differences. The main standouts were more potent weapons, which had more power behind them and a bit more speed, but the upgrades felt minuscule.  The downside to vehicle customization was that as I went further down the rabbit hole, more parts were required to upgrade, and it became a lot more tedious because of how many materials I’d need to craft parts.

On-foot combat is not nearly as fun as anything related to vehicular combat. However, it still offers a decent experience. You use light and strong attack buttons to create a few combo strings. Beelzebub can use various abilities like a flurry of punches, a throw, or a shockwave attack. These abilities become useful during scripted on-foot sequences that help break up Sane Land’s pace.

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Besides these abilities, the party abilities are another essential element of combat and exploration. Thief, Rao, and Ann can learn several passive and active skills that help in different ways. Thief’s abilities focus on acquiring resources. Rao can deploy his tank and assist Beelzebub in combat, and Ann helps as the mechanic by offering healing to vehicles and supportive abilities. During on-foot fights, the party will engage with enemies, and it is great fun seeing Rao being the coolest guy in Sand Land.

When you’re exploring the vastness of the desert, though, it’s a lot of fun, and you quickly forget about upgrades. Sand Land’s vehicles are such a blast to use through and through. Just enough landmarks are available to understand the geography and get around without too much trouble. There are enough vistas and memorable places to sense that this world has some liveliness behind it. You’ll want to keep an eye out for Radio Towers to expand the map and search for water suppl points to add fast travel points.

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The game’s side quests are plentiful but lack variety, often requiring players to kill enemies or gather materials. Standard run-of-the-mill content is there to pad out your game time and collect materials. Most of the quests revolve around developing the town of Spino and completing tasks for traders and farmers, leading to them joining the town and expanding it throughout the game. While the progress of town growth is satisfying, it’s a shame the process behind it isn’t more engaging.

The town in Sand Land is upgradeable, allowing players to level up all aspects of Spino. Investing in town upgrades early on can be beneficial, as it helps to establish a solid foundation that allows access to a wide range of resources. NPCs can also be recruited to the town, providing unique uses and benefits such as selling weapons and vehicle upgrades. NPCs also come with their side quests, further contributing to the town’s growth and development.

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Verdict

Sand Land has a lot of potential, and it’s off to a great start with an invigorating campaign featuring excellent anime and video games. The definitive experience will always be the manga, and while developer ILCA found solid footing, it still feels like an uneven experience. The story of Sand Land is enjoyable, with an emphasis on vehicular combat and exploration. The main cast is a hoot and charming, supporting a surprisingly enjoyable cast of secondary characters. However, the dialogue and cutscenes are somewhat unremarkable and repetitive quests detract from an otherwise competent adaptation of the source material. Overall, Sand Land is an adequate adventure that occasionally showcases moments of brilliance but struggles to capture the original work’s essence.

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

 

Sand Land
Review: Sand Land
Summary
Overall, Sand Land is an adequate adventure that occasionally showcases moments of brilliance but struggles to capture the original work's essence.
Liked
Vehicular combat is a highlight and immensely fun
A faithful adaptation that's filled with great characters.
Didn't Like
Customization starts off great but then piles on the grinding mechanics
Side content is a bore