Sand Land Preview | More Than Meets The Eye


Growing up as a massive fan of the works of Akira Toriyama, likely thanks to watching Dragon Ball every day for around 10 years, playing Chrono Trigger and playing every Dragon Quest entry I could get my hand’s on, I was already sold on Sand Land even before I played it. Being familiar with the source material I knew that it highlighted all of the things Toriyama was well known for. Amazing world building, interesting characters and creatures, relatable situations and humour thrown in at just the right time to break things up. The perfect recipe for an RPG. Now after getting to spend about 4 hours with the game, I’ve come away knowing the game has more to offer than what’s been shown on the surface, it captures the look and feel of the story and I want to play a lot more of it as soon as I can.

For those that may not be aware, Sand Land was an original manga series released in 2000 and follows the journey of the Fiend Prince Beelzebub, Thief and Rao as they try to adventure across the desert landscape of Sand Land to locate the Legendary Spring rumoured to be located somewhere in the desert, in an effort to restore water to the people of Sand Land who are currently forced to pay the King’s exorbitant prices as he currently has a monopoly on the supply of water to the people.

Sand Land Preview

To be completely honest, I was a bit sceptical on how this project would play out as a game when it was first revealed at Summer Game Fest last year. Primarily because the whole original story is told in a single manga volume and takes place within just a few locales, most of which are primarily vast orange desert. Thankfully, this game expands far further than just adapting the original manga story and takes us to various biomes and introduces plenty of new plot lines, characters and locales that based on what I’ve played, will provide plenty of content to get stuck into and a ton of fresh surprises that no Sand Land fan has seen before.

My hand’s-on experience was with a full build of the game but primarily involved playing through 3 specific sections that were from varied points in the overall game. Allowing me to see a lot of the game’s mechanics and systems in context but without spoiling too much of the whole plot. There was still quite a bit of main story moments and character reveals that I saw, that for the sake of spoilers, I won’t go into detail here.

The first section I played took place fairly early on in the game and involved Beelzebub, Rao and Thief coming together to steal their iconic tank. The intro to this mission and much of the dialogue plays out almost word to word to the manga, but the game isn’t afraid to change things up when it needs to and often does so to gamify certain aspects and have them better fit this medium. Such as how the crew actually obtaining the aforementioned tank. With what was a fairly quick scene in the manga being expanded out into a fully fledged stealth mission that has you sneaking around, hiding from guards and resulting in instant failure if caught and the introduction of the game’s original new character Ann.

Sand Land Preview

Prior to obtaining the tank though, this section does a great job of introducing the games main pillars featuring melee combat, stealth, vehicle combat and story cutscenes. Despite being from early on, it was surprisingly deep and showed me the game has far more to offer than what has mostly been shown so far and how the game has incorporated it’s progression and rpg systems. Melee fighting for example has light and heavy attack, dodge, and ability to unleash skills using L1+the face buttons offering a simple but effective way to take out enemies in close quarters. Skills can also be unlocked and strengthened as you level up and progress via Beelebub’s and the companion’s skill trees. And the multiple vehicles on offer also have multiple layers of customisation and specific uses for each.

The second portion played was set a bit further into the game and involved travelling into Forrest Land to see some of the original creations the game is offering and revealing new factions and antagonists that will seemingly be the major opposing force in the game given that so much of it seems to take place after the events of the manga and known story of Sand Land. This section also had a large focus on showing off the game’s dungeon and puzzle solving mechanics, having me progress through a water filled temple, using a hovercraft to get across bodies of water and pulling levers to raise and lower the internal water level to access new areas and complete the dungeon, with it all culminating in a lengthy multi-phased boss battle against a large Kraken. This was also the part of my hand’s on time that highlighted that the game has far more to offer than just seas of sand when it comes to the locales. Forrest Land is the complete opposite to the Sand Land portion and features lush green jungle environments, water filled temples to explore and even waterfalls that may or may not be hiding secrets to uncover.

Sand Land Preview

The third sequence was again, another jump forward in the game’s timeline and was mostly involving the game’s vehicular combat. A big multi phased tank encounter that culminated in a boss fight allowed me to witness the direct impact that your loadout can have on your success. And the game encourages you to change things up, swap things out to try and match up your loadout to the challenge in front of you. The customisation system isn’t as deep as something like Armored Core but is deep enough for what this game needs, allowing you to customise your vehicle’s primary and secondary weapons, engine, suspension, as well as additional chips that can optimise performance. There is also the cosmetic side to the tools, allowing you to colour the parts of the vehicle to your liking as well as apply decals to further personalise your vehicle(s).

The vehicles I was able to use each felt different and had a clear purpose. I liked that they didn’t just all operate mostly the same with minor tweaks. The bike was for example zips through the open world but has low durability and lesser weapon options, the tank is able to deal out heavier attacks but lacks speed and there’s even a jumping robot, capable of accessing higher areas or leaping across gaps, just to point out a few as the game looks to have a decent range of vehicles to collect. There are also parts of the game where you have to utilise a specific vehicle to access an area or solve a puzzle, further encouraging you to use all the tools in your arsenal to be able to progress, and thanks to the vehicles being stored within capsules, you’re free to utilise and swap them out at any time.

Sand Land Preview

Alongside my time with the quests I was able to see there’s plenty on offer outside of the core story progression in Sand Land. Traversing the world gives you plenty of opportunity to find items hidden in caves, naturally come across people in need that will present you side quests to complete and also tough boss and enemy encounters to discover. Another thing to point out is that the game has a full English dub, something that isn’t too common when it comes to anime games and seems to be a potential sign of confidence in the title from the publisher. The voice-work itself is really solid and while I couldn’t confirm via the game’s credits, it does sound like the same cast that has been used in the recently released Sand Land: The Series anime.

Sand Land Preview

I’ve come away from my few hours with the game very keen to play more and see just how much the world and story has been expanded with original content. Thankfully, it’s not too long to wait for the final release as it will be in all of our hands in less than a month. But if you want to see more and familiarise yourself with the world of Sand Land I definitely recommend picking up the manga and checking out the recently released anime adaptation that has just launched locally here on Disney+.

Sand Land launches on April 25th on PlayStation 4|5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

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