Game Review: Sand Land (PS5)

Platform: Sony PlayStation 5

Sand Land is a game that is based off of a recently release anime (streaming on Hulu) of the same name. The game and the anime were among the last projects developed by Akira Toriyama before he passed away. Both were announced a while ago and have been on my radar ever since.

Having watched all of the anime episodes, I recently grabbed the game. I was actually more interested in the game than the anime but the anime released first.

So far, I’m less than 10 hours into the game but already my interest in it is waning. 

From a graphics perspective, the game looks very much like the show, which is very similar to Dragon Quest games also developed by Toriyama. I get a sense of being in the anime when I play the game but that’s about as far as my excitement has gone so far.

The open world of Sand Land doesn’t come across as exciting. Sure, I can pick a variety of vehicles to travel the desert in or go by foot but it’s largely empty. There aren’t random encounters to break up the monotony. Instead, the overworld is populated with enemies that I can fight in real-time or just avoid. Normally, I wouldn’t mind this but what gets me is that no matter what my level is versus the level of my opponents, I only get 1 exp per kill. I mean, at level 1 I was killing level 6 mobs and only getting 1 exp for it. That’s just insane.

The start of the game follows very closely the same story as the anime. Some of the dialogue and sequences are lifted straight out of the anime and put in the game basically. It also starts very slow. It took me a couple of hours before I got my first level and was able to start upgrading my abilities. It wasn’t so much of a grind but more of a forced deficit to keep my character low-powered and low-leveled until the developers wanted me to experience “growth”.

And just like in the anime, the party consists of a few characters. You control Bezelbub, the demon prince, while his allies Roa and Thief follow you and aid you in combat. Ann, another member of your party, helps you build and upgrade vehicles but so far has not been present in combat. Roa and Thief are 95% A.I. controlled. You have no control over their actions aside from having them execute specific skills that you unlock by leveling up, when the game lets you.

Pretty much the only way to level up is to do side quests and main quests. Grinding in the wilderness nets you virtually nothing. And combat seems overly simple so far. You can fight hand-to-hand or with a vehicle. Some fights require one or the other while some give you the choice. With a vehicle, I’ve managed to take out many targets several levels higher than me or my vehicle. 

But really the crux of it for me is that I’ve just grown bored with the game already. It moves kinda slow. The combat isn’t very challenging. The world isn’t overly interesting. The main priority isn’t the story but farming parts for vehicles and advancing the story only so far to unlock the next buildable components/vehicles. And the only reason the variety of vehicles is important is because there are certain places that you can only go/reach with a specific vehicle. The vehicles are as important to the story as anything else so you need to get them. The only real optional part of the vehicle system is how you choose to upgrade them.

I think I will eventually play on this title some more, after all I did spend $60 on it, but it’s not like others where I yearn to play it and can’t turn it off. I think this will be more of one of those games I play only when I’m bored because ultimately it is a boring game.

I’m disappointed. I wanted more from this game.

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