SAND LAND

Posted:  Apr 24, 2024
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Review

SAND LAND was provided by Bandai Namco for review. Thank you!

If you are a fan of anime, and even if you aren't, you probably know about the anime series Dragon Ball Z. The creator, Akira Toriyama, who unfortunately passed away this year, created one of the most iconic series in existence and popularized anime outside of Japan. While DBZ was his most popular series, he has created others that utilize his signature art style and storytelling. SAND LAND is one of these series, and it is getting a very interesting game adaptation for the first time. While it didn't have the focus I was expecting, I ultimately had a great time to see myself going back to and aiming for 100% completion.

SANDLAND 3

Unlike Dragon Ball, SAND LAND had a relatively short lifespan as a manga. It ran from May 9, 2000, to August 8, 2000, and follows the tale of Rao, the only human of the group, Thief, one of the two demons, and Beelzebub, the demon prince fiend, as they try to bring water back into a world that has lost it thanks to humanity's failings and natural disasters. The original series is quite short, but the game had a special new world, FOREST LAND, incorporated to continue the game past when it would end story-wise and give us another huge area to run and drive around in.

The first part of the story, which takes place in SAND LAND, ended much faster than I expected, but I enjoyed it a lot. Most JRPGs tend to stretch the story with tons of side quests or filler moments, but that isn't the case here. It was awesome being able to just get to all the major points in the narrative without having to go back and forth for anything that didn't feel important. The SAND LAND story was better than the FOREST LAND version, but it did its job. There were a couple of unexpected twists and turns, and I became very curious about how the story would end, but it did lose steam towards the end.

SANDLAND 4

The side quests are standard and include finding materials, killing enemies, or talking to specific individuals. Most of them give money, which can be used to buy materials and items, but others will come to your home base, Spino, and set up shop there! It's awesome seeing the town build itself up, and it feels quite rewarding as more shops and customization options open up the more people you bring over.

The open world you travel around is big, and in the beginning, it can be ridiculous to travel around. SAND LAND emphasizes vehicles, which makes things a bit better, but your first vehicles are on the slow end and can feel a bit annoying to travel in. Resource nodes and special spots are scattered throughout to get more materials and fight random spots of enemies, who also drop materials, but that's all you will find interesting. It's a pretty generic open world that feels repetitive. You can travel fast to most areas and get a much faster Motorcycle, which helps significantly with traveling, but the activities around the open world are underwhelming.

The gameplay, however, is very enjoyable. The focus on vehicles is fantastic, and I love how developer ILCA implemented customization. The materials you find will be used to build different vehicle parts, which you will mix and match to make different types of machines that each have some use to them. Tanks are the main damage dealers, and the first type you get, Jump Bots help you reach higher mountains, Motorcycles prioritize speed, and Hover Bots can be used to ride on water. There are others, like cars and dirt bikes, which offer a lot of variety. You can add two weapons, an engine, and a Suspension, as well as extra options and EX Chips to modify and fine-tune how it handles, as well as level up and u. It's easy to learn how to customize, and I enjoyed picking and choosing which weapons and re-making vehicles to build the ultimate one.

SANDLAND 5

It's easy to change and select up to 5 different vehicles while you are running around, and controlling them is quite easy to do. I had a blast shooting and running over junkers and raptors, and swapping out vehicles so quickly was wonderful, as each has its own health bar. There is melee combat outside of vehicles, and you control Beelzebub to beat down enemies. It's pretty standard, with the X button for weak attacks and the B button for strong attacks, and you can hold RB for some special moves. You do level up and have a skill tree, along with special ally trees for Rao and Thief to assist you, but that's about all you get from leveling up. It is enjoyable to beat enemies down, but I did like vehicle combat more. For whatever reason, there is stealth in the game, but it was almost never utilized, and it feels like it was added for the hell of it.

The visuals themselves are gorgeous though, and easily one of my favorite aspects of the game. Every environment and character just shines, and on the OLED screen of the Steam Deck, it looks incredible. The voice acting was decent as well, and it reeks of Akira Toriyama, which is a very good thing. Both SAND LAND and FOREST LAND were brimming with color and character.

I enjoyed the game more than I expected, and I was even more surprised how great it can run on the Steam Deck.

SAND LAND - Steam Deck Performance

I will be honest: I was slightly worried about SAND LAND on the Steam Deck. The minimum requirements are a bit towards the heavy side for the Deck, asking for a GTX 1060 GPU and a Ryzen 5 2400G CPU, and I have seen games with similar minimums not run super well. But I can happily say I was wrong, and SAND LAND is fantastic on the Steam Deck! Right off the bat, max quality settings were sticking above 30 FPS, and some minor changes brought it up to an almost solid 45.

There are two options for launch SAND LAND, with one that forces DirectX 11. I found that the regular version performs slightly better than DX11, so there's no need to force anything.

The majority of SAND LAND's areas are not super intensive, but unfortunately, there are a couple of moments, especially during conversations or in some detailed areas, where the battery can drain a bit more. This does make finding a battery life build a bit harder due to the compromises needed, but it is possible in the end.

Recommended Settings

Due to a majority of the game running quite well on the Steam Deck with minimal battery drain, I am opting for a 30 FPS quality build. The game looks phenomenal on the OLED screen, and with most of the game sticking to a 12W - 17W battery drain, I am pretty happy with the results. There are some cutscenes, areas, and boss fights that do drain around 21W, and there are minor FPS drops for a split second, but these are temporary and will mostly stay at 30 FPS for a great experience overall.

40 FPS Settings

Next, we have the 40 FPS settings, which is possible on the Deck and feels fantastically smooth. The majority of areas can hit 40, but with some of the areas with drops, they will continue. Luckily, we can make a couple of adjustments to get it stable. Shadows are the only quality option that affects FPS, but turning it to low makes the game ugly, and shadow pop-in while you are running around is bad. This helps, but the game also still drops, so you have to force 1024x640 resolution in Steam and use FSR to upscale, which will keep it at 40!

Due to the anime-esque visual style, FSR looks phenomenal with it, and we can save performance without hurting the aesthetic too much.

Battery Saving Settings

Finally, we will have some battery-saving settings. We will use similar settings and resolution to the 40 FPS build, but instead, we will use 30 FPS. This gives us enough savings to keep a TDP limit of 9 and still make the game look quite nice while playing. Using these settings will allow us to use the TDP limit and not feel any drops in the more draining areas, which is nice.

Accessibility

The only accessibility setting is colorblind accessibility, which supports, Protanopia, Deuteranopia, and Tritanopia. Otherwise, we can toggle screen shake, sound settings, and text/voice languages.

The game doesn't support 16:10 resolutions, so there are black bars at the top and bottom, but there are cloud saves and controller support. There are no HDR settings.

Conclusion

SAND LAND is a wonderful game that I can't help but enjoy, even with some of the issues it has. The story is enjoyable, the vehicle gameplay is awesome, the side quests have great rewards, and the visuals are stunning. It all culminates into a great experience, even with some generic open-world mechanics and a drop in the FOREST LAND part of the story. The game is very playable on the Steam Deck without many compromises, and it doesn't need any to run at the highest settings, except for a 30 FPS lock. This is a fantastic game to play on the Deck, that's for sure!

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

SAND LAND is a fun JRPG with an emphasis on fun vehicular combat and an enjoyable story, and it is very playable on the Steam Deck.

Content

Gameplay: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarHalf StarNo Star
Graphics: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarHalf Star
Story: 
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Sound: 
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Fun Factor: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarHalf StarNo Star

Build Score

Performance: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
VISUALS: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Stability: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarNo StarNo Star
Controls: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Battery: 
Full StarFull StarNo StarNo StarNo Star
Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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Steam Deck Compatibility
Current Price: 
$59.99
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Proton DB Rating
Unknown

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Other Builds
40 FPS Settings
SteamOS

Limit

40

Refresh Rate

80

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

No

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Steam:

Force Resolution to 1024x640

 

Game Settings:

Resolution Scale: High

Anti-Aliasing: High

Shadow Quality: Mid

Motion Blur: Off

Depth of Field: On

Texture Quality: High

Post-Processing: High

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

15W - 21W

70c - 78c

2.5 - 3 hours

Battery Life Settings
SteamOS

Limit

30

Refresh Rate

90

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

9

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Steam:

Force Resolution to 1024x640

 

Game Settings:

Resolution Scale: High

Anti-Aliasing: High

Shadow Quality: Mid

Motion Blur: Off

Depth of Field: On

Texture Quality: High

Post-Processing: High

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

9W - 14W

60c - 65c

4.5 - 5 hours

related Settings

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