Published on April 25th, 2024 | by Marc Rigg

Sand Land PS5 Review

Sand Land PS5 Review Marc Rigg

Summary: Akira Toriyama’s artwork and storytelling leave a lasting impression in Sand Land. A gorgeous action-RPG with vehicular combat and customisation as its central mechanics.



The video game adaptation of the late, great Akira Toriyama’s 2000’s classic manga, Sand Land, is upon us! Developed by ICLA of 2021’s Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remakes and published by Bandai Namco.

Following largely the same plot as the original manga, Sand Land is set in a region ravaged by years of natural disasters and war, leaving it a dry and scorched desert. Water is scarce, with only the King seemingly having a readily available supply of fresh water, that he selfishly hoards.


Enter Beelzebub, prince of the demons and our protagonist. The spiky, pink-haired son of Lucifer and his companions are visited one day by Rao, a local sheriff, who proposes an alliance. It’s suggested that they team up and go in search of a legendary hidden spring that lies somewhere in the desert, to restore water to the people (and demons) of Sand Land, ending the shortage once and for all. This simple introduction sets the stage for an epic adventure across the vast desert of Sand Land.

Initially setting out by way of what seems to be little more than a golf cart, we’re introduced to the open world and the use of vehicles to travel around. This quickly gets replaced with a tank and the full extent of the vehicular customisation and combat mechanics that it’s centred around making themselves known. With the majority of exploration and combat taking place aboard your tank (or one of many vehicle types that are available through the course of the game), it’s integrated into the gameplay at a core level.

All of the various parts can be swapped out and changed for upgrades or pieces with new utility. New cannons, engines, and armour, each with its own stats, strengths, and weaknesses. Each in turn can be further upgraded to increase their damage and grow their combat effectiveness. Key settlements scattered across the map give access to garages that facilitate the construction of completely new parts and vehicles from the mountains of scrap and crafting resources that are found around the world and gathered from downed enemies. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of different combinations of vehicular setups to be created and played around with.

Combat while piloting your tank is incredibly simple and plays like almost any third-person shooter. The left stick moves around, the right stick is for aiming and R2 shoots whatever weapon you have equipped. Reloads take a surprisingly long time to complete, so there’s an element of strategy to knowing when to change weapon and reload so as not to leave yourself vulnerable.

The prince can also engage in combat on foot, and as a counterpoint to the often slow vehicular combat, takes the form of a fast-paced brawler. Square performs a light attack, circle a heavy attack and triangle initiates finishing moves on suitably stunned enemies. Add to this a jump and dodge, and a few special abilities that mostly make use of your companions, having them jump into the fight for a short time and you have a simple yet effective combat system.

Experience points are awarded for defeating enemies, which in turn level up Beelzebub and his allies. At every level, a new skill can be selected and unlocked from each character’s small skill tree. Most of these upgrades are subtle, with only a few offering up any drastic changes to gameplay, and even then, these are mostly just a couple of new attacks or combos for Beelzebub.

The gameplay in general is quite basic. Sand Land isn’t bringing anything new to the table in this respect, and for some, it could get quite repetitive after a while. You’ve got plenty of options for changing things up should you want to however, with the sheer amount of customisation options available and there’s plenty to do and explore with dozens of side quests scattered around.

Sand Land does try a few things to mix up the gameplay from time to time, though with varying degrees of success. A multitude of bounty hunter missions can be undertaken for big rewards. Each adds a high-value target to the map that can be chased down and slain. A visit to an early settlement opens up a base development minigame of sorts. Side quests to recruit various characters to the village can be completed, which in turn increases the stature of the village and improves the facilities and buildings that are there.

The absolute nadir of these efforts to change things up is a few stealth sections. As with most games that feature mandatory stealth, but otherwise aren’t equipped mechanically to accommodate it, they’re annoying, flow-breaking, and more often than not have an instant failure state should you be caught, making them frustrating to boot. Thankfully they’re mercifully brief and not especially difficult to complete.

Akira Toriyama’s flawless, trademark art style really shines in Sand Land. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at, ICLA made great use of the tools available to them in Unreal Engine 5. The horizon shimmers with heat haze, dust fills the air, and light filters through trees and buildings. The later forest section of the game is especially good looking with vibrant colours and bright sun being incredibly pleasant to look at.

Textures are crisp and well-defined, and characters especially look stunning, all of which are beautifully animated and voiced. Even small inconsequential characters from side missions are often fully voice-acted as if they were an integral part of the story. This is further backed up by a wonderful score.

Performance is another high point for Sand Land, something that isn’t always a given for games on UE5 at the moment. Gameplay is at 60fps and apart from the odd small dip here and there, seemed to maintain it throughout my entire playtime. Loading times are lightning fast, making full use of the PS5’s SSD, with no more than a second or two at most to load a save or fast travel around the map.

Final Thoughts?

Sand Land is a wonderful game. The story keeps it engaging, each of the main characters has satisfying arcs. Rao especially develops as the tale of his past is revealed and how he comes to terms with it, making up for past mistakes.

Toriyama’s enduring artistic flair and trademark style make Sand Land stand out from the crowd making it an absolute joy to look at and listen to. It may not be doing anything particularly new with its gameplay, but it more than makes up for it with its intriguing story and compelling characters.

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