REVIEW: ‘Sands of Salzaar’ Doesn’t Quite Hit (PC)

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Sands of Salzaar Review Featured

Sands of Salzaar is developed by Hans-Squirrel Studio and published by X.D. Network Inc. Labeling Sands of Salzaar with genres is difficult, as it blends so many ideas, mechanics, and structures that usually aren’t seen together. However, Sands of Salzaar can be summed up succinctly as a blend of Diablo and Mount and Blade

At the start of the game, players choose from several different classes. Each has three skill trees and a unique background, while a handful also comes with character questlines that expand those backgrounds into the playthrough. The classes also cover a range of difficulties that are easily marked to help players pick their class. Once a class is chosen and their character is customized, players are dropped into the game’s world. 

This serves as the introduction to the first of Sands of Salzaar’s two modes and is where it is most comparable to Mount and Blade. It is in this mode that players explore a world divided into a handful of regions, each with its own factions and politics at play. Players can freely navigate the world, interact with NPCs, visit towns, and find enemies and dungeons to fight. 

Sands of Salzaar’s exploration works decently, but it does have a few flaws that hold it back. Being able to simply travel anywhere at any time is great, but the world itself is so small that it feels as though it is a state rather than an entire continent. The different areas that make up the map also each have their own climate as well but end up feeling largely the same. 

Sands of Salzaar Review

This results from the regions, each being mechanically identical alongside their stagnation throughout a playthrough. One desert region may have bandits that will attack the player and ask for a tribute of 10% of supplies, while another in the mountains will have a violent church that will attack the player and ask for a tribute of 10% supplies on top of both having very similar dialogue. Other than faction labels and the different environments, they all play the same. 

This makes traveling throughout the world feel oddly liminal with how much Sands of Salzaar requires players to interact with it. Throughout a playthrough, players need to interact with towns to get quests, supplies, and soldiers, as well as align themselves with a faction within the world. The liminal nature of the world, however, results in this decision becoming primarily arbitrary. There are no readily apparent aspects of each faction that differentiate them from one another to help players decide, making doing so trivial. 

Placing players in an open world as Sands of Salzaar does put a lot of weight on that open world to pull players in with its cultures and details. This is even more true if players are expected to get involved with the politics and people of that world. Sands of Salzaar fails to do so, leaving players aligning themselves with a faction simply out of circumstance or ease of access. 

The game’s world is also let down by just how uninteresting and poorly translated its story is. Sands of Salzaar is developed by a Chinese studio, and the English translation leaves a lot to be desired. Grammatical and spelling errors are fine and pretty easy to look past, but there are also elements of the story that have been seemingly lost in the process. 

Progressing through the game’s storyline frequently gives the player whiplash as plot developments come out of nowhere and quickly escalate mundane tasks into world-saving calamities. For example, the first boss is met after the player runs into a traveling merchant a couple of times. The merchant quickly asks the player to meet him somewhere for some help, where it is revealed that he has been working on summoning an Ifrit God to reclaim the world for its fiery species. That quickly oscillating pace is maintained throughout the entirety of the main quest. 

The other part of Sands of Salzaar is its real-time combat. Combat plays out very similarly to Diablo and other action RPGs, with players clicking to move around and attack as well as using a number of different skills. Each class has a distinct playstyle to learn and experiment with, which does help encourage replaying the game a few times. 

Sands of Salzaar Review

When entering combat, players also bring with them any soldiers or officers that they have under their command. There are quite a few different types that players can bring with them, and each has its own tree of evolutions that they can be upgraded into. A unit that starts out as everyday spearmen can quickly become mounted calvary, medics, or many other options as well. Officers can also be one of a few different classes and have their own skills and equipment for players to customize. 

Unfortunately, the composition of a player’s group doesn’t play much of a role in deciding the victor of battles on most difficulties. Beyond choosing what types of soldiers are taken into battle, there are no strategic decisions to make as units are completely controlled by the game. This effectively means that most units simply charge into enemy units and just start hitting them as much as possible. 

This lack of impact is also present in the game’s equipment system. Players can equip armor, weapons, and headgear that are earned throughout the game, and each has a durability level that lowers as it is used. Having better gear impacts a player’s performance, and it is often negligible as battles are won by how well a player utilizes their skills and not by having gear with bigger numbers. 

On most difficulty levels, gear feels like it was included because the developers felt obligated to do so. Throughout my time with the game, I frequently didn’t keep track of what gear was equipped at all and had no problems playing that way until the very highest difficulty. This is, unfortunately, where many of Sands of Salzaar’s mechanics fall. The meshing of genres is definitely interesting and full of potential, but so much of what is included feels half-baked or poorly implemented that it feels as though the developers would have had an easier time with a more focused product. 

Sands of Salzaar is available now on PC.


Sands of Salzaar
  • 4/10
    Rating - 4/10
4/10

TL;DR

This is, unfortunately, where many of Sands of Salzaar’s mechanics fall. The meshing of genres is definitely interesting and full of potential, but so much of what is included feels half-baked or poorly implemented that it feels as though the developers would have had an easier time with a more focused product.