Sand Land Review – A kickass RPG that talks too much

Reviewed April 25, 2024 on PC


Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


April 26, 2024


Bandai Namco Entertainment


Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bird Studio

Sand Land seems to be part of a relatively recent push to adapt the manga of the same name, originally released throughout the year 2000. A film adaptation was released last year, an animated series earlier this year, and now the official video game’s out. Sand Land was created by the late Akira Toriyama, perhaps most famous for the Dragonball franchise, and a legend in the games industry due to being the illustrator behind games like Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and Dragon Quest. Sand Land does evoke his trademark visual style, but in a different context to what we’re used to. This open world action RPG has fantastic ideas and moments, but is maybe too overstuffed for its own good.

It’s like an anime-esque Mad Max. Sand Land is, aptly named, a gigantic desert seemingly covering the whole world, brought about due to climate change, war, and the hubris of man. Water is a scarce resource, with the jovial King of Sand Land appearing on TV infomercials to sell water bottles at an insultingly high price. Various gangs ride around in cobbled-together bikes and cars, along with dinosaurs, giant scorpions, and underground worm dragons. It’s the kind of dystopia we have seen elsewhere, coupled with the whimsy of Toriyama’s art. For example, military tanks are a common sight in the desert, capable of destroying villages, but they’re all cartoonishly rotund and have fake eyes drawn on either side of their cannons. Why? Who knows, it just works. 

Humans and demons live in Sand Land, and while both species suffer from the drought, they don’t get along. We play Prince Beelzebub, the son of the Demon King Lucifer, who isn’t as evil as he wants people to think. He’s just a kid who wants to make sure everyone around him has enough water in return for a healthy supply of comics and video games. After a human sheriff named Rao asks the demons for help finding a legendary spring of water that never runs out, the Prince decides to go, and takes his friend, a timid demon named Thief, with them.

Though the opening hours take a tad long to get to the good stuff, they do cover the basics. This is an action RPG where you can explore the massive world as the Prince, who can run, double jump, or engage in some simple punch-punch-dodge fisticuffs. Or you can ride in one of several craftable vehicles, known as Bots; the first proper Bot you get is your tank, which is reasonably fast and the strongest damage dealer in your arsenal for a long time. It’s always thrilling to circle-strafe a big lad while picking off smaller minions. You next get a Bot to let you jump high to reach new places. Each new type of Bot you discover lets you access a new part of the world, and they control and fight uniquely, so my favourite (which is a later Bot I won’t spoil) may not necessarily be yours. 

You quickly get a gadget that lets you store and release your huge Bots like Pokemon. Want to summon your tank in the middle of a fight? Go ahead! Want to swap it out for another Bot? Go ahead! Want to summon it in the middle of a cramped dungeon? If there’s room, go ahead!  Outside of the moments when Bots aren’t available, you can use them as little or as much as you want, outside of the moments you have to.

The main thing I need to get off my chest is that my laptop unfortunately couldn’t handle Sand Land at max graphical settings. This is the first time my 2020 ROG Zephyrus has struggled with a game, as I continued to have frequent frame rate issues even with the settings set to low. Though this machine could handle Baldur’s Gate 3 just a few months ago, it is (admittedly, sadly) old now, so I’m willing to chalk it up to playing a new game on old hardware, since I’m not enough of a PC guy to know what the issue is. But it helped me appreciate Sand Land’s semi-cel-shaded visuals, which were impressive even on low settings. The desert is beautiful, but your explorations might take you to locations far less desert-y, and breathtaking in turn. 

You should follow the story as much as you can, because it’s splendid. It starts slow, but once I reached the first end of the first “act” (took me roughly 20 hours) I was invested in these silly characters and their sad silly world. But this is a good and proper massive open world game, and there are a plethora of side activities you can search for or stumble onto. Caves and steep hills with hidden loot, saving people from danger, bounties to hunt, Bot races, and quite a few more. You might accidentally run into even larger dinosaurs or scorpions, serving as impromptu miniboss fights. There are even good old fashioned recon towers you can activate to defog the nearby map (gosh they’re making a comeback). 

One of the early story missions sets up the reconstruction of Spino, a dilapidated town. Most side quests you complete lead to a new person joining the town, setting up a new shop or more side quests to recruit even more people. These new shops are convenient when it comes to crafting and customising your bots (which you’re encouraged to do regularly), but you also get to see significant changes to the town over time, with new buildings and other features I don’t spoil. You eventually get access to your own customisable room, à la Animal Crossing. You can fill it with all the craftable furniture you want. I didn’t delve too deep into that part of the game, but I can see myself getting sucked in. You’re always rewarded for going out of your way due to curiosity or kindness, which fits the Prince’s character perfectly. 

“It’s always thrilling to circle strafe a big lad while picking off smaller minions.”

I sing the praises of the Bots because they’re great, but also because they’re a far more entertaining way to engage with enemies. Beelzebub’s melee combat is serviceable, but isn’t very interesting. Enemies rarely ever flinch when being hit, and there’s no indication when your dodges succeed, other than you not taking any damage. Over time you unlock more abilities to deploy, and there are skill trees that allow Rao and Thief to join you from time to time, but I always found myself summoning a Bot whenever I had the option. 

When it comes to crafting those Bots, the game stumbles on another hurdle. You have to individually upgrade each component in one menu, then separately upgrade the Bot itself in another menu. Want to change your components instead of upgrading them? That’s yet another menu. If you don’t have a part you need to upgrade something, you could try to find it in a shop, which means more menus. The systems are unnecessarily inefficient, requiring you to not only remember where something is, but where in the maze of menus you can find it. I eventually just upgraded with whatever I had on hand, and if I didn’t, I left it alone.

But by far the most frustrating part of Sand Land is something I personally have trouble tolerating in other games and have seen other writers say similar. Maybe it’s because I’m neurodivergent, but that doesn’t make it any less valid: the characters can’t shut up in the open world. They are constantly repeating the same conversations, often several times in a short span of time, and there’s no way to stop it other than turning the voice volume and subtitles off. The more I played during my 20-something hours with the game, the more unique conversations got added to the rotation, but the more grating it all became. The Prince, Rao, and Thief will constantly have the same conversations as if they’re meeting each other for the first time. Once I heard the same conversation 3 times in a row about how beneficial it would be to travel to the nearby campsite, when there weren’t any. Another time, the characters started complaining that they didn’t have the specific Bot required to cross a bridge, while I was crossing the bridge with the Bot in question. It’s even worse during boss fights, with enemies and allies shouting the same 3-4 lines ad nauseam. 




  • Fantastic story and art
  • Bots are fun to play with
  • Town rebuilding is compelling


  • Near-consant repetitive dialogue
  • Crafting requires too many menus
  • Bland melee combat

Sand Land is ambitious, full of ideas, and clearly wears its admiration of Toriyama’s work on its sleeve. Your ever-growing pantheon of Bots is a highlight, letting you explore the world and take on enemies as you please. The town-rebuilding aspect is deeply rewarding, and the game becomes more beautiful as you keep playing. However, the abundance of menus required for crafting, the monotonous out-of-vehicle combat, and the endless fountain of repetitive chatter mar an experience that’s nonetheless worth experiencing. I think Sand Land is going to be the infrequent RPG I continue playing after review, but maybe on a better computer.