Sands of Salzaar Review
Sands of Salzaar is an expansive strategy-RPG title from the Chinese developers, Han-Squirrel Studio. With the long-awaited English patch finally dropping, we decided to take a look. A game similar to the cult-classic Mount & Blade series, the game is incredibly open, massive, and puts you in charge of creating your own story. But, of course, the larger the game gets, the harder it’s to polish. The game feels pretty rough in its current state, but without many other games like it, it may still be worth it for you to adopt this title early.
The Open Desert
In Sands of Salzaar, you’re dropped straight into a desert settlement as a single adventurer. You can fight, trade, take on quests to increase your skills, reputation, and even build an army. The game works with a complex political system where making friends will always cause you to make more enemies, so you got to be smart about who you are helping. You truly may want to think about helping poor farmers getting bullied by mean collectors, which makes being heroic that much more rewarding. Or, if you wanted, you play a bandit, attacking everyone you think is weak enough to raid.
The game really explodes in the late game, where you control huge armies, take on nations, and change the fate of the world. However, this openness is also one of its biggest flaws.
Sands of Salzaar’s new game experience is especially difficult to approach, as you are given no directions at all. There are a lot of things to do, like fights, treasures, and quests, but it isn’t exactly clear what they are leading to. Many times, they truly lead to nothing, This means that if you come into the game blind, you’ll find yourself repeating mundane tasks wondering if it will ever amount to anything.
This problem is exacerbated by the strange difficulty curve in the game, where most fights will be way too easy, while some are going to be downright impossible. There were very few moments in this game where I felt like I was truly challenged, as most of the combat came down to stats—who has the most levels, bigger army, better equipment.
However, if you are able to make it through the early-game hump, there is a rewarding experience underneath that makes you feel in control of a narrative like no other genre can. The expansive talent tree, the multitude of classes, and different combinations of allies also adds to the seemingly infinite replayability of the title.
With one of the biggest difference between Mount & Blade and Sands of Salzaar coming down to the fantasy combat in Sands, I was excited to try out the combat more than anything. Unfortunately, what I found was clunky and terribly uninspired.
There are many classes and each of them have many spells, but unfortunately, there is nothing to the skills than just damage nukes and mobility on a cooldown timer. It really felt like a cheap MMO, where rather than testing your ability to save your resources for critical moments, spamming everything off cooldown is usually the most effective strategy.
In addition, there aren’t interesting combinations of spells you could concoct, as it didn’t feel like thoughts were put into the game for creating cohesive builds. This is made even worse by the fact that you are railed to a single skill tree from the class you picked at the beginning.
Now, that may not sound like a big deal for a conventional RPG, but with the selling point of a sandbox, open-world, RPGs being that openness, I found it quite disappointing that you pick who you are going to be at the very start of the game, rather than building up to that hero. I truly wanted to be able to come from nothing and find abilities as I go. What’s the point of pretending like you are just one tiny piece in this world when you are born with greatness in the first place?
Bare Minimum Writing Job
Thankfully, you can rest assured that the English translation is pretty solid. Everything has been translated and texts did not ever get in the way of understanding what is going on. However, that doesn’t help the terrible writing underneath.
Exposition is one of the most important elements in a game like this, where studying the different groups of people play a critical role in helping you make your decisions. Unfortunately, you get all of it just dumped on to you in boring blocks of texts at the beginning of a new area. Minus a few privileged factions, there are no quests, interesting characters, or interactions for you to feel out your surroundings.
The dialogues between named characters and quest givers are equally dull. There was not a single moment of depth in any writing and all characters just spoke their mind and acted out their cliched character tropes. I definitely would not recommend this game for its storytelling.
I would say, for most of our audience, to definitely hold off on purchasing Sands of Salzaar as it is still currently under heavy development. However, there is immense potential with the system they have developed! Keep an eye on this one.
***PC review code provided by the publisher.***
- Huge world
- Complex political system
- Super open design
- Dull combat
- Uninspired writing
- Aimless early game