SAND LAND Preview: A First Look at Forest Land

Image Credit: Bandai Namco

A little over a week ago, I was hot-dropped into the world of SAND LAND, the new action RPG from the mind of Akira Toriyama. I got to experience a little over three hours of gameplay, spanning various regions and playstyles and covering many of the game’s mechanics. That’s barely a dent in the full experience, though. There is just so much content to cover in SAND LAND. Let me be the first one to tell you: fans of the manga and brand-new anime have a lot to look forward to.

SAND LAND follows Beelzebub and his crew. From what I can tell, they are rounding up allies to take down Supreme Commander Bred and stop the Forest Land army from being reactivated. In my short playthrough, we met Ann, Rao, Thief, The Swimmers, The Resistance, and various enemies like giant gators, raptors, scorpions, what looked like pterodactyls, and some human enemies. The enemies feel very reptilian and almost prehistoric. A team member at Bandai Namco described SAND LAND as “Mad Max meets Dragon Ball.” He wasn’t far off.

Image Credit: Bandai Namco.

Our session begins 30 hours into the story, which is about halfway through the game. See what I mean about a ton of content? Diving into any title that many hours in is overwhelming, to say the least. Getting my bearings took some time while I surveyed the vast desert that SAND LAND brought to life. I was on a mission to get to the all-new Forest Land, and I got to experience some of the vehicles and puzzles the game had in store.

SAND LAND Is A Massive Game

The first step was traversing on the motorcycle, my preferred method in the desert, at least while getting from point A to point B. I will be the first to admit that vehicles in games are just not my thing, especially when it comes to combat while driving. Vehicle combat is a HUGE part of SAND LAND, and there is no one way around it. Managing the controls can be a bit overwhelming, too. Each vehicle has its own set, and upon using it for the first time, you’ll get a pop-up with instructions. One had four pages of controls that I absolutely did not master in my playthrough. But with over 60 hours of gameplay, I guess you’ll have time to become an expert.

You will use tanks, battle bots, hovercrafts, and more. The game features 14 different vehicles, each with around six to nine ways to customize it. You’ll find and unlock colors, weapons, and styles throughout the game, with plenty of ways to mix and match. Did I make a hot pink Battle Bot? Yep!

Image Credit: Bandai Namco.

Vehicles will be necessary to solve certain puzzles and access different areas. For instance, to get to Forest Land, we needed to solve a series of water-raising puzzles, and since you can’t swim in SAND LAND, the hovercraft was vital. Once the puzzles were complete, I made my way to Forest Land, and it was quite a change from SAND LAND.

There’s More Than Just Sand in SAND LAND

Bandai Namco didn’t just reskin the desert map to add more space. SAND LAND features two completely different open-world maps, the Sand Land and the Forest Land, but there are more differences than just that. The desert map feels like a huge, wide open space that you can traverse around with few limitations. 

Forest Land, however, feels more linear. Some roads and paths make the world feel more urbanized. You’ll have to find your way around these winding paths to get to each quest. It’s never just a straight shot. If you decide to launch off a cliff, you will be knocked off your vehicle. You’ll take damage, but I can’t say it wasn’t fun though!

Image Credit: Bandai Namco.

SAND LAND Respects Its Source Material

You will also see a variation in enemies between Forest Land and Sand Land. In the forest, I encountered flying enemies. Whereas in the desert, I found a lot of ground creatures and vehicles to take on. Through my free play time in SAND LAND, I found myself just endlessly exploring. It took priority over taking on quests because I wanted to see what kind of different things I could find. There was such a variation in areas, like fully lived-in cities, ruins, makeshift bases, and nature, that I just couldn’t stop exploring. The map is full of content that needs exploring. Who was I to say no to?

The gameplay in SAND LAND consists of various mechanics as you progress through the story. There’s melee combat, vehicle combat, stealth, special abilities, and more. You can change the difficulty level in the menu. Still, each mechanic needs to be utilized. If some of these aren’t your favorite, you’ll have to get on board to really experience the game.

SAND LAND stays very faithful to the manga with its cute but gritty art style, but don’t let the adorable graphics and tiny main character trick you into thinking that the game will be a walk in the park. With so many moving parts, a lengthy campaign, and a ton of end-game content, SAND LAND is for hardcore action RPG players. Even after the main story ends, players can access vehicle customization, bounty hunting, sub-quests, battle arenas, and even a racing “mini-game” to try their hand at.

Image Credit: Bandai Namco.

Wrapping Up

I got a small taste of SAND LAND back at Summer Game Fest. My hands-on time was a lot more throughout this time. Still, three hours barely made a dent in this massive game. What I can say is that the team is bringing their A-game here. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the source material, SAND LAND is a must-play for any action RPG lover. Full stop.

SAND LAND will be available on April 25, 2024, on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.


  • Dayna Eileen

    Dayna is an all-Canadian long-time gamer and geek. She absolutely loves introducing the people she knows to her love for gaming and nerd culture. You can often find her writing about tech, gaming and media across the web.

Dayna Eileen

Written by Dayna Eileen

Dayna is an all-Canadian long-time gamer and geek. She absolutely loves introducing the people she knows to her love for gaming and nerd culture. You can often find her writing about tech, gaming and media across the web.

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