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Resurrect The Mother Tree In Addictive Survival RPG Sandwalkers – Preview

Written by Marcello TBL

Reviews
Sandwalkers

Everything you need to know About This Roguelite RPG Released Last Week

Sandwalkers, Goblinz Studios’ new title, takes us to a fantasy world on the brink of decline. A mysterious storm threatens life, and a desperate caravan must gather information and attempt to find and restore the Tree of Life.

Released a few days ago in early access, Sandwalkers is one of the RPGs I was most looking forward to after trying the demo a while ago. After about 5 hours of gameplay, I’m here to provide more information about the gameplay, the story, the combat system, the exploration, and the characters of this survival RPG.

Sandwalkers Background Story
The Mother Tree Disappear brings chaos and desertification to Uwando

The Tree of Life

In the world imagined by the folks at Goblinz Studio, Umama, the Mother Tree which always regulated and protected the planet, has died, paving the way for slow and inexorable desertification while a mysterious meteorological chaos called Phithi has isolated the tribes, forcing them to survive near Tree Cities or remote settlements.

One of these tribes, called Mka, preserves knowledge and is trying to do something to counteract the slow decline of the land. Hence, the idea was to organize and assemble a caravan of specialists to gather information, create new routes, and venture east with a single mission: find and resurrect the Mother Tree.

Gameplay

Sandwalkers is a roguelite survival RPG where we will be called upon to undertake multiple expeditions to unlock new quests and, above all, new features that will make the next caravan a bit stronger and capable of reaching farther zones.

The starting point of our expeditions is the city of Lecwasi, where we will first have to choose the four initial members of the caravan from different classes and races and set off to discover unexplored territories.

Exploration alternates with turn-based combat, and for both phases, the challenge is anything but trivial—in fact, quite the opposite. With each Game Over, which will happen often, especially at the beginning, we will collect points that will allow us to upgrade our caravan and improve our runs. That said, let’s take a detailed look at all the elements that make up Sandwalkers.

Exploring the desert world of Uwando

Once we leave the city, we will find ourselves on a freely explorable hexagonal game map. The caravan’s goal is to push east to find out what happened to the Mother Tree, but we will have complete freedom to move in any direction.

Sandwalkers Exploration
Hope, supplies, and the encounter bar are elements you must worry about if you want to survive during explorations.

The map will gradually reveal itself as it is explored, showing points of interest, enemies, and events that are always different in each run. Each caravan we lead will have to contend with food supplies that deplete with each tile we cross, and the value of the supplies consumed will vary depending on the type of tile our caravan passes over (sand, grass, rock, etc.). Once the supplies are completely consumed, each additional step will deplete the HP bar of the caravan members, leading them to a slow permanent death.

Fortunately, within the map, we will find the necessary food in the form of animals, water wells, plants, and consumable items traded in cities and vendors. The first expeditions will struggle to move within the map since food and the maximum obtainable supplies are scarce. Only after several runs and thanks to points called Memory Points will we be able to upgrade our caravan and allow it to have more supplies and, thus, greater autonomy in movement.

Another element to keep an eye on is hope. This is a value that tends to increase or decrease based on the events the caravan encounters. Positive events can exalt our team by giving them positive buffs, such as increased shields during combat, or negative buffs that do exactly the opposite if our hope drops too low.

Then, there is the ambush bar, which rises inexorably as we explore the map, indicating when we might be randomly attacked by pirates. Each time the bar fills up, the difficulty of encounters increases, pitting higher-level enemies against us in combat.

If all this were not enough, our caravan would also have to deal with changing weather conditions, which would affect movement costs and more. Finally, perhaps the most important element of each expedition is the Memory Points. These points are earned with each new discovery or quest completed and can be used to unlock upgrades and new features for future caravans. We can, for example, improve maximum supplies, enhance attacks and defenses, improve starting diplomacy points with various tribes, and even unlock new classes—everything that will allow us to become stronger in future runs.

Memory Points
For each run, you collect memory points to spend inside the Crystal Library in order to improve on the next expedition.

To move on the map, select the desired point, and the game does an excellent job of clearly showing what the food consumption will be and any HP consumption if we run out of supplies. Another thing to note is that the game map remains essentially the same from run to run, but internal elements such as enemies, supplies, and treasures will change slightly, which gives a certain continuity to future runs and helps players immerse themselves in the game. For example, if a caravan accepts a quest pointing to a specific location on the map and is defeated during the journey, the quest will already be part of the new expedition, and the point on the map will remain the same.

Now, let’s see what happens when we are ambushed by enemies or intentionally attack one on the map.

The Combat System – Between Weaknesses, Shields, and Energy

The combat system of Sandwalkers is based on solid and classic foundations, featuring static battles where our units on the left side of the screen, up to a maximum of 4, face off against enemies on the right. The battlefield is divided into the front row and back row, with the usual limitations on attacking the rear guard except with magic and ranged attacks. This element also comes into play when taking advantage of a character’s traits, which might gain a bonus to attack when staying in the back row rather than the front.

The speed points in their stats determine each character’s turn, and a dedicated bar perfectly shows who will move first. HP and shields are the most important elements of the combat system to pay attention to if we want to defeat enemies and keep our heroes alive. Enemy attacks are telegraphed and hit hard, but having a hero class that allows shield recharges, the first encounters can be managed quite easily.

Combat system
The combat system features 4vs4 mini-maps with front and back rows.

Shields work in the most classic way: they do not reset between turns as often happens in Roguelites but are points that can be accumulated to withstand powerful enemy attacks. Against enemies, we have a small advantage due to the stunning element that happens when we deplete their shields. Reducing this value to zero will stun the enemy unit, causing it to skip a turn. This mechanic plays a crucial role in survival and positively resolving battles.

Physical attacks, various magical attacks (fire, wind, water, poison, mental, earth), and support abilities influenced by the character’s main stats (which we will see shortly) interlock with resistances and weaknesses. The UI is well-structured to remind us immediately if the attack we are about to use is the right one or will be partially resisted.

Besides each character’s skills, there are consumables that, once unlocked with Memory Points, allow us to use various items during battles. Battles usually resolve in a few turns, except for more challenging boss fights, remaining fresh and dynamic, and they never feel like a tedious obligation during exploration.

Desert Dwellers

Goblinz Studio videogames always give a certain importance to the characters involved, and with high-quality pixel art and inspired concepts, they manage to offer strong characterizations. Sandwalkers is no different, presenting a game world filled with inspired enemies and unique characters.

The classes and races that make up this survival game are varied and very different from each other. Among the starting characters we can select for our desert forays are humans, effective pyromancers; oryxals, ether beings capable of controlling the winds; rampant cobras with bard skills and poison attacks; Oriflan, elephant-bodied protectors with high shields and health; and more, which I’ll leave for you to discover.

Regarding statistics, we have HP, Shield, Strength, Agility, Intelligence, and Will. Each plays a role in influencing the percentage of certain skills used during battles; for example, strength gives more power to physical attacks.

Characters
Stats, traits, resistances, and skills are well displayed on the character screen.

Then, each character brings resistance and traits. Traits, which are two, can be of various kinds; examples include the possibility of attack bonuses if the character is in the back row, bonuses to the caravan’s maximum supplies, penalties to the caravan’s hope if energy drops below 75%, shields regenerating at each combat, and more. Additionally, each character has an ability that can be used during exploration, usable once until resting in a village, from the ability to clear desert tiles to reduce drastic supply consumption to sniffing out food tiles on the map.

There are also Idol and Accessory slots, unlocked with Memory Points, allowing each character to equip artifacts and items found during exploration or at merchants.

With each combat, we earn items but mainly experience points that can be used to level up caravan members. Points are shared across the party, meaning we’ll have to choose who to level up immediately and wait to collect more points to level up the rest. Leveling up improves stats and grants access to new skills chosen from a list of three options, including an upgraded version of a skill already possessed by the character.

Graphics and Sound

Pixel art is a specialty of the developers, who boast a catalog of turn-based games with excellent pixel graphics. Sandwalkers showcases delightful graphics that bring the game world to life and blend perfectly with all UI elements.

Seeing character animations during battles is a joy for fans of this graphic style. The experience is complemented by a high-level audio component, with background music that sets the right context based on situations and crisp, pronounced sound effects.

My Thoughts

Sandwalkers initially had some bugs, as noted in early Steam reviews. Personally, I experienced only one crash in about 5 hours, which didn’t erase my progress, so it’s not a major concern. Bugs are fixable, but monotony is not, and Sandwalkers is anything but monotonous.

Currently in Early Access and with a free prologue to try, it has immense potential and is one of the few Roguelites that have captivated me with its story, which is usually just a backdrop in this genre. The “one more run” effect is strong, and even in its early stage, this strategic survival RPG offers hours of entertainment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Marcello TBL

Italian Dad in love with Turn-Based RPGs and Indie Games. In 2018 he started Turn Based Lovers and now he can't live without it.