Sands of Salzaar Review

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2021-12-15
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And on a technical level, while the game's translation is perfectly understandable, it's far from perfect. But once you consider that this is an indie project without a huge budget, and Chinese is a tricky language, to put it mildly, it's hard to complain about clumsy or awkward sentences.

Romance of the Five Factions

With the game's story being what it is, let's take a look at the actual gameplay. The best way to describe it would be isometric (both when it comes to exploration and battles) Mount & Blade.

You have a vast open-world populated by five major factions, each with its own unit upgrade tree. These factions have major settlements and smaller outposts that produce resources, send out villagers and caravans, and generally do their own thing. The factions oftentimes decide to expand their territory at their neighbors' expense by sending out armies led by heroes. These heroes can switch sides, go independent, or even join you as companions with a unique personality and skill tree. Oftentimes, they also have some unique personal quest.

Speaking of quests. Unlike Mount & Blade that fully leans into the whole sandbox thing, Sands of Salzaar combines it with a more traditional RPG approach where on top of procedurally generated quests you mostly use to make some quick cash or improve your relations with various characters or factions, you also have the big main quest, your unique class quest, companion quests, and various side stories you can discover while exploring.

This basically means that there's plenty for you to do here. On top of quests, you can engage in trading. Or you can join a faction and help them expand their territory. Or you can create your own kingdom and take over the world. You can also become a proper adventurer going around the map clearing dungeons and collecting resources. You can even engage in some romance or become an amateur pugilist.

Unfortunately, many of the game's systems can feel really undercooked and inconsistent. The quest log is the perfect example of this. Some quests give you a clear indicator of where you need to go. Others show you a general area of where your goal is. And others still just give you some vague directions without marking your goal in any way. And without some sort of in-game encyclopedia where you can look people and locations up, it can be a real pain to find where you're supposed to be going.

While looking something up about the game, I believe I saw a developer post somewhere saying the core team consisted of just three people here. And if that's the case, I guess it can explain this general lack of polish and the fact that while a game has a lot of systems, many of them are not nearly as deep as I would've liked.

But if there ever was a game where "mods will fix it" was an applicable statement, this is it. I'm not usually one to use mods, especially not during a first playthrough, but here, I got a couple of them really early. And it was easy too. Once you launch the game, you can enter the mod manager connected to Steam's Workshop and start downloading mods in just a couple of clicks.

The unfortunate part is that most of the mods are in Chinese at this point. Still, some of them are in English, and for some, it doesn't matter, like the mods that remove the whole equipment durability thing from the game.

You see, repairing your gear is expensive in this game. Prohibitively so. To the point where if you want to use decent gear, you won't have enough resources left to upgrade all your units. This means that if you do want to have a functional army, you'll need to either use whatever gear you find then throw it away after it's broken, or run around the map raiding abandoned camps in search of repair tools. Alternatively, you can use a mod and not deal with that stuff. And even so, you won't exactly be rolling in the resources you'll need to upgrade your troops.