Journeying across the desert can be a dangerous endeavor even in the best of times. But when you have to travel to another destination without knowing what lies ahead, the challenge is on. Sandwalkers: The Fourteenth Caravan puts you in the shoes of the titular caravan, making a journey to collect memories for the Mka tribe. You will establish relationships with other tribes and make new discoveries as you travel, creating a path for the future.
This game is difficult and you will learn in a trial-by-fire experience. Expect failure as you work out where locations are, and how you fight in combat. Not much information is given to you, which is infuriating as some parts of the game could use a better explanation. But the depth of the planning and the roguelike nature lay the foundations for a good strategy game.
Sandwalkers: The Fourteenth Caravan is currently available on PC for free.
Story – Traveling Across the Desert
Sandwalkers: The Fourteenth Caravan starts with a simple story. You have come of age and the Mka tribe declares you ready to take care of the titular caravan. You have a destination and must embark after making your preparations. Once you leave the tribe, the story begins and you set off immediately.
It’s not an amazing story, and since it is just a prologue, it’s barebones. You can travel around to a certain extent, but you must travel to the next tribe. You will then explore to find other landmarks before finishing the story at a boss fight. There is little lead-up or indication that you must fight the boss, and the story progression isn’t natural. Fighting a boss at the end of a prologue isn’t odd, but it randomly appears without any story prompts.
It’s possible to go through the game without any combat, which can make the boss fight jarring and frustrating. With more build-up towards its presence, it wouldn’t seem out of place. Unfortunately, you are railroaded towards the boss instead of being given the option to explore further. It also doesn’t fit with the theme of traveling to different tribes and collecting memories, since you aren’t actively seeking conflict. The boss fight feels forced as a result, which detracts from the idea of traveling around in a caravan.
However, the experience is helpful in showing you what Sandwalkers: The Fourteenth Caravan is all about. Traveling from tribe to tribe while discovering new landmarks sets the stage for an interesting tale of discovery and struggle. But in its current state, the story is non-existent and barely scratches the surface.
Gameplay – Discovering New Lands
As a caravan, you must travel to other lands and discover new locations. You move in a grid-like fashion, similar to Civilization VI. You are not alone on this map, as other creatures are moving around as well. Pay attention to the location of other living beings and resources, ensuring that you have a clear path to your goals. No one else moves until you have made your move, giving you time to plan. This emphasizes the strategy of looking at your surroundings, ensuring you have enough information to make your move.
The world map is hidden, but will reveal itself as you travel. Resources and points of interest reveal themselves once they are in your line of sight. Your resources dwindle as you move around, and you must ensure you get more supplies to avoid dying mid-journey. Scarcity makes you calculate your moves, and forces you to balance combat with resource gathering. This balance is precarious, and you will find yourself in unfavorable situations where you must make tough decisions.
You are given the bare minimum of information before you travel around the world. While this helps you navigate, it doesn’t cover aspects like item usage. This can be frustrating because using items to restore supplies is something you can do, but is never mentioned. Traversing over certain types of terrain or having a compass to guide you is conveniently left out as well. While learning as you play is important, not having other gameplay basics explained is frustrating.
Combat – Harsh Turn-Based Fights
There isn’t much of a tutorial for combat either, as you are thrown straight into a battle. Unlike Darkest Dungeon, which walks you through the basics of combat, you get a brief tutorial on your first battle. This can mean you don’t see the battle tutorial until you fight the boss, which can be a horrible idea.
Every caravan will have a team of four guarding it. They all have different classes which give them different abilities in combat. You will not have the chance to use many classes at the beginning, but you learn about each classes’ strengths. There are many strategies you can pursue to defeat your opponents, but you won’t have many opportunities to try them out.
Combat is turn-based, and you will be defending against enemy attacks while taking out enemies in different positions. You need to keep an eye on enemy attacks while paying attention to your abilities. It’s standard turn-based combat, with everyone taking turns after each other. There’s nothing special other than the unique abilities of each character. The real challenge is getting into combat and worrying about how that factors into your travel time.
Audio & Visuals – Simple Yet Satisfactory
The graphics of Sandwalkers: The Fourteenth Caravan are 2D and pixelated, but you won’t notice it much while playing. Your eyes will be focused on the terrain of the world map, the clearly identifiable items, and special locations. The world looks bleak, fitting in with the theme of connecting tribes by travel. Any lush terrain tiles stand out against the dry desert that fills the map. Combat has fluid animations, and you can clearly tell what your characters are doing.
The audio will also sound bleak, reflecting the sound of nature as you travel through the desert. There won’t be much music until you reach a tribe or enter battle, because you are focused on surviving.
Sandwalkers: The Fourteenth Caravan was previewed on PC with a code provided by keymailer.co.