Of Mice and Sand -Revised- is a strategy and resource management game developed and published by Arc System Works, who are known for developing the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series of games. Originally released for the 3DS, the Revised Edition brings the game to Playstation 4 and PC, the latter of which is the subject of this review. Of Mice and Sand combines relaxing music and a fairly interesting world to create a pleasant experience, though it is marred by some key issues that arise the longer you play.
You can buy the game on Steam for your regional pricing.
Of Mice and Sand starts with your clans desert ship being destroyed by the monster known as the desert dweller. Some of the crew manages t survive and salvage a smaller ship, but they decide that the majority of them are too old to continue their journey. As such, they leave it up to you to rebuild the clan and search for the long lost golden city of El Dorado.
The game takes placed on an unnamed planet that seems to be made up of deserts and other harsh environments. The planet is inhabited by both humans and anthropomorphic animals, though the former is a small minority. The history of the world is given by listening to rumors in the various outposts dotting the planet, slowly painting a picture of how this world became what it is.
The writing in the game is pretty good, and overall it builds a great setting. Reading about the worlds transformation over the years and the causes of it will keep you progressing to learn more and more about the planet. There is a decent amount of humor, though it fortunately doesn’t get too ridiculous, managing to keep a somewhat serious tone. Overall I’d say it’s probably the strongest element of the game as a whole.
You play as the leader of the mice, a race of creatures that travels the wasteland scavenging loot wherever it may be found. As such, the core mechanic of the game revolves around traveling from one point to another, collecting resources, and using them to craft materials.
To do this, you’ll make use of your desert craft, improving it and gaining more crew members along the way.
The desert craft acts as a moving base, and as such a large amount of the resources you collect will go to making upgrades to it. To do this, you’ll build various different rooms throughout the ship to fulfill various purposes, such as a workshop to craft items and sleeping quarters for your mice. As you go on the upgrades will require more complex construction and new materials, requiring you to move into ever more hazardous areas to improve your ship.
During the game you’ll travel to different points called outposts. At these points you’ll be able to accept and turn in delivery requests, purchase and sell supplies at the market, and refuel. Your also able to listen to rumours by purchasing drinks. While some will only contain flavor text about the setting, other rumors will allow you to build new rooms and travel to new areas.
As you travel through the wasteland you’ll collect different resources that can be used to create more complex items. In addition to these items, you’ll also have to find a way to acquire food, water, and fuel. At first you’ll have to rely on the various outposts markets to get these materials, but as your rooms are upgraded you’ll be able to become ever more self reliant.
The main operators of your ship are your mice. After picking up a few of them in the tutorial, you’ll be able to get new mice by your current ones having children. The amount of mice your able to have is determined by your sleeping quarters. The more you have and the more you upgrade them, the more mice you’ll have to run your ship. The more mice you have, the faster you can get things done.
Of course, you can’t just let your mice wander off and not pay attention to them. As they work they will build up hunger and fatigue. In order to take care of the first, you’ll need to collect food and water to keep your crew fed and hydrated. The latter is taken care of by the mice using the sleeping quarters. If they get to hungry or tired, they will lose health, and the only way to get it back is to send them to the infirmary.
Another important aspect of the game is fuel management. When traveling between outposts, you need to keep moving. Should you end up staying still for too long, you will be attacked by the desert dweller, being returned to the start of the game and losing a significant amount of your resources. Making sure you have the proper amount of fuel can make the difference between progress and crippling defeat.
While you travel you will also encounter hostile elements like bandits or desert bugs that will attack you ship. When this happens you’ll either have to fight them off or try to flee past them to the outpost. If you want to fight them off, you’ll need to build turret rooms and other weaponry. As you’re attacked by an enemy your ships rooms will take damage. If they take to much the room will end up being destroyed. If you are defeated, you will be returned to the start with roughly half your resources gone.
While the gameplay is overall pretty solid, there are a few issues that stand out as you play. One thing that becomes apparent early on is that your only reliable source of income is through completing quests. While you can sell items, the amount you can actually make off selling them is incredibly low, often times not being near enough to make up for the time and resources to create them. With the exception of a couple items near the end, you will make most of your money throughout the game by completing quests.
Another problem is that you actually have very little control of your mice. You can pretty much only name them and assign them to work in specific rooms. Your mice will wait till they reach zero on their hunger and fatigue to actually take care of themselves. This this causes them to constantly take damage, as well as interrupting their work at various intervals. You have no control over what rations are prioritized, and as such they can often end up eating away food you needed for a quest.
Finally, the game does become fairly repetitive near the end. As you stock up on supplies to tackle a new area, you’ll find yourself going through the motions for just long enough to get annoying. This, including a surprising spike in difficulty near the end, tends to make the game a chore to finish.
Graphics and Sound
The game has a pixelated art style, somewhat similar to games like Out of This World. It uses a more cartoony style, though there isn’t anything to outrageous. That being said, the game starts to look a bit less nice when you zoom in too far. Overall fine, but nothing special.
The music in Of Mice and Sand is nice and relaxing. There’s a nice spaghetti western style to it, and in many cases it helps ease some of the repetitiveness of the gameplay. The sound effects the game uses are fine. They do their job, though it's nothing to get super excited about.
Overall the game is fairly well presented, with good music and writing as well as an acceptable art style. The part where it starts to fall apart is when it comes to the actual gameplay. Lack of control of your mice tends to hamper you quite a bit, and as you progress the game becomes ever more repetitive. For fans of resource management games I would recommend it, but Of Mice and Sand isn’t going to turn anyone around one the genre.
+ Good Music
– Lack of control for mice causes more trouble than good
+ Interesting setting
– Becomes more and more repetitive
– Selling price of items do not make up for the amount of time to create them