Sandwarriors is an action game combining the play of mechanized robot combat, 3D arcade shooters and flight simulators. As with any hybrid effort, there are limitations when attempting to succeed in several directions at once, and this game unfortunately does not live up to expectations. Given that the developer of the game is Gremlin Interactive, which has a number of more-than-decent offerings under its belt, this outcome is somewhat surprising.
You play the role of a new recruit serving House Horus in its ancient war against House Set on the planet Tawy. You undertake 24 missions of increasing complexity, using a variety of weapons and craft, attempting to rise in rank. Throughout the game experience, you navigate through an environment that can only be described as an Egyptian desert motif; while there is considerable diversity in the structures you encounter along the way, the terrain itself is rather monotonous.
Sandwarriors can be played with either a mouse-keyboard or joystick-keyboard combination, but either way the ability to get your craft to perform just the way you want seems minimal; the controls seem over-sensitive, and you find yourself constantly banging into things. The game has neither the true precision and control of a flight simulator nor the intuitiveness and ease of movement of an arcade shooter.
Both the heads-up display and the maps are poorly designed and virtually unintelligible at first glance because they contain so much information and so many unintuitive symbols. Even after reading the meanings of all the codes and indicators, you cannot possibly utilize them effectively in the midst of frenzied attacks.
Because of the lack of physical diversity of the setting, I quickly tired of running around and blowing things up. The projectiles and explosions themselves simply did not hold my attention. Had there been a multiplayer mode to the game, there could have been some new excitement, but none is available. Moreover, while the game is not easy to whiz through, the artificial intelligence of the adversaries in the game is only average.
Had this game been released a couple of years ago, the graphics would have been rated outstanding, but the current spate of 3D-accelerated games leave Sandwarriors' visuals in the dust. Even at the highest resolution (800 by 600 pixels) with the maximum detail enabled, the images on the screen did not seem very impressive. When you get close to objects there are noticeably blocky pixels, and the game's colors seem washed out. While the playing area is huge and there are impressive views of huge desert structures, the environment seemed static and dead. The full-motion video segments also are disappointing.
As with the graphics, the music and sound effects in this game are nothing special. The tunes are readily forgettable -- not adding to the atmosphere of the game -- and the sound effects are scratchy. The vocal effects in the mission briefings put me to sleep.
The black-and-white CD jewel case manual in this game is extremely deficient -- one of the worst I have seen. The game menus and controls involve considerable complexity -- as does the plotline of the game itself -- but these are not explained well. You get almost no sense for the actual nature of the gameplay in the documentation.
System Requirements and Comments
The minimum system requirements for this game are a Pentium 75 CPU, 16 MB RAM, 80 MB hard disk space, a CD-ROM drive, an SVGA video card with VESA 2.0 support, a SoundBlaster-compatible sound card, a Microsoft-compatible mouse, and MS-DOS 6.0. These are not steep specifications at all by today's standards.
I did have significant problems installing this game on my computer. The problems are not the result of it being a MS-DOS rather than a Windows 95 game, as there are many easy-to-install and well-behaved DOS games such as the ones released by Blue Byte in recent years. When I first installed Sandwarriors on my computer, the program could not configure properly the digital sound and the game froze as soon as the introductory video started. I have an AWE64 Gold sound card which has had no difficulty with other applications. Upon further testing I discovered that it would not accept the DMA channel that I normally use and instead demanded a different one to function (it insisted on DMA 5 instead of DMA1). The difficulties then vanished, but many users would not know how to troubleshoot this problem.
I cannot in all honesty recommend that most readers run out and buy Sandwarriors -- it did not have the addictive quality and the audio-visual rewards I would have expected given its interesting premise. This game serves as a "retro" experience -- taking us back both in distant world history and in the recent history of computer games --without much satisfying payoff.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP