Review – Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom

Back in late 2018, publisher KEMCO released Marenian Tavern Story. It was yet another JRPG out of the literal dozens they release every single year, but also one of the most innovative ones I had played up until that point. Although the publisher is known for their low-budget (and often excessively safe) JRPGs, that game had a neat premise of being a business simulator first, JRPG second. I was eager to see what its developer, Rideon, would come up with next, as that formula had quite a bit of room for improvement. That ended up being the brand new Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom.

Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom

This game does a great job teaching you all of its mechanics… except whatever the hell this screen in the character creator is.

Marenian Tavern Story made you take care of a restaurant, all while gathering ingredients and defeating enemies in nearby dungeons. Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom follows a similar premise, but with a few new twists. First of all, the obvious change is the fact that you’re the son of a recently deceased blacksmith, not a tavern owner. You have little experience running this joint, so you seek help from a childhood friend and a fairy who used to know your father very well. In fact, it seems like everyone knew your father, so you quickly befriend store owners and priests who will help your party in different ways.

The main gameplay loop in Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom revolves around going to the nearby adventurer’s guild, selecting a quest, and setting out in a nearby dungeon in order to collect the ingredients needed to craft the requested items. After getting what you need, you go back to your shop, craft the requested quest items, craft other things that will be sold during the day in your store, go to the nearby tavern to have a meal, open up shop, get some hard-earned Benjamins, then go to bed. Wake up, rinse, and repeat.

This repetitive loop still works, just like it did in Marenian Tavern Story. The game locks you into a borderline Animal Crossing-esque routine, but it always presents you with something new to keep you interested, be it a new quest, or new items to find. Watching your finances swell after a good day of sales is also another excellent incentive, even when there’s not a lot happening plot-wise.

Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom

The combat system is pretty much identical to the one in Marenian Tavern Story.

Another slight improvement over its predecessor is its actual JRPG bit. Just like in Marenian Tavern Story, Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom‘s JRPG mechanics feel a bit like an afterthought, but the developers did include some extra features to spice things up a bit. Even though the grid-based battle system is pretty much identical, the game now allows you freely create up to five characters, each one with the class you want, and create a team that best suits your playstyle. You can make a team of five black mages if you want, or a balanced team with a different job per character. The combat is never challenging, even if leveling up takes ages, but it’s a neat addition nevertheless.

On a technical level, Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom looks and sounds pretty much identical to Marenian Tavern Story. The additional horsepower of the Xbox One didn’t seem to make the game look any better than its predecessor. In fact, I honestly think that the game looks slightly less appealing due to its more simplistic environments. The soundtrack is still a collection of good, but eventually repetitive MIDI tunes, which do their job.

Our protagonist is as subtle as a fat hippo on roller skates.

I enjoyed Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom almost as much as I enjoyed Marenian Tavern Story. KEMCO and Rideon’s take on the JRPG-business simulator hybrid is still very fun, just like it was a few years ago. With that being said, playing it on an Xbox One isn’t exactly as ideal as the Switch. The Switch version is already available, being sold for the same pricetag, with basically the same performance and content, so I’d recommend grabbing that version in order to dive into this simplistic, but oddly enjoyable JRPG.

 

Graphics: 5.0

Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom looks exactly like Marenian Tavern Story, but it features even more simplistic environments.

Gameplay: 8.0

You do fetch quests and run an item shop, all while dealing with monsters and dungeons in a simple JRPG format, almost in the background. It’s just like Rideon’s predecessor, but with less freedom of exploration and more freedom when it comes to customizing characters.

Sound: 6.5

The sound department is still comprised by enjoyable, but occasionally repetitive MIDI tunes. Sound effects are very simple, but hey, they’re present this time around.

Fun Factor: 8.5

It might be best suited for a portable system rather than a traditional console, but the innovative gameplay loop featured in Marenian Tavern Story still works in Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom. The writing is a bit less dumb this time around as well!

Final Verdict: 7.5

Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom was provided by the publisher.