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White Sands Review (PC)

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Picture this, it's your first day on the job, and the entire fate of the nation rests in your hands. As the Union commander, you must steer your country back to tranquility after a devastating superstorm ravaged the land. But here's the twist: You won't be going in full commando, armed with weapons and gear. Instead, you take on an oversight role, deploying land troops and missiles from space, crossing your fingers that no civilian gets hurt in the process.

White Sands is the new post-apocalyptic strategy game by Binge Gaming OU. It follows in the footsteps of Rebel Incorporated, but instead of being a lowly servant, you are a government official with all the necessary materials at your disposal. It's time to transform the war-battered terrain back into a functioning nation. Do you have what it takes?

Before you answer that, let's delve into an in-depth review of the game, highlighting its peaks and pitfalls. A word of caution, though: it's not a task for the faint-hearted. So, gather your troops as we dive into our White Sands review.

Trial by Fire

bringing your troops together

Welcome to the near future, a time shaped by the aftermath of a colossal solar event known as the Coronal Mass Ejection. This cataclysmic sandstorm has irrevocably altered the course of human history. It has led to a temperature rise, killing most of the living things and causing a virus mutation. The storm soon comes to an end, and Earth gets back its magnetic field. Now, the survivors emerge from bunkers, but walking the land is perilous. So people opt to live underground or in the sky. Those that remain grapple with fear of the mutated humanoids taking hits at what is left. 

But not all hope is lost. Emerging from one of the bunkers is our resident commander of the Union, who gets the job of rebuilding and securitizing what is left of society. 

White Sands is a real-time strategy game where you manage combat zones from a drone's point of view. Now, like I said, it's not your usual combat game where you take on enemies head-on. Instead, you sit behind your screen, which is behind another screen, and command your troops. It's not a walk in the park, as you might have thought. You must carefully consider your actions to maintain security and popularity in the area, or else you're out of a job. Talk about trial by fire. Thankfully, you get an AI assistant who also doubles as the game's tutorial. 

Rally Your Troops

four army vehicles

As a commander, you get all the gadgets and materials you need. You just need to know how to use each. You first start by selecting a route that carves out a section from the map. Next, you navigate the area for bandits and mutants. 

Now, the game's interface is filled with functions, and I must advise you to take time learning the ropes. You'll navigate the map from the bases, also known as bunkers. Each base has stats you must keep an eye on, including units you have on the ground, air support capacity, medevac, and viral spore contamination. Remember, the objective is to clear the area of the mutants and not get more people infected. 

The yellow markers on the map represent the villages. Much of the events in the campaign mode take place in the village. But to get this, you need to maintain a popular standing with the villagers to get more soldiers for your troop. Yes, besides knowing how the interface works, you also need to recruit soldiers. Unlike other games where you must manage ammo and upgrade your inventory, your task is to increase your combatants. This soon proves trivial when attacking bases because you have all the tech and equipment but need people to man them. Ideally, the only way to recruit more soldiers is by proving to the villagers that you are their gallant hero. One way to increase popularity is by setting up a trade outpost and patrols, consequently amplifying the area's security. 

Tactical Tumult

areas marked red in White Sands



Now, let's get to the heart of the matter. You'll find areas marked with a red tag on the map, indicating active combat. Sending out a drone to this area allows you to observe the situation. The drone offers three viewing modes: normal, white hot, and iron bow. While the normal view provides a basic overview, the iron bow mode offers a more precise picture for strategic decisions.

In iron bow mode, the landscape resembles a detailed map, revealing terrain features and villages, which appear as desert outposts. The drone also tracks the movement of your convoy of armored vehicles as they navigate the combat zones. Zooming in on infantry provides detailed information about the deployed troops. The menu on the right side enables you to issue direct orders to your infantry, such as adding units or relocating them to different zones. Additionally, players can adjust the stance of their troops, choosing between passive, aggressive, or attack stances to match their play style.

It's important to note that combat is automated, meaning you may have little control over your troops after deployment. However, you won't be sending your infantry into a bloodbath blindly. The top of your screen indicates whether your forces are evenly matched. If not, the support option allows you to call in reinforcements. For a more drastic approach, you can deploy weapons that target large groups of adversaries, like the mercy missile, which takes about 5 seconds to launch. The game allows you to specify the target area to minimize civilian casualties. Typically, enemies will be concentrated in crowds, allowing you to clear a significant portion without harming the villages. Notably, the weapons have a 30-minute cooldown, so it's best to launch them wisely.

All in A Day's Work

Section marked with red

As a commander, you certainly have your work cut out for you. Besides defending the villages against bandits, you must also deliver aid to the settlements and ensure a proper supply of food, water, and medicine. Besides this, you'll be dealing with remnant effects of the sandstorm, such as a radioactive pool causing the villagers to have sleepless nights. For such missions, you will need specific equipment to tackle the issue. For instance, the radioactive scenarios call for a Wildlife APC, but it's challenging to figure out which vehicle it is, considering there are three variations. 

The good news is you'll always have ready troops to deploy, unless you've sent some out for patrol. While it is a good idea to amp up your security, you want to avoid being caught pants down with fewer troops for missions. More often than not, you'll get more than two missions coming in, and you have to act aptly. Either way, patrols are ideal for triggering missions since the troops can uncover enemy bases, which you have to eliminate. It's a catch-22 situation that essentially roots into the strategy gameplay. It's going to take more than deploying soldiers. You know how they say you might win the war, but not the battle? Well, White Sands gives you a literal picture of what this means. 

The Bad

Battle field in White Sands

Let's dive deep into what's not to like about the game. Granted, it's way early into early access, but some elements are forgivable. Take, for example, the chunky UI with plenty of information running on the screen. At a specific point, menus overlap, making it difficult to keep track of what's going on. Also, some functions are sluggish, especially when recalling a drone. It takes considerable time to retreat back into the airspace. Although you can hop into the next base to see how things are evolving, it can be limiting, especially if you have one drone. 

Moreover, the developers made a tutorial video for the mechanics, but more is needed to help with the gameplay. Some aspects of the video differ from what happens in the game, so it might take time to figure out what goes where. 


Aerial attack in White Sands

White Sands is one of those hard-to-recommend games owing to the novelty of its idea. While it shares certain elements with other Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games, it distinguishes itself with its complexity. Players are often caught in a delicate balance between choosing the right troops for deployment and efficiently managing their manpower. This intricate dance of strategic decision-making can be frustratingly difficult, bordering on overwhelming at times.  

Besides this, the combat sequences are well thought out. You have enough equipment at your disposal. Plus, launching missiles has a satisfying feel to it when they land. It resembles the missile droppings from the hit documentary ‘Unmanned: America's Drone Wars.

The bottom line is that we could witness a few changes before the final game launches. The developer is looking at player feedback to determine the enhancements, which include an expanded economy, direct control over troops, base management, and more. I look forward to the flight control the developers say they are considering for future inclusion. Now, is this a game I'd want to play again? Of course. White Sands carries plenty of potential with it, navigating a tricky genre that only a few games have walked and succeeded in.

White Sands Review (PC)

Command and Conquer With a Touch of Imperfect Brilliance

With bold and ambitious gameplay, White Sands tasks you with missions of grave importance. The brilliant concept of military management puts you in the hot seat of a top commander. However, it’s compounded with a few flaws, which, fingers crossed, will be crossed out in the full game version.

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.