Sands of Salzaar is a deep game. The desert is a big place.
You could spend years working out it’s secrets.
But with this guide, you won’t have to.
[This guide does not spoil the story]
Read this before reading this: A Preamble
Welcome to a Beginner’s guide to Sands of Salzaar. If you’re not a beginner, don’t worry, this guide will probably be useful to you to. I’m not going to go on with the ‘Thank you’ and the ‘Hope you Enjoy’ because the best way to express that is to give you a good guide that helps.
If you’re a beginner, you might be a bit lost as to exactly what kind of game Salzaar is. Some people compare it to Mount and Blade, some people compare it to Kenshi. Truly it is it’s own concept, which in my opinion is the best kind of game.
Salzaar is an isometric army-building strategy RPG. Players travel world map of the land of Salzaar, as their customized character, followed by a simplified version of their army. When encountering enemies, armies, or hostile locations, it switches to a much more up close battle view, where the player, their party members, and every troop in their army is individually represented, animated, and independently fighting.
In between battles, you will be busy with many goals:
- Improving your character’s gear and skills, as well as those of other characters who have joined you. There are nearly a hundred possible allies.
- Building up your resources, a war chest full of gold, stores of lumber and stone, and the rare but vital mystical gems. There are so many things in the game that require a steady stream of resources.
- Managing and improving your army. Every fighter in the game, from lowly spearmen to tame bears to dragons, can take on more powerful forms as they level up. Army size is limited, and troops require resources both to upkeep and improve, so finding good combinations is a skill.
- Engaging in quests. There are story quests, side quests, randomized quests, more quests than you’ll know how to finish. There are also dungeons you can run again and again for gear, for resources, and of course, to finish quests.
- Participating in diplomacy, and inter-tribe warfare. You’ll be able to shape the face of Salzaar, contributing to the rise and fall of 5 tribes in 6 regions they fight for control of. You’ll make friends and enemies of these tribes on an ever changing basis, as well as individual characters, and locations. These, also can be friends and enemies with each other, and you are wrapped up in the middle of it. Or maybe it’s them that are wrapped up in your schemes…
- Advancing a story that will involve all of this, and take you all over the lands of Salzaar.
Sands of Salzaar lets you choose your approach to these goals, whether you want to focus on building a massive army, create a band of unstoppable champions with staff for support, dominate through diplomacy with your allies doing the heavy lifting, or rule as lord of one or more locations to amass vast wealth and impregnable defense.
There are many systems involved in all of this that are not fully explained upfront. Nor should they be, there would be text everywhere telling you this detail or that, that you might forget, or fail to get before actually experiencing that part of the game. But for those who don’t want to miss anything, or just aren’t getting it, you have this wall of text to come check. Since there’s a lot to get into, you might run into sections that you’re not really interested in. This is not a novel, and you don’t have to read through it front to back; feel free to skip ahead or search for the section that you need, and I will try to make each one fully descriptive on it’s own. I will use headers or bold text to highlight the subject of each section to make them easier to find.
So with that, let’s dive right in.
First Thing’s First AKA Where do I start?
So you’ve started up the game, to be greeted by the lovely choral main screen theme, and a picture of a glowing lady in blue walking calmly through a battle. That’s not your character, but you will meet her on your journey. First, though, let’s go through what you have to work with right here, in reverse order:
At the very bottom you have 3 buttons: Update Log, Credits, and Game Settings. As the dev team is always hard at work making changes and fixing bugs, it is always worth it to give the update log a look after any patch to know what new opportunities are available or obstacles removed. Credits are, of course, what it says on the box. Game Settings will be, at this point, the only thing you should be interested in, so we’re going to go over that quick before we jump into the actual game.
In the first screen, under General Settings, it’s mostly graphics and sound settings. If you know what’s going to be optimal for your PC setup, go for it, otherwise, leave this at default unless your game looks really weird.
The second section under Game Settings is where things start to get fun. The very first setting is a slider that lets you choose the ‘Max Battle Size’. The game describes this as ‘The number of units each side can start with in battle’, but what it means is, the maximum number of units allowed on screen during a battle at any time. If you or the enemy have more units than this in your army (usually), the extras wait unspawned until enough are defeated on that side for the next squad in line to fit, and then they will spawn in. This counts party characters as well, since they are animated on screen the same as everyone else. This option is for performance, mostly, reducing the load on your graphics device, but can be used for strategy or to fit your taste for action.
The second part is 4 toggles for Quick Cast. Usually when using a skill with a key (instead of clicking on it) a targeting indicator will appear for you to choose in what direction, or where, to cast it. Pretty standard. But with Quick Cast, it skips the indicator and just aims it immediately at where your pointer is as if you immediately clicked. Battles can be fast paced and some find shaving off the extra half second to click again helps them win.
There are four options, for different kinds of skills: Targeted will automatically hit the target under or closest to your mouse pointer for skills that target a unit, Location will select the location centered on your pointer immediately when it’s pressed for location targeting skills, Direction will select the direction from your character that your pointer is, for skills that just fly out in a direction. Indicator is a half and half approach, where the indicator appears while you hold the button and releasing it chooses the target as appropriate for the skill. This partially overrides the other Quick Cast settings.
The third section, Hotkey, is where your keyboard bindings are found, that is, the keys you press for various functions in game. These are separated into General hotkeys, which are used out of battle, and Battle hotkeys for use in them. Note you can have the same key do different things in and out of battle, but by default, functions will only use the same key if they’re roughly the same function. I’ll go over what each of these functions are in their appropriate sections.
The last two sections are a help section, and the Feedback section. The Feedback section is one way you can send in bugs or issues you find in the game. Another is the Discord, which I will talk more about later.
Main Game Menu
Above the three buttons on the bottom, we have four you’re probably familiar with. Again, in reverse, they’re Exit, Game Mods, Load Game, and New Game. Exit closes the game, obviously, with no prompt. You’ll already have saved (or not) before you get here. Game Mods brings you to the Mods menu, where there are 4 options:
The Manage Mods menu lets you activate or deactivate mods you have downloaded for the game, so as to get your game working the way you want it. The Workshop option brings up a menu that links to Steam Workshop, displaying in game what is available on that third party network. Third option is Develop Mods, which opens an editor to make your very own mods within the game. The fourth option, Gameplay Lab, is for testing Multiplayer Mods to see if they function correctly with multiple players. There’s also a button in this option to switch over to the Develop Mods section, for editing your mods quickly as you see results in this section.
Load Game is one you’re probably more familiar with, and will take you to the saved games screen. Saves are conveniently grouped by which character the save is for, with the exception of the Autosave. There’s only one autosave, across all characters. If you plan to load a save from a different character than the one you are using, or start a new game, or even just quit, and the last save was an autosave, it is recommended that you make a manual save first. Otherwise, if you end up using a different character, or loading a save that isn’t your autosave, your progress up to the autosave will be erased next time the game autosaves. Very sad. Also, the toggle for the autosave function is here, not in the Save menu. A last note: some patches may cause saves to no longer be playable. If this is the case, the individual saves will be marked with a ! and the level with ??.
Finally, we have the most important function in this menu: New Game. Clicking this will bring you to the new game menu which consists of two options: Story Mode, and Sandbox Mode. The major difference between these is that the story is only present in Story mode, and certain things are tied to your progress in this. In Sandbox Mode, these are tied to time elapsed in the game. Beneath whichever option you currently have selected is the difficulty. Sandbox, notably, is missing ‘Easy’ difficulty. That is because it is considered a more advanced mode. So it’s recommended your first time through to play Story mode on Easy, to get the hang of it. Under both of these is the Expert Mode checkbox. This will limit your playthrough to only one save, making the save button in the menu simply overwrite your last manual save. It gives you a bonus that I will talk about in a further section.
Once you’ve picked your game type, if it’s Story mode you will be treated to the game’s opening cinematic. Then in both modes you will end up in character creation, which is what we talk about in the next section.
New Game, New You : Character Creation
So you’ve started a New Game, and now you’re at character creation. The first thing that will appear in front of you is the class selection screen. Each class has a brief history bio, a general description of their skills, and a note about what magic they can learn, or have party members or units with them. I will go into a little more detail to make the choice easier for you.
- Spiritmancer is the magic damage dealer. They have several magic attacks ranging from a shooting blast to a circular area effect to a moving wall of power, and can summon minions to attack, as well as teleport across a battlefield. They have many passive skills that increase the power and decrease cooldown of their magic. This class starts off with a melee party member that no other class has access to, but no units. They can learn all magic.
- Spirit Witch is a less direct magic character. They have skills that turn enemies against each other, or make them run away in fear. Their passives focus on mana and skill cooldown. They can also learn all magic, and start off with extra skill points.
- The Jackal is a physical damage dealing class which focuses on targetting one enemy at a time. They have skills which allow them to zip over to a target’s location and deal damage, and also avoid damage from other enemies. Their passives increase critical hit chance and damage, all the better to take down their target. They can’t learn magic, but can change units into bounty hunters, and start with 2 of them.
- The Shaman (AKA Beastmaster) is a melee fighting character that specializes in changing their form. They have a few melee attack skills that can be used in human or nonhuman form, and can change into a dark wolf called a Canis, a giant spider, an eagle, and eventually a dragon. Each form has different basic attacks and many skills are not usable in these forms, but some skills and passives have new effects when used in different forms. They can’t learn magic, but start off with a few wolves.
- The Knight-Errant is a melee fighting character that can unleash high damage techniques that do as much damage as spells. They start with the ability to use an alternating special normal attack, but later get the ability to rain magic blades on foes, leap into groups for area damage, shoot slashing waves, slash in long lines through many people, and more. They also have skills allowing them to zip around the battle, and passives that increase the damage of their skills and in general. They can learn some magic as well, and start with extra skill points. One important thing is that this class starts the game hostile to every faction, which means many characters will attack on sight, and no towns can be entered. This is not permanent though; more on that later.
- The Berserker is a pure melee damage dealing class. They have only one attack skill, Outburst, which sends them into a high power berserk mode where they can’t use any other skills. But they do have many passives which give their attacks new powers, and increases damage and abilities with different weapons. They obviously can’t learn magic, but do start off with some bears, a powerful mid tier unit.
- The Sentinel is a support hybrid magic and physical class that casts spells based on both physical and magical attack stats. They also activate auras that increase the powers of units near to them. They also have the ability to make their basic attacks into special attacks. Their passives increase the effect of auras, especially on themselves. They can learn some magic, and start with some ranged soldiers, the better to use their auras.
- The Sultan is a special hybrid class that starts with a unique town that only appears for them, that they own and must build. They have skills that change their basic attack, shoot out a disc that returns, summons attack and defense auras at locations, and summons a powerful turret at their location. They have passives that increase stats and add abilities to all units in their army.
As the owner of a town, Sultan starts in the more advanced faction running part of the game, which subjects them to warfare from other tribes. More on this in a later section. Also, many of their abilities require not just levels, but certain buildings in their town. They can learn all magic.
- The Nameless is a fully custom class, with the ability to choose skill trees from any other class. You can make your own custom combinations for powerful synergies. They can also learn all magic, obviously. Like the Knight-Errant, they start with bad relations with every faction and town. You will be attacked and cannot initially enter towns.
Of these classes, the Spiritmancer, Spirit Witch, Jackal, Shaman, and Sultan have personal story quest lines. These are aside from the main story.
This is where you select your character’s model from a list. You can also choose to forego the default character portrait and create your own with custom hair, head shape, face, accessories and outfit, all from menus of different parts. Not really very complicated, but very involved. At the end of this it asks you to enter a name.
After you’ve selected your class, the next screen you are taken to is the Legacy Store. Legacy is a score of points for different tasks completed during the main game. You get a smaller amount to start out with for customizing your character. That number will go up when you complete the game. It works like a high score, so the legacy points you have available here will never go down, and will go up every time you do better than your previous best!
There are 4 categories of things to purchase in the legacy store.
The first category is skills. These are abilities you can add to your character on top of the ones granted by your class. Keep in mind these will require skill points to level up, which there is a set number of without special items. Some of these can be learned in game, as well; These include: Fire blade, Mirage, Fireball, Frost, Lightning bolt, Blazing Missile, Shadow Meltdown, Burning Vial, Silent Tempest, and Almighty Healing. Only grab one of them if you really need it early, or can’t learn magic. At the bottom here is where the Nameless can buy other classes’ skill trees. Other classes can’t buy these.
The second category is Items, which will be added to your inventory or resources at game start. There is money (called Utar), and wood+stone bundles in 3 sizes, as well as items to increase each stat, and the ability to buy one Wisdom Crystal, the special item that allows extra skill points on top of the set number you can earn. This item is also how certain classes start with extra skill points.
The third category is Squad. Here you can buy an extra character or more who will start the game in your party. Note that more characters can be unlocked for this section as you play through the game. Bear in mind, that any character that is here, can be recruited eventually in the main game. So only buy one of these if you want them early.
The fourth category is Settings, which aren’t exactly what that word makes you think, but sort of. There is an option here to increase the game difficulty for extra legacy to spend, this you can buy more times as you complete more playthroughs with it. There’s the option to increase the max number of unit squads and party members you can have. These are good as the number is small, and ability to upgrade it scarce. You can also increase your favor with any of the 6 starting tribes at the start of the game. Favor will change a lot as you play, but it can be a good option if you are Knight Errant or Nameless, and want to have access to towns in the beginning, which is important. Also Nameless can pick up a bonus to legacy for free here, which they need to afford the expensive skill trees and still buy anything else.
After you finish this screen, the game begins.
The Many Interfaces of Salzaar
So now you’ve selected a class, a model and face, and some legacy stuff to bring. The game now will dump you on the map, with maybe a few words about your character, and a quick flash of the default controls. But there’s a lot of menus and interface to work with, so let’s learn them first.
- The first menu, the top button on the lower left, is the Legacymenu. Here, it tracks how much legacy you have earned in this playthrough. Clicking one entry will tell you how to earn legacy for it. Many of them have a time limit of 90 days.
- The button under that is the Messagesmenu. This is very important, always. It has four tabs, the News tab where important, temporary events such as Heroic Souls and Bazaars are shown, the Apply tab where attacks on your cities will be shown, the Report tab where your weekly income will be broken down for you if you have one, and most important, the News Log tab, which stores all the events that appear on the bottom of the screen as you wander. You will use these a lot. Keep in mind, whenever you load a game, you will start with everything in this menu blank.
- The first button on the lower right, the Partymenu. This is where you will be managing your characters, and units in your army. They are listed on the left, and selecting one will give you options for it on the right. For a character these will be the Details screen with all the information about a character’s stats, gear, and exp, and the Skills screen where you can view and select skills. Details will also show your main character’s brawl and faction rank, which we will go into later.
In Skills, you can move your mouse onto any skill to see a description, along with calculations of it’s effects. How they are displayed is usually something like ‘Does 170 Damage [100 + 50 x skill level + .2 x Physical attack]’. Here every point in the skill increases damage 50, and 20% of the physical attack stat listed in the Details screen is added.
For units, you also have a Details screen, with many of the same stats, as well as the damage type, armor, and unit type. Putting your mouse on the damage or armor type will show how effective they are against certain armor/damage types. In Details you can assign the unit to a squad, and assign that squad’s behavior for every other unit in it. Also gems can be seen here. After Details, you have the Promote screen. Here is where you can promote units to more powerful ones when they reach the right level. Also you will be able to see all the forms they could take, all the time. This can help you discover new units you might want to get, or plan your advancement for this or other units in your army. Some units even have the promotion paths of other units lumped in with theirs for you to see. The third tab for units is the Manage screen. Here you resurrect units with potions, give them gem slots and gems for those slots, move them up and down in the unit list, combine them with other squads of units if they aren’t at max size, and dismiss them from the army, though this is not the best way to do that. The hotkey for this menu is P
- The second button on the lower right is your Inventory. Everything you have that is not equipped will be here. The size of your inventory is variable; it can be increased in several ways. On the left are the characters in your party, if you wish to equip an item to one, simply select your tab and drag the item to the right slot or right click it. Across the top of the main inventory there are tabs, one for everything, one for just equippable items, one for useable items (battle and not), one for trade goods, one for gifts, and one for gems. There’s also a hidden space inside the ‘Food’ button where food supplies are kept; Once this is full they go in with all the other items. Note the Sort Inventory button at the lower left, for keeping your inventory well organized. Repeated clicking will change the order. You cannot usually take on more than your max in items, but if you do manage to receive more, they will not appear in your inventory until you remove some others. Also, clicking ‘Details’ on the party member displayed will open the Party menu up over this one. The hotkey for this is B, as in Bag
- The third button on the lower left is Talents. Here you can spend Talent points, earned on level up and through a few other ways, to gain general passives such as more inventory space, more damage for certain troops, or weekly jade income. Most recommended is the ‘potion brewing’ skills as they provide regular access to the white rose potions for reviving downed units, otherwise somewhat rare.
- The Fourth button on the lower right is Quests. This menu can also be found by clicking ‘Quest Tracker’ on the upper left. It shows your current quests, with story quests first, temporary time sensitive random quests under that, then miscellaneous side quests last. Clicking a quest allows you to see it’s description, and in some cases activate an arrow pointing to it or display your target location on the map. Of course in some cases the target location points back to the quest giver. Can’t give away too much. The hotkey for this is L, as in Log
- The fifth button on the lower right is Intel. This screen has a wealth of information. It shows you your own relation to all the tribes and bandits in the game, and to every town you have visited and character you have met. It also shows the towns, characters( with locations), and number of troops every faction controls, and their favor to each other. It shows the and income of a town, as well as characters and units present and a score for fortifications. It shows, for characters, their level, faction, equipment, all stats, special attributes and affects, and learned skills. Putting your mouse on any of the stats or affects will explain it, something unavailable any other place. Keep in mind you can collapse the faction, town, or character sections so as not to scroll through them. Also in every faction section is the Diplomacy button which allows you to send Utar to improve relations/propose alliance, or break alliance/declare war for free. The hotkey for this is I as in Intel
- The final button on the lower left is System, which is simply game options. Here you can save, load, go to settings, or exit to the main menu (with no prompt to save). There is something to note, while in game, the ‘game setting’ tab in settings has a button that will teleport your party a small distance, used if you become stuck inside solid objects. It is rare but can happen. The hotkey for this is Esc
Other than these controls, you can press N to change the zoom on the mini map, and to make it disappear. You can also press C to zoom the view of the world map in and out. F5 will automatically overwrite your last manual save for the character, and F6 will open the load screen. M opens the map screen, which can also be accomplished by pressing the + sign on the minimap. The map can be zoomed in and out with your mouse scroll wheel if you have one, as well as dragged with the mouse to see more. Zooming out too far will switch you to the world map screen, which can also be done with the World Map button, and you can switch back by zooming in, clicking a region, or pressing Return. On either map screen, clicking a marker gives you an option to move to it. Right clicking any spot will set you on a course to it.
Finally, there’s the overhead display on the top left, where the time of day (as a symbol and a round progress bar), the number of days played, Utar, Stone, Wood, Jade, and Food supply are shown. Temporary buffs based on what was last eaten also appear under this.
If you don’t have access to any of these menus, like not having troops or met any characters, it’s okay. Refer back to this section as needed. For now, let’s start playing!
Dawn of the First Day : Kung Fu Fighting
So you’ve been dumped in a caravan rest stop in the desert, and don’t know what’s going on or what you need to do. That’s natural. To move on the world map, you click on any location, and your party will plot a path there and try to move to it. If they get stuck, try clicking again. You can use either mouse button. Also, holding the mouse button down will cause your party to follow it. Most locations you can visit will have golden sparkles floating above them at the entrance, but some buildings and most people will simply light up when your mouse passes over them. Keep your eyes open.
Now, there’s an NPC slightly to the north, who will tell you a few things about the background of the game, and some of the people and places you need to know, namely the five tribes and regions of the map. After that, there’s nothing to do but progress to your first battle. But wait. Make sure you have used all wisdom crystals and stat boosting items, spent all skill points, and put all skills into the skill bar, at the bottom of the skills menu, as detailed in the last section. Remember each space in the skill bar is tied to a hotkey, which is generally how you’re going to be using them in battle. Also do the same for any characters you might have in your party. Don’t worry about their skill bars, they have access to all their skills, all the time, whereas you can only use 8 at a time. Take this into consideration when picking skills for your character and them.
Finally, with all that done, it’s time to move on to your first battle. At the northeast of the rest stop you will encounter a little bit of the main story, then you will jump straight into a fight with a single enemy. You will immediately notice that your view of your character is much closer here, and you move much faster, using the same controls as on the map. If you have units or party members, you will notice that they move and attack without input from you, including using skills as fast as possible. You will probably notice your hot bar is now at the bottom of the screen with your selected skills and helpful labels of the buttons that activate them, along with your health and mana. Also your cool character portrait and your level and an empty experience bar.
What you might not notice is you have a new hotkey here: spacebar will allow you to dodge roll. This lets you pass through enemies, and avoid many attacks (but not all). There may be a purple symbol with a counter, depending on difficulty, that shows how many rolls you have to use, and the recharge status. Also you have access to your main character’s skills menu, and can rearrage your skills mid battle if you wish. But more importantly, you have access to your entire inventory. You can’t change your equipment mid battle, but you can use many consumables, and this becomes more important the farther you get. Clicking one will show you a description, and the control options: drag out of inventory to discard, or drag to hotkeys to assign, or right click to use. The fact the the game (mostly) pauses while you’re in the inventory means you will never need to put an item in the hotbar, but it’s a nice option. Just remember, in battle, skills are on hotkey T, and the inventory is still B, by default.
There’s a few other buttons here that you may or may not have use for: accessing the map screen uses the same controls (M or + button on the minimap), so you can see where all the troops in the battle are. The little eye symbol above the minimap will zoom your view in or out (no hotkey for this). There’s a little retreat button in the upper left which can let you lose a battle without heavy losses. Game menu is on the upper right, or Esc as always. And on the left side you have the orders menu.
Orders allow you to order all troops (hotkey F1) or a specific squad (F2-F11). Once you select a squad, or all, you can then order them to attack (F1), defend, standing still until an enemy comes close (F2), or follow your main character as you move around the battlefield (F3). So to command squad 2 to attack at will it would be [F3 > F1] and to order all troops to stand still it would be [F1 > F2].
And of course you could always use your mouse to click the buttons if you have the opportunity, starting with the flag button to open the menu.
Oh, and if you click on any enemy, you will run to them and start attacking, then wait until another enemy is clicked. No attack at will for you.
If you have any special skills, and you should, you can click them or pres the hotkey to bring up the indicator (unless you have quick cast toggled) which allows you to target and use the skill. Try to aim them where enemies are. Sounds obvious, but it took me a day or so to get it.
So once you have murdered your way to victory, your caravan guide, Whelan, will ask you what region you want to start the game in. (Note that in Sandbox mode you don’t get this intro battle, but you shouldn’t try Sandbox mode if you don’t know how to do fighting) Redstone is recommended for a number of reasons: It’s small, enemies are fewer and weaker, it’s under the control of the powerful Nasir, and many low level quests and services are here, as well as your next story beat. Also it’s fairly busy which is good.
Thus I’ll use Redstone as the example for options for things you can be doing straight off. Firstly, you’ll notice Whelan is sticking around. He offers two special services – he can increase your inventory for a nice sum, or hold onto your items for you, a service towns usually provide. Also nearby is a beast merchant’s tent. They sell low level animal units, which aren’t much, but incredibly helpful at this point.
Sands of Salzaar is an army building game, numbers are very important throughout the game, and trying to go it alone or with a handful of friends against bigger numbers will lead to you losing, even with superior powers. Even if you’re twice as strong, five units are five times as strong. And when you lose, you lose money, and supplies, and units, which means you will lose more. It’s something you want to avoid. Build a big army, quick, and you will see success. Even when the odds are even, number wise, your powers can shift them in your favor, as long as there’s someone else to take all those hits while you dish out the damage.
Besides the animal trader (and there’s another one close by, down the road in the main city of Redstone Keep), there’s a mount trader. This will become handy later, as mounts improve movement speed on the map, which is more useful than you would think. Being able to run away, at least, can keep you from fighting and losing. Also there is a skill merchant, who will sell you skills later, when you can afford the precious jade they cost. Jade has fewer uses than stone or wood but they’re always more impressive. Finally we have Redstone Keep itself, and the other towns in the area.
Towns are centres of activity in the game. They give the factions most of their resources (since they don’t scavenge and quest like you), and all their troops. They give you a place to buy food, gear and goods, to sell stuff, to repair gear, to recruit your own troops, and are usually where you rendevous with other characters. They are everything the tribes have, and when they have none, the faction falls. You also get quests here, both to make some starting money and to increase favor with that town, which has many benefits.
These are the quests you want to start off with, since you probably can’t handle the side quests around here just yet. Get a few random quests from the towns commissioners or local characters, preferably something that doesn’t take you too far. Travel risks encounters with bandits, which you should avoid until you’ve built your army some. Best quest is widely considered the bandit ransom quest, where you get 500 Utar for delivering 1000.
After a while of this you’ll be able to handle some new stuff, which we’re going to get into next.
Rocky Starts & Training Montages
Before we get into some of the stuff you can do when you get into the flow of the game, let’s talk about some classes who might start off a little differently. There are 3: The Knight Errant, the Nameless, and the Sultan.
The Nameless and the Knight Errant have the same problem: everyone hates them. They’re at hostile with every faction which means every character and their armies is coming after them, and every town is off limits. This is a very challenging way to begin, especially given how challenging the very start can be. But there are ways around it. You will have to get to work immediately. First off, troops. You will not have access to tribal units the normal way, as towns are off limits. The only other way to get them is from Prisons, the cone shaped buildings that are dotted around the map, and those are character-only fights, hard to take on solo. Not viable unless you’re expert. Other options are to keep buying from beast traders, or hope you encounter events that grant units. There is one guaranteed one in Crying Rock if you can manage to beat a squad or two of Akhal troops, that rewards you with a squad of mercenaries. These are generic guys that don’t advance far, who you will be seeing for hire most of the time in major towns. Another option is, quick build up a small army that can beat bandits, choose a bandit faction and go to town on them. These are the bandits from the Desert Brotherhood, Church of Radiance, Wildfire Clique, and Mountainfolk (aka Alpine Guerillas). At some point they ‘reassess your strength’ and will start surrendering, at this point you cruise around the map seeking them out and ‘letting them go’ for increases to favor with that faction. As soon as their favor is non-hostile, the entire faction goes up for hire, a reliable stream of troops with which to build an army.
Contrary to this approach, you will eventually need to build favor with factions, which usually involves defending their caravans from these bandit factions, and worsening your reputation. You can do both, with separate bandit factions, but it’s a lot of work. Meanwhile, while your reputation is still too poor to even get near faction characters and towns, you can still accept quests from unaligned characters you find wandering the map. You’ll know them by the fact they have no army, as unaligned (known as Wild) characters don’t get any, which makes them easy targets for basically everything. Coming to their rescue during these trips can net you as much or more favor than the quests, and you could find yourself recruiting a party member in short order. For a fact, most battles where you get the choice to help one faction or another is going to lead to a fair reputation gain for the side you pick and a small drop for the other.
Another trick you might want to consider is: losing. Of course I’ve said a few times it’s something you want to avoid, but there is a mechanic in this game where after you’ve been beaten once or more by a faction, their hostility lessens. They might even rescind your outlaw status. You just have to figure out how to minimize your resource and troop losses, maybe by stashing with Whelan or spending it all ahead of time.
The Sultan start is a whole different beast. It starts out with a faction, and a town, giving you access to mid-game resources off the bat. You don’t have to worry about troops as your town is popping out mercenaries for you, or about scrounging as you have income. That’s the good news. The bad news is you’re an independent faction, and people hate those. Often times characters from other factions will come to take your starting town just because they can. Sometimes several at once. The other bad news is your story missions mean there is an independent character who will spawn in your town area and attack at regular intervals regardless of what happens with anyone else. Further bad news: many of your skills are locked behind the development of buildings in your town, including your most reliable one.
Sultans have to scramble, training up the puny units the town spawns, and everything else they can hire (you will have access to some towns and their tribal units). They also have to grind for resources to pour into their town, to get those buildings. A tip: you may see that you need houses to raise your population cap (which you need to build buildings) and start building a dozen. Don’t. This won’t get your population where it needs to be. Build a handful of houses, and then upgrade them, for a nice big population cap. Also, check back frequently, you don’t have time to let the town go without building something.
A trick you might want to consider is: losing. Yes, again. In this case, you might want to let go of your town if you can’t defend it. You can always take it back since they usually fail to leave much of anything to defend it. You have a grace period before your faction falls in which you can get ready, get there, and get it back. Alternatively, take other towns, and give yourself some room to move, as well as extra income.
So with them caught up to the rest of the classes we can focus on what happens next. You’ll have been doing quests for towns and characters and building up some cash, with which you hire units and expand your army. If you’ve done enough quests for any one character, you might have risen their favor up to the mid 20s or 30s (more if you spent talent points on Charisma talents).
At this point you can start asking them to join up, as more characters are a powerful addition to any army, and necessary to do dungeons. However, there is one fact to consider: Command Skills. Every character has one, and they give a passive bonus to every unit of a certain type in your army. They have 3 levels, but can’t be leveled up with skill points. Instead they are leveled up when favor reaches 50 and 100, respectively. Characters in the party are difficult to raise favor with, as you can’t do quests for them or help them in battle, forcing you to rely on uncommon gifts, or randomized dialogue (with it’s own set of problems). Waiting until high favor is vital to getting command skills leveled up. But you do want some characters in your party, so, use strategy.
Another thing you should start doing for yourself as early as possible is trading. I refer to the buying, transporting, and selling of the trade goods you see in every town’s store. Do this as soon as you can travel safely between maps. Trade goods have different prices in different areas, and buying these for cheap in one area and selling them for much more somewhere else can net you lots of money for your war fund. Investing that profit into yet more trade goods starts a snowball effect that sees you get rich quick.
Once you have a nice war fund, there are things you should start using: advanced beast trainers, and all mercenary captains. This is where special troops come from. There are two wild advanced animal trainers, one in Twinluna and another in Docana, who sell random beasts. There are also trainers that will pop up in town to sell their specialty animal, which could be Cheetahs, Bears, Bisons, Boars, Falcons or Fairies. The mercenary captains are known to sometimes sell powerful wizards, as well as monster people and sometimes even siege engines! Also watch out for reps from the Mastigure, Ember, and White Rose society selling their units.
At some point when you have some party members along you need to start doing dungeons. It’s how you get gear, more white rose potions, and gifts. Every piece of gear on a character is like a few more troops in your army. Also when you have a few skills and gear pieces on your main character, start seeking out Heroic Souls as they’re announced. There you get gear as well, and gems, if you can win a 1v1 with a boss.
When your army and characters have enough power, you’re going to start thinking about how to use it in the grand scheme of things, which we talk about next.
We Built This City
So now you’ve got an army, and aren’t losing to random bandits, beasts, dungeons, or Heroic Souls. What is the point? The point is this: international conflict. Early on you’ll have been extended an invitation to Rebiya’s little tournament. You might even not yet have done it at this stage. If you managed to see that little side quest through you’ll have participated in a fight between two tribes, but that was just a preview. At some point you have to start doing it for real.
There’s a few routes to this. Firstly, and most simply, you can join up. Pick your favorite tribe, and ask someone of rank (commonly just hit up the chief) to take you on. You’ll get a rank in the tribe, their enemies become your enemies, their friends your friends, fight their enemies and help their friends for higher ranks and privileges. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be one of the starting tribes. Occasionally due to the complex relationship system, someone in a tribe will end up hating their leader, or liking someone their leader hates, or something. They can break off and form entire new factions, taking all their friends with them and grabbing some random towns from their parent tribe. You can join these, too. And when your rank gets high enough, you may be given a town of your own by the faction chief, with all the benefits that come with it. We’ll talk about those in a bit.
Secondly, you could just start butting in on other people’s business. See two tribes’ armies fighting? One tribe fighting bandits? One tribe snatching a town from another? Pick a side and jump in. You’ll get lots of favor with the people and places you help, and you can really start doing this way early, if you’re a good judge of who is going to win a fight.
Thirdly, and most dangerously, you can strike out for yourself. The first step towards this is owning a town. This requires either being able to siege a town successfully, or rebelling against a faction you’re part of, and breaking off like I talked about above. Sieging a town is no simple matter. Each has their own army, a character’s army usually rides in on defense, and in fact any number of characters and their armies can participate, sometimes into ridiculous numbers. The turret fortifications are among the most powerful units in the game, and will grind away your army by themselves. Given the longer length of siege battles, enemy characters will respawn several times. You have to take and hold several points while this is all going on. For practice, you can try your hand at the bandit camps scattered all over the map. They play out as siege battles. But unlike siege battles, you have an advantage: you can call in friends. When starting a siege, in the initial stage where you wait for battle to start, there is a ‘reinforce’ button, which you should press immediately. You can request allies, enemies of the faction you’re fighting, or just random neutrals to come join the fray for your side. It doesn’t actually matter who is there, whoever started the siege gets to decide what happens to the town. If they win.
Once you actually have your own town, and faction, with a cute name you pick out, you run into the problem we detailed with Sultans: people don’t like independent factions. They will try to take your hard won, valuable town. Factions will turn on you randomly, and come after you in the street. On the other hand, you now have income, and a garrison filling up with troops by itself. But it doesn’t have to, since you can fill it up with your own troops. The garrison of your towns are an extension of your army, you can swap units to and from the garrison into your own army, allowing you to recruit more beasts, monsters, and hardened killers and simply store them away. Also, when you are your own faction, you can have unlimited characters. All you have to do is, talk to your characters (via the Dialogue option in the Party screen) and tell them you have a quest for them. You can them appoint them Sultan of a town (making them uncontrollable but keeping them in your faction) or just tell them to beat it (whereupon they leave to a random town, but can be called back to the party at any time). In the second case, if you tell them beforehand you ‘allow them to command the forces’, they will go to a town, and start taking it’s troops out for patrols, engaging with enemies or possibly coming to your aid when you call in reinforcements or they just happen to run into you fighting.
Keep in mind, if you go the ‘rebel from your faction’ route, that every breakaway faction is automatically enemies with their parent faction, possibly forever.
Remember, if a faction loses it’s towns and doesn’t recover one for a week, it falls, and is gone forever, this applies to you, other splinter factions, and the original tribes. All the characters, including the leader, go wild, able to be recruited. This is the only way to recruit the tribe leaders. Every faction’s goal is, technically, to ultimately eliminate every other faction and control every town. Even alliances eventually break.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are leader of a faction is, you gain access to the Diplomacy button in Intel, which allows you to influence your favor with other factions simply by throwing money at them. This is great when you need a few less enemies, or a friend to fight off the ones you have.
The main thing to remember, in whatever capacity you’re playing at tribal warfare is: fighting other characters with armies is dangerous. It’s the most dangerous thing you can do in the game. There are no foes stronger than a character with a sizable army. And anyone with an army is aligned with a faction, so there is always the risk of their friends jumping in and swinging the odds way out of your favor. Always fight smart, fight dirty if you have to, and bring your own friends when you can.
So now you’re at the swing of things, on your way to the top. What else is there to do? We’re going to cover that next.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Running dungeons, trading, tribal warfare, and town management should take you up to the late game stages, around level 20 and above if you have access to it. There’s a few new things you should be getting up to at this stage in the game.
Gem upgrades: You’ll have been dabbling with the few you could get from dungeons and heroic souls, but at this point you can afford to start buying them from the travelling gem merchant and outfitting your whole army. I’ve only mentioned the subject in passing, but gems are an amazing system that can change the way your army operates, or simply give your troops that extra edge they need. From a few more points of attack, to dealing fire or freeze stacks, or gaining a shield, to gaining whole new attacks, gems modify units the same way many gear pieces modify characters, which is much more profound on units. In general, Rose (red) gems agument attacks, Amber (yellow) gems give better defenses, and Azure (blue) gems grant special effects. One thing to note is there are several Azure gems exclusive to certain units, with effects that are tailor made to their strengths, weaknesses, and theme. For example, the Mercenary Pikeman has an Azure gem that gives them a larger spear with increased reach. Also briefly I should explain how insets work: Inset stones are what give a unit their insets, the slots where gems go. They sit in the same menu as the gems. Only a specific unit squad gets the inset, not all units of that type or any other unit. Every unit gets up to 2 insets, which can be any color and are random to start. Rewasher stones will change their color to somethinf different: prism rewashers will randomize them, and Rose, Amber, and Azure rewashers change both to that color. All of these can be found anywhere gems are.
Secret Dungeons: Any major city you control will allow you to access it’s secret dungeon, which is really just a really high level boss fight without the dungeon that leads up to it, so you can take these on with your party members. The rewards are usually one of the unique items that can only be gotten in that secret dungeon, and perhaps some other miscellaneous loot. These can be weapons, armor, or accessories, and choose randomly from the list given before the fight, like a normal dungeon.
Monster Prisons: There are about 6 or 7 of these around the map. Like normal prisons, they’re character-only fights, with a max of 4. The enemies in here are tougher than normal prisons, however, and the units you get for winning are as well, such as centaurs, giants, and even dragons. There is a special version in Zagros mountains, that allows you to use your entire army, though you will be facing monsters instead of normal jailers. Like prisons, however, many units you gain in these are only partial squads, requiring you to get more of them to have a full squad that can advance.
Of the normal kind, there is one in Docana, one in Zagros, and four in Umbra. There are also two that become available later on when certain areas open up.
Reforging: In Zagros there is an obsidian flame that can give any one piece of gear a new prefix, even if it had none before, for 50 jade. Note that this is the only way to get a prefix on a mount, as the game does not offer or drop mounts with prefixes. But also, the prefixes are a specific 3 depending on the type of gear that never change, so if you want a different prefix, you just have to go grind for it.
While you can use this service at any time, 50 jade is expensive until late game, so you won’t be using it on every piece of gear.
Finally, there’s certain forces that appear in the course of the game, that you will likely have to defeat entirely. But that’s a spoiler. Suffice to say, you’ll know them when you see them.
There’s a few things that we skipped over, so there’s one more section for your reading pleasure ahead.
Odd and Ends and Tips and Tricks
Here’s a few bits of the game that aren’t unimportant, but didn’t fit in any specific place in the earlier guide.
First off, Arcana. There are Arcana teachers scattered across the world, from Redstone to Nagukka and Camel Bell. Always around major towns, they will, for a fee, add an entire skill tree to a character’s skill section. As the name implies, these are always Magic Attack based, so non magic focused characters will not get the full benefit. For a fact, most characters that are not magic based can’t even learn the lower skills in the tree. Every character and class has a certain level of ‘Arcana Skill’ which determines this, which I noted under each class in that section. Some can’t learn them at all. Regardless, if you have a character who can do magic, but doesn’t have a lot of skills to invest points into, adding an Arcana is often a good bet. Some characters start with certain Arcana unlocked, and some of the skills in the Legacy Store are from these skill trees, though if you can’t learn Arcana, chances are likely these skills won’t be great for you.
The full list is :
Fire Arcana in Redstone Keep
Lightning Arcana in Triptych Rock
Ice Arcana in Snowridge
Dark Arcana in Nagukka
Light Arcana in Halfmoon Hills
Alchemy Arcana in Camel Bell
Keep in mind that several of these teachers will not help you until you’ve beaten a specific dungeon at least once. Also they usually require more than just Utar, asking for wood and stone, forge tools, or even epic gear.
Next, dating. There’s plenty of resources out there that talk about this already, and it hasn’t changed much. Basically in Redstone, Agadir, Mireton, Frost Valley, and Dunestorm there are taverns where a barmaid is present. They have a favor score like characters, factions, or towns. You can’t do quests for them, so you are limited to bringing gifts. Luckily most of them like many different kinds. You can also talk to them for some small favor boosts, and pay in increasing amount of Utar to raise their favor, which is the most common method. Both paying or giving gifts have cooldown periods, so you will have to check in often. Now you would be wondering why you would want increased favor with a tavern maid. While you can’t recruit them, at favor 100, you can confess your love to them, and become their lover. Upon doing this you will receive a unique piece of gear that will give your character a special attribute or skill to use. These range from becoming invisible to summoning powerful monsters. Also you get cute flavor text whenever you visit your romance partner.
While we’re on the subject, let’s talk more about gifts. We’ve mentioned them in abstract a few times but not the details. Gifts are like trade items, except they are usually not sold in stores (Fleur and the Desert Bazaar are the only exceptions). They come in several types that are not labeled, which correspond to gift interests that characters (and barmaids) have preferences for. For example, some like toys like tops and dolls, and some like music or history. Some say they like combat items, but it’s not possible to give them gear as gifts. Instead you must find the gift helmet, spear, armor, or glove. Most times, you will get a gift as a generic nonspecific item that turns into a random gift when it enters your inventory. These can be got from locations, fighting bandits, dungeons (almost always), and even fights with other armies. It’s usually advisable to hang onto all of them; with so many categories and as uncommon as they are, you will eventually want to use every one.
Now, let’s talk Wisdom Crystals. Every character gets 1 skill point per level, up to the level max, which for your first game and many after, will be 20 total, and no more. Many characters, and espcially the player, will have more skill ranks in their tree than 20, as many skills have up to 3 ranks. Also you might have taken up extra skill trees or miscenllaneous skills from the skill trainers or legacy store. Once you reach max level, you will not level up and gain any more skill points. Also you will often find characters have reached max level before you recruit them and spent all their skill points, as they often have several skill trees. But that doesn’t mean you can no longer level up skills. Wisdom Crystals are an uncommon item that will award 1 character 1 skill point apiece. They can sometimes be gained in dungeons or through Heroic Soul statues. They can always be gained by fighting the dragons in the two libraries at the north and south ends of Zagros. Farming these crystals will allow you to finally unlock all the skills in your whole party, and fully level them.
A minute ago I mentioned Bazaars. These are events, that like Heroic Souls, appear in one specific spot in one specific region for a limited time. 3 or more merchants will appear there each with one item that varies depending on which region it is in. There is always a merchant each for ironstone and wood, selling a large amount. Sometimes you can get rare gear, rare gifts, stacks of scrolls, white rose potions, stat increase items, or gems/rewashers. Almost everything at the Bazaar is rather expensive, even the wood and stone, so it is not for players in the early game, regardless of how soon they start happening.
Another thing I should mention is the friendship system. This system is not seen on the surface, or even mentioned in the game, but it affects many things you do. Basically, the characters you interact with each have made friends and enemies with each other, and how you treat their friends and enemies can sometimes affect their favor with you. For example, if someone has made friends with another character, and you give a gift to that character or save them in battle, not only will your favor rise with that character, but also their friend. This can be a roundabout way of increasing favor with a character that is being difficult. To find out who their latest friend is, ask your party members, or anyone else you plan to help, although this will only display one. Factions also work in the same way, for slightly different things. Most commonly, if you attack a town, your favor will go down with the faction who owns that town, and also all their friends, while favor will rise with their enemies. When you are part of a faction, helping their allies will score you points with your faction, and perhaps even rank points.
Another unmentioned system is the siding algorithm, which determines which side of a battle between two forces you end up on. Often, especially in the beginning of the game, you will be neutral or Cold to both sides of the conflict and the game will ask you who you want to help. This often leads to favor change with both factions being displayed. Once you establish relations with many different parties, and come upon battles where you have hostility or friendliness with one party, the game will not give you the choice who to battle, simply whether to enter battle or not. If you choose to, it will simply place you on the side you have more favor with. This can happen even if you have high favor with both parties. Also, while you will often still gain some favor from such battles, it will not be displayed, and often be less. The algorithm seems to count favor with characters as well as their faction, so what on the surface might seem to be an obvious battle between your friends and enemies might end with you fighting your allies. Always save before attempting to enter political battles.
A hidden goodie you might not find if you’re not looking is that certain characters have side quests associated with them. In their dialogue will be a red choice, asking them what’s bothering them, or something along those lines. With a certain amount of favor with that character, they will tell you of a problem they are having and let you go on a quest to help them, which rewards you with unique items or skills.
I hope you enjoy the Guide we share about Sands of Salzaar – Overview & Walkthrough; if you think we forget to add or we should add more information, please let us know via commenting below! See you soon!
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