Sandstorm: Pirate Wars is a game about battles between futuristic pirate ships set in a post-apocalyptic world. The player commands a ship and takes on different main missions and side quests such as helping out other characters, providing cover, defending against attackers, exploring locations and so on. These are selected from a central map where new locations are unlocked gradually. There are some conversations and characters in taverns, but it always leads to battles between ships, which is the core game element.
During a battle sequence two ships fly side by side and attack each other. The player selects weapons and shields at the bottom of the screen, combined with a powerful weapon rage attack. Enemy weapons and systems are attacked by tapping them. Battles are done in real-time with timers to refill weapon attacks and shields. The ship's main statistics are based on a health and a shield meter. By winning battles bolts are won, the main currency to use the scavenged parts from loot to install upgrades, new systems like repair drones, and additional weapons in the hangar section.
The game is free-to-play with in-app purchases for the basic currency bolts and the premium currency power cells. Power cells are used to skip waiting times to complete upgrades. Ships can be fully customized and additional ships and systems can be bought with the currencies. After a battle there are often three types of loot: basic, ace and epic. The first one is always free, but the other two generally require one of the currencies.
The game also supports PvP online multiplayer battles against other players in the Pirate Arena. It is possible to participate in five different leagues.