Genre: Action, Indie, RPG
Developer: Milkstone Studios
Publisher: Milkstone Studios
Release Date: 23 Oct, 2014
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Ziggurat, for the good or lucky.
Ziggurat is best described as a first person rogue like. Its a dungeon crawler with procedurally generated levels and a minor progression system involving unlocking of potential enemies and pickups.
The plot is as simple as the original doom, your in a place called the Ziggurat. Get out and live or don’t but in that case you will be very very dead. So your only real option is to kill all the daemons or die.
The game starts with an empty room and a map. You have two objectives. Find the scroll (a boss room key for lack of a better explanation) and the Boss room its self. When you enter a room you are greeted with a large bar at the top of the screen this is essentially the total health of the minions that are about to spawn. You kill the minions to whittle down the health bar, getting some knowledge gems (an analogue of experience points) and some ‘energy’ this energy is assorted coloured ammunition for the weapons you have, each weapon drains a different coloured bar, these energy pickups fill the bars. When everything is dead the doors open and you go into the next room blind.
Some rooms have tweaks like ‘pixilated enemies’ or ‘low gravity’ some even have a treasure hunt where you have to pick up varying amounts of purple crystals before your killing begins to drain the rooms total health bar. Some times the room just has rewards in it.
As you kill stiff and pick up the knowledge gems you level up. Each level up lets you choose a ‘card’ giving you minor perks. Some are as simple as extra maximum health, more pick ups, more xp. Some are a little more nuanced like ‘breaking objects gives health’ or ‘weapons fire slower but use less mana (ammo.)” obviously, as you level you become a more efficient killer of minions.
Once you have located the ‘key’ and you know where the ‘boss room’ is, its at this point you have to make a decision, do you take on the boss or squeeze out more experience by clearing the whole floor out before you progress? Clearing the floor seems like an obvious choice but you may gain XP while burning through ammunition and health.
The boss fights are interesting if formulaic. A random boss will be chosen from a small but deadly gallery and it will try and kill you. Some fly, some spawn minions fast, some slow. Some have fast attacks, some have lots of attacks but all have a pattern of attack. Kill the boss and the portal to the next floor of the Ziggurat will open.
Eventually if you are good (or lucky) enough you will make it to the last floor of the Ziggurat where you face a pretty overpowered boss. This super boss spawns minions like its his hobby and attacks you like he thinks you slept with his mommy and killed his cat on the same day!
If you prevail you are finished. You will get many an unlock in the form of potential minion enemies and weapon drops for all of your next play through as well as new characters (subtly balance differences but no drastic change to play styles) if you fail you will get less unlocks. Either way you will face the ‘new game’ button.
Ziggurat is quite a pretty game (a 2014 release and I’m judging it by 2014 standards) it looks like its more than a little inspired by the chunky look of World of World of Warcraft environments and every new minion you face could be an adorable (if creepy) plushy toy. Its stylised enough to be distinctive while minimal enough to keep frame rates consistently even and high. The lighting is rich and the glow of weapon attacks is pleasant. It is worth saying that while I have used the word pleasant I would not go as far as saying noteworthy. The visuals are serviceable but won’t win any awards for artistic innovation. That said, the distinctive architecture of the environment mean that you never have issues spotting those minions. Its not like they maybe hiding in a bush or anything.
The minion variety is where the game stands out to me, the smaller minion types include evil carrots with arms and legs that want to eat you (yes, Really.) odd featherless bird things that look a little like hams with beaks. And lets not forget little skeletons with cross bows. There are larger variations of all of those and many more. Those Carrots though, they haunt my nightmares.
The weapons are split into categories to match their school of magic (this it simply to you know what ‘bar’ they will drain and you can carry of of each of the 4 types (want, staves, spell book and alchemy, I think) there were no terrible weapons in the game and each one seems to be useful for different scenarios. The wider spreading spell books for clusters of enemies and the powerful and direct staves for larger single targets. The weapons like the rest of the game are a choice to be made about subtlety not rocket launcher vs pistol. I liked this approach but can see how many people would be turned off by it.
When I played the game through to its end, finishing a run successfully for the first time I felt like I had really battled my way through and was instantly clicking the ‘new game’ button. I found it satisfying and fascinating. That said, I do enjoy rogue-lite games anyway but the first person view of this one made it stand out to me. I was a little disappointed however when I realised that the new character I had unlocked played pretty much the same as the one I had just used to finish the game. ‘she’ had a basic attack that was a little slower but harder hitting and the alternate attack was much the same.
I have put the word ‘she’ in quotations there because there was no indication that this character was anything more than a sleeved arm, it was even the same sleeve as the ‘he’ I had just played. The gender and back story for this character was totally pointless. When I think of the stark difference between the characters of the similar title Immortal Redneck I am disappointing that this one lacks such definition, like the level up bonuses its a minor flavour difference than a change of gear.
The other gripe I had was that on easy mode you level much faster. The problem with this is that you can accumulate ‘cards’ in great number at earlier points in the game and about half way through a good run you can be regenerating health as fast as the minions can strip it from you so only the boss battles become a threat to even an average player like myself.
I liked Ziggurat. I have played it for many an evening. Once I was done with the initial binge its been something I have been happy to come back to time after time. I recommend it whole heatedly whenever its on sale (often going down to just a few pounds) but at its current full price of £10.99 I am hard pressed to recommend it over the 2017 release ‘Immortal Redneck’ that can be picked up at £14.95 on Steam while giving a more diverse experience.
To see my First impression video of this game please use your human interface here. . .
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