“Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.”
Developed and published by the spanish studio Milkstone, Ziggurat is a single player fast paced FPS dungeon crawling/roguelike game, where the main objective is to get from the ground floor all the way to the top; but dont get fooled, that won’t be an easy task, your path will be full of randomized enemy waves willing to take you down!
Tales and legends of the Greyborn citadel have managed to pass through the thorny forests and ruthless rock mountains, reaching the ears of everyone who appreciates a good story. The citadel is known as the origin of the Daedolon brothers, the most powerful wizard guild ever known. From here, they watch over humanity day and night. The power of these wizards is beyond doubt. Countless times they have proven their worth, protected these mystic lands from evil forces, always trying to devour the souls of their fellow inhabitants. But Today, magic overflows with power, since the citadel is hosting an event only held once every ten winters.
The Elder masters have gathered all apprentices in a solemn ceremony prior to the final event: The entrance to the Ziggurat. You are one of these apprentices. You have been studying arcane magic for 20 years, preparing for this very time, to enter the most exclusive and powerful circle a wizard has ever known.
To Become a Daedolon brother.
What Little is known of the test is known in whispers that come and go over the room. A slight feeling of uncertainty is in the air. There is only one certainty about the Ziggurat; Very few have managed to get out alive. It is told that failing the test is a fate worse than death, a punishment for defying the ancient horrors of the fortress.
In a way this is also an attempt to keep the fearsome dark forces at bay, offering the souls of talented novices as sacrifice. You take a look around, analyzing every apprentice present. Most of them won’t make it out alive. Maybe you will be on that list as well. Upon reaching the entrance, you can’t avoid a shiver. All your senses are warning you of the danger awaiting inside.
But this is not the time for doubts. Hesitation will only make it worse. You firmly grasp your magic wand and enter the obscure structure with conviction, ready to come back victorious. And alive…
That’s basically the introduction to the game, just before the menu screen. This gives you a general idea of the background story, but Ziggurat’s strenght is mainly its gameplay.
You will be able to choose from a decent variety of characters with different skills (unlock them as you progress and reach certain goals). There are three different difficulty levels being them easy normal and hard.
You start on the lower floor, and since there is no tutorial, a message will display showing you the game controls, which are very easy to understand and get used to; you can feel how every action has been placed at the perfect button. After that, you can pick up a secondary randomized weapon to be ready to start fighting the waves of upcoming enemies.
You’ll be able to carry up to 4 different weapon types; watch out your mana (represented in the coloured bars shown on the right part of your screen) as it’s the ammo of each weapon, and it might be used as currency ahead.
The combat system is very simple for a game of this specific genre; very intuitive and deep at the same time; although there is no inventory, the game is designed to be this way, to achieve a faster approach.
There are three different type of weapons in addition to your starting weapon (the magic wand). Every weapon type consumes its specific mana (can be gathered and recharged by the magical gems that enemies leave as loot) and has got a primary and secondary firing mode, being the secondary the most effective and expensive one.
Dying in this game is frustrating and at the same time rewarding; you will be delivered new cards giving you new skills/perks that can be selected when leveling up (by collecting EXP points from the enemy loot); therefore there is an upgrade feature present in the game. It’s also good to mention that amulets will be helpful along the way; providing temporary buffs as a result.
In order to skip or clear the floor you are in and advance to the next one, you need to find the portal key and summon the floor guardian; needless to say, you’ll need to kill him.
The random element is key for this type of games; although sometimes it will play against you; surviving can get pretty challenging. Before you cross any door there is a thrill feeling to discover what will you see afterwards; levels (scenarios and encounters) are procedurally generated, that means each game you play will never be the same, and also that you don’t know what can happen next.
You can expect any of these types of room:
Shrine rooms: This rooms are similar to the traditional “store”. Pay a tribute to the gods (health or mana) in order to generate a random divine gift or try luck without paying any tribute (there are some chances of getting a punishment); secret rooms are discovered sometimes by paying a tribute.
Minion rooms: This is the standard room that often spawns. You will have to fight a predefined number of enemy minions including a huge variety of them (even evil carrots). Minion rooms are occasionally also buff rooms, dealing an advantage or disadvantage to the player by increasing or decreasing the difficulty of the approach of that specific room and definitely adding variations to the game.
Lore rooms: Discover more about the background story.
Boss rooms: Bring the portal key to this room whenever you are ready for a big fight; you’d better not be running low on health because you will be about to fight the floor guardian.
SOUND AND VISUALS
The cartoonish style visuals of Ziggurat makes the game to be unique; the dark fantasy world represented in this title is varied and intense; as you progress, scenarios will change aesthetic while maintaining the same dark theme.
Regarding the sound section of the game, I must say that some sounds could be improved (enemy screams/firing weapon…), but generally it ain’t that bad.
The soundtrack is made up of a total 18 songs that help the creation of an immersive experience; overall, and without being too remarkable, it can be said every song is good enough to reach that purpose. You can even download the soundtrack for free, which is always appreciated, here.
PERSONAL OPINION AND VERDICT
You can’t judge a book just by looking at the cover; I must admit that, at first, I had low expectations on Ziggurat, can’t exactly explain why, it was probably because of its art style, but after my first run (which was not a long one, I died pretty quickly) I started to love the game.
The old school sensation plus the need of survival is a great combination; you’ll notice that when you play the game. Everytime you reach the next floor it gets more exciting; I think right now I’m totally addicted to this game. Even there is the classic permanent death that makes you avoid taking high risks but the experience doesn’t get ruined by that at all; just the opposite, it makes it greater and much more intense, by encouraging you to play smart and choose your skills wisely.
From my point of view, Ziggurat is a must-have indie title for fans of the genre and a must-try for any other type player out there, and as I always say, the replay value is the key for any game nowadays (at least that’s what I need from a game) and this game has plenty to offer after the first completion.
What I didn’t like was the noticeable absence of the multiplayer; it could have been a huge addition to this game, making it a lot more entertaining fighting with/against friends. A few minor performance issues happened but it’s in some way understandable, due to the high amount of enemies at the same time on screen, but it wasn’t a big deal either.
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