Ziggurat initially launched last October for the PC on Steam. The fast-paced dungeon crawler inspired by the likes of Hexic and Heretic has now made its way to the Xbox One, and we take a look in our Ziggurat review.
To be honest, there isn’t much of a story here. A few intro screens drop some lines about wizards and whatnot, and then away you go, dropped in the middle of a labyrinth as Argo – an apprentice with no particular strengths or weaknesses, and tasked with killing a variety of creatures with wands, spells, staves, and other weapons on your way to becoming a powerful wizard. While there is a lack of an in-depth story, a game like this doesn’t really need one if it offers great replayability.
Milkstone Studios indicates that the game experience in Ziggurat is quick and direct – and quick and direct it is. Each time you start up a game, the labyrinth is dynamically generated, both in layout and encounters. As you make your way through the various rooms, you eventually find a portal key which you need in order to summon the level boss. While running through the rooms, you encounter a variety of mobs – everything from flying skulls to fat stumpy dragons, skeletons, kobolds, demons, plant pods, ooze blobs, and even menacing carrots – yes carrots!
Each kill grants a drop of either experience, treasure, or mana boosts for one of the four types of energy for your various weapon slots. The first slot is your wand, which is reliable but relatively low damage. The second slot is for any spells you pick up, the third for a staff weapon (which unfortunately isn’t a melee weapon but another way to shoot balls of light at enemies), and finally the fourth slot for alchemy weapons like magical guns or crossbows.
As you level up, you are presented with a choice of perks which boost your character. These perks include everything from one time bonuses (i.e. refill an equivalent of half your health pool) to the persistent (knowledge gems grant more experience, get triple experience but take 20% more damage, increase your staff mana pool, and many more variations of this). In addition to perks, most levels include a shrine room, a challenge room, and/or a trap room. Each shrine room contains three shines where you can exchange nothing, health, or mana for a blessing from the elder gods. Some blessings help you, others will hinder you – I’ve seen everything from taking extra damage to dealing extra damage, losing half your health and even gaining a free experience level. It’s a gamble, but it’s a fun gamble and makes the game even more dynamic – there’s nothing like going into a boss fight dealing less damage and with half your health missing. Challenge rooms require you to figure out how to get from one side to the other, upon which you’ll receive a helpful reward of some sort, while trap rooms require you to figure out how to get across without dying to floor spikes, fireballs, or other hazards.
Once you gather the portal key, you can head on over to the boss chamber and summon the boss – a word to the wise though, it’s a good idea to clear the entire level before taking on the boss as you’ll need the experience and upgrades to make your life a little easier. Die and be prepared to start over. Once you summon the boss, you must defeat him and his endless spawn of minions in order to access the portal to move on to the next level.
So what’s the point when you actually finish all levels in the labyrinth? Milkstone has upped the replayability factor here by providing unlocks based on how far you make it through the labyrinth before you fail or succeed. Once you die (or finish) you unlock a bunch of perks that you can then access each time you level up the next time you play through the game. There are also a number of other characters with different skill bonuses that you can unlock based on how many carrots (those damn carrots again) you kill, how many enemies you kill with a specific weapon, how many kills you get total, completion of the game, and more. Ziggurat also offers a few difficulty levels, so if you’re up to the challenge – or getting your butt kicked by those menacing carrots – you can adjust the difficulty to suit your level of play.
Ziggurat is a very fast paced game, once you’re locked in that room it can get hectic depending on the randomly generated scenario you’re faced with.
The graphics in the game are generally smooth and the style works well with the fast pace of the game. The lighting effects and glow from you firing off your wand or staff is superb, and the variety of the various enemies and bosses is well done. The drawn style of the perk cards when you level up is fun as well, you can tell a lot of thought, attention and time went into the graphic design and art direction in the game.
Sound design in Ziggurat was also well done. From the sounds of your wand to the ambient effects and creature sounds, the sound production and music definitely enhance the fast paced, and at times frantic, pace and experience.
While the dungeon crawler concept isn’t entirely new, Milkstone Studios has done a great job with making the game fast and requiring very little down time when making decisions. The biggest decision to make is what perk to take. As you come across weapons they are simply added to the appropriate slot and are immediately available for use – assuming you have the required resource pool adequately filled.
There is no doubt that Ziggurat is a fun, and somewhat addicting game. The dynamically generated labyrinth, mobs, and scenarios coupled with the ability to unlock other characters, perks, and weapons based on how you do each play through really adds replayability. If you’re into first-person shooters, and like the dungeon theme aspect you should definitely take a look at Ziggurat, and it is a great value for the $14.99USD price tag.
***We were sent a review copy of Ziggurat for Xbox One by Milkstone Studios for the purposes of this review.
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