Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Milkstone Studios
Publisher: Milkstone Studios
Release date: March 20th 2015
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Ziggurat features a protagonist on his way to become a neophyte sorcerer. Unfortunately, in order to achieve such a noble title, our hero must first go through the rite of passage: a labyrinth filled with dangerous monsters and deadly traps. You must use your magic skills and your quick reflexes in order to survive through the maze and become the sorcerer you’re meant to be.
Ziggurat is an interesting concept. Milkstone Studios took a chance and mixed two very well known genres that you’d never really expect to fit together: first person shooters and dungeon crawlers. FPS games are usually fast and action paced, while dungeon crawling is usually of a slower paced and reserved for games like the Zelda franchise. In a way, it could pass for an action packed Harry Potter game. Once starting up, you can choose among 10 characters; 9 of which needs to be unlocked by in-game progress.
In order to progress to the next level, players need to find the Key which unlocks the door to the level’s boss. Obviously, this being a “dungeon crawler”, it is highly recommended to search every nook and cranny in order to kill as many enemies as possible so you can level up and get stronger and also find new and stronger magic spells. An interesting fact though is once you level up, you earn a skill point which can be used between 2 options: A skill to enhance your mana or your health. Interestingly enough, when restarting after a death, when gaining a level, you will have two new skills to choose from. Meaning after a few tries and death, you’ll be able to improve one of the two meters (health or mana) and maybe giving you an advantage over the enemies and more importantly the level’s boss.
The game’s main problem is the save system. Or lack thereof. Here’s the deal: when you’re walking around the dungeon, moving from room to room, there’s is no auto-save or checkpoints, so if you die, you’re f**ked. Luckily, some stats like enemies killed are still tracked so unlocking new characters won’t be affected, BUT if you level up and die, you’re back at level 1. You moved on to the next floor, but died at the boss? Well it’s back to Floor 1. You lose your progress and the skill points earned. You can however in the pause menu save and quit, but again its only a “temporary” option as dying will pretty much kill your “save” thus losing your progress and having to start the game over. Despite being a roughly short game, it’s still a nuisance that can frustrate some players. Luckily, if you feel the challenge to be too overwhelming, you can switch it to Easy Mode on the character select screen.
But I’ll tell you what: this is a really addictive game. No matter how many times you die, you’ll want to go back. Restarting the game feels different as most of the time you’ll restart at a different room on the Floor and the boss will alternate; keeping things fresh and keeping the player on their toes.
Being a dungeon crawler, backtracking will be required as you’ll need to explore as many rooms as possible in order to level up and find secrets and more powerful weapons. Entering a new room will have the doors lock and you’ll have no way out unless you take down every spawned enemy. There’s a meter at the top of the HUD which depletes every time you kill an enemy allowing you to keep track of your progress through the wave of enemies. Luckily when backtracking through previously conquered rooms, enemies won’t respawn. And those who carefully crawl through every room of the current level will notice that the protagonist can level up pretty fast.
Throughout your dungeon crawling, you’ll be able to carry up to 4 weapons, or magic spells if you prefer. Switching spells is pretty simple thanks to a simple button press that will let you circle through your available attacks. Or if you’re not being chased by spectres, you can bring up your four spells and choose the one you want by pressing one of the four arrows on the d-pad. Obviously, a bit of strategy is required here as some enemies have weakness to some of your magic spells, unfortunately it’s bit random and you’ll have to try out each spells against enemies to figure out which one is weak to which spells. This is especially helpful for boss battles; finding one’s weakness will help you survive to the next level.
Boss battles are pretty challenging, without feeling cheap. The level’s guardian will have at his disposal an infinite amount of minions attacking you. Needless to say, just focusing your attacks on the boss and dodging the minions’ attacks will be the key to success. Just like Muhammad Ali said: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. Successfully overcoming a boss and his rejects will actually feel rewarding. Let’s not forget the replay value, which for an indie game is (almost) through the roof. Unlocking all characters will require some grinding but it never feels boring because you can use your newest character to grind more and unlock other characters.
And unlike most of today’s FPS games, there’s no health auto-regeneration. Unless you gain a skill which gives you a boost health-wise by either gaining a bit of health before enemy encounters or having the ability to regain some health by destroying destructible items, you need to expertly dodge enemy attacks and be wary of your surroundings. Enemies rarely drop health potions, so be on your guard. Arriving at a boss with low health is a bitch.
The game looks good and has a kid-friendly look. Audio wise, it’s really interesting as some tracks have a Castlevania (which can be downloaded here) feel to it; which adds a bit of creepyness to the game’s somewhat cute atmosphere. Otherwise, from my playthrough, the game did suffer from a bit of performance issues such as freezing, during the game and also when booting up the game, but nothing that will deter your experience.
Ziggurat is a great game and it deserves to be experienced by as many gamers as possible. Its mix of FPS and dungeon crawling works really well and feels new and freshing. Fans of the FPS genre will have something new to chew on while dungeon crawler fans will be able to experience their favorite genre from a completely different point of view. Despite its minor technical hiccups and frustrating lack of proper save system, Ziggurat is hands down of the best indie gaming experience of 2015.
What Rocks! :)
- Great mix of FPS and dungeon crawling
- Challenging, but fair
- Lots of unlockable characters
What Sucks :(
- Piss poor saving system
- Pretty short
Ziggurat is rated E10+, Everyone 10 and up, due to the game featuring fantasy violence via the ESRB while getting a 12+ rating from PEGI.
GGS was supplied a copy of the game by Xbox UK for the purpose of creating this review