Ziggurat is a first-person, action dungeon delver developed and published by Milkstone Studios. The game was released on PC on October 23rd, 2014, XB1 on March 20th, 2015, and PS4 on April 21st, 2015. The game features rogue-like elements, as the levels are procedurally generated for each run through.
You play as a spell-slinging mage, who enters a dangerous Ziggurat in order to prove your power and develop into a powerful wizard, by facing many challenges, such as hordes of grotesque creatures and lethal traps.
This First Person Shooter (FPS) replaces the normal guns and melee weapons with spells, staves and wands. Your main weapon is the wand you start with, which fires off bright purple missiles and has a quickly recharging mana pool. Along your travels you will find multiple different weapons, being able to hold a maximum of four. The second weapon slot holds a spell book of some kind which allows you to fire off different elemental spells, such as fire or frost. The third weapon slot holds a staff which can have multiple different effects, and the fourth weapon slot holds slightly more modern weapons, such as an alchemical pistol or bomb. Each weapon slot has its own mana pool which only gets used for that weapon, and none of these except for the mana used for your wand, regenerate. You must find the corresponding mana crystals in order to refill each mana pool. Along with mana pickups, there are also health potions, goblets which increase your end score and knowledge gems which grant experience. All of these items drop from defeated enemies, along with the occasional breakable object. As the only thing that actually regenerates is your wand mana, you need to pick up everything you can in order to stay alive and continue firing off spells.
The nature of the game is incredibly reminiscent of an older style of game, such as DOOM or Quake. You must constantly be on the move to stay alive, minions will not relent and cover will only work for so long. They will fire off their own spells and attacks in a torrent of destruction and you need to have quick reflexes to avoid them, remember the four D’s, dodge, duck, dip, and dive! Moving is just as important as attacking, especially in rooms which require more than simply defeating everything. Some rooms have obelisks which appear, and you must destroy them in order to quell the infinitely spawning horde, other rooms require you to scavenge pink gems while enemies continuously spawn, and then once you have collected enough you can then defeat the remaining enemies. There are trap rooms which you must navigate in order to move through, sometimes having a reward at the end, other times simply granting you passage to the rest of the level.
This game is challenging. Even on normal difficulty, you need to be prepared and completely engaged. There is a level system and you must choose the right perks for your play style, do you upgrade your mana reserves or choose a more healthy option? All perks have their own uses and it is up to you to choose how you want to build your wizard. After a decent amount of playtime, you will also unlock new characters that have other certain abilities, such as more wand damage but smaller mana reserves.
The enemies in Ziggurat are widely varied and some are just weird as hell. You’ll fight blobs, the undead and flying squid things with eyes in their mouths. Every enemy has a certain style to their attacks and movements as well. All will shoot at you, but some do it differently and have other abilities, such as explosive shots, poison, summoning and charging. It requires you to learn what each enemy does and utilise that knowledge in battle. Honestly, any game that has you slaughtering hordes of sentient carrots, earns a plus. You need to constantly be on alert, as you can quickly become overwhelmed by an amalgamation of weird looking creatures.
For those after a rich story, a deep RPG or any form of gameplay other than run and shoot, you might be a little disappointed here. It is purely a ‘run and gun’ sort of game, which it doesn’t lie about. It tells you that upfront, noting it’s fast-paced action, spells, perks and randomised dungeons. It even mentions the perma-death system. If you die, you have to restart all over again, but don’t fret, for each time you die, depending on how well you did, you can unlock more perks which are available upon level up. So even if you die and have to restart over again, you can do so knowing that you will have more range in building your character, and maybe even new characters to play as.
Ziggurat is available on PC, XB1 and PS4 for around the AUD $20 mark. The game throws you into the magical action straight away and doesn’t pull any punches. You will be constantly scrounging for items, fighting for your life and screaming at carrots. Ziggurat earns a solid 8/10, the game doesn’t do anything new, but it is still great fun all the same. Death is frustrating, but it makes you all the more invigorated to start again and carve your way through the countless minions in order to reach the end.