Developer: Milkstone Studios
Publisher: Milkstone Studios
Release Date: October 23rd, 2014
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First Person Shooter
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
Roguelites have become rather popular lately, with games like The Binding of Issac and FTL utilizing some elements from the Roguelike genre while mixing it with others. Ziggurat’s goal is similar, only it chooses to mix in first person shooting elements. Does this game have the magic touch, or is it all just tricks?
There’s not much story to Ziggurat. A group of apprentices enter a death maze called the Ziggurat in an effort to prove their skills and become fully certified mages. You’ll play as one of these apprentices, but there’s little story to be had here. There’s some lore scrolls to find and a bit of background information on each apprentice, but there’s no actual plot in the game.
While Ziggurat is an FPS, there are few guns in it. Instead there are staves, spell books, and wands. Weapons are broken into four categories. Every apprentice has a wand with unlimited ammo that acts slightly differently depending on who you’re playing as. Staves, spell books, and alchemy weapons make up the other categories, each with their own use. Weapons feel joyfully unique, and no weapon is like any other. Staves, for example, range from a rapid shooting, to spread shots, to a poison slinging. One spell book had me shoot clouds of poison like a flame thrower, while another had me spawn eyes that would shoot at enemies for me. With so many weapons, I found myself more comfortable with some weapons rather than others. It was always frustrating when I couldn’t manage to find a weapon that I found useful and getting killed because of this.
The goal in Ziggurat is to get to the fifth floor and kill the boss to escape from the dungeon. Along the way you’ll have to get though many smaller threats, traps, boss fights, and other dangers. The game has a nice variety of enemies, from small crossbow-shooting kobolds to large fireball throwing suits of armor. Each floor is randomly generated, with you having to find a portal key and a boss-guarded portal so you can get to the next floor. At first this was rather neat and I was constantly getting surprised by new rooms, but after a few runs things fell into a routine where I could figure out what would happen in each room. Thankfully, modifiers help keep me on my toes. Every time I enter a room there’s a chance that there will be a random effect on the room. From suddenly large enemies to strange color pallets, even after I had beat the game several times I still found new an exciting modifiers when I came into rooms. As I battled I would level up, allowing me a choice between two random perks every time I did. Some of these perks were pretty useful, but others made me wonder why I would waste my time with it. One perk did nothing but bring me back to full health even though I was already at full health. It’s a bit too luck-based for my tastes sometimes, but the times where I would get super powerful thanks to that good luck did make me feel better.
Ziggurat keeps growing the more you play it too. New characters, weapons, modifiers, and more are constantly unlocked whenever I died, meaning each new foray into the maze would have new items that could either help me along the way or make my journey a little harder. On one hand I was always interested in seeing what new things I would unlock, but on the other hand it feels like I would take a while before I’d actually find these items. I feel like they could have just removed this feature completely and just had everything unlocked from the start as there’s more than enough content that it would be very difficult to see it all even 40+ hours in. I suppose it is a little rewarding getting new items even if I totally botched a run, but overall it’s not a huge thing.
Ziggurat managed to keep my attention, and each run felt unique enough that I was happy about spending time on it. Fans of both roguelites and first person shooters looking for a new takes on the genres should look into Ziggurat. They may just be enchanted by what they find.