Fast as hell.
Have you ever heard of publishing company Soedesco? No? That’s probably for good reason, as many of the games they publish tend to be trash (outside of Teslagrad and Awesomenauts). After being burned by the not-so-grand Last Tinker, I was rather intrigued by Ziggurat – which happened to pop onto Amazon from thin air. For $19.99 (less 20% via Amazon Prime deals), I figured I couldn’t go too wrong. And boy was I right.
Ziggurat is a fast as hell paced first person dungeon crawling “rogue lite” experience. Your goal in Ziggurat is to blast your way through hordes of minions across five different stages of the daunting Ziggurat. Mage apprentices of all makes and sizes gather at the Ziggurat to pass through the fifth and final stage in order to become one of the few, all powerful. In the opening cinematic (before you press any button as the game loads up), you learn that most, if not all, of the apprentices will meet their doom in the Ziggurat.
I know I certainly met my doom time and again. You see, Ziggurat is designed to be tough, but it supplies you with the means to succeed. In each instance of the game (each dungeon is completely randomized), you begin with a simple wand that will never run out of ammo/mana (though you can expend your mana and have to wait for it to refill). In the first room of every Ziggurat run, you will find an additional weapon (one that has finite mana, and you must collect mana crystals of the weapon type to refill it). At any given time, you may only carry four weapons – one of each magic type (alchemy, staff, spell, and starter wand).
As you proceed through each room in the Ziggurat, you are met with heavy resistance, a place to pray, challenge rooms, minion rooms, item rooms, and a boss room. The goal is to find the summon key in order to battle the guardian of each floor. To do so, you must venture through each of the randomly generated rooms. Rooms may vary, but they stick to the aforementioned formats. The biggest change is the type of minion rooms you will explore. These range from simple annihilation, gathering of purple crystals, or the destroying of obelisks. Occasionally, rooms will add various hindering effects like having you battle in the dark or beneficial effects like providing weaker enemies. As you defeat foes or clear rooms, knowledge orbs (experience) will drop, which allows you to level up.
At each level, you are able to select a skill, ability, or passive feat to help you clear the Ziggurat. As you progress through the game (not the Ziggurat), more skills, feats, abilities, and weapons become available (which means they have a chance to drop in the dungeon). I found that, as I unlocked more items, they tended to be of a higher caliber. In fact, on my tenth run, I finally made it to the final boss (at the ripe level of 17). I died, of course, but a few games later succeeded.
But that final boss stage really made me feel the game’s weakest moment: frame rate issues. For the most part, Ziggurat performs at an excellent level. When the screen fills with enemies and attacks, however, Ziggurat begins to stutter. And this minor stuttering doesn’t even particularly damage gameplay until the final boss. Why? Because during the final guardian battle, the game stutters and stops so much that you can’t tell where you’re being damaged from or that attacks/magic spells are even being launched at you. Add to that how difficult the final boss is, and you’ll see why frame rate issues are a problem.
Still, that’s my biggest complaint (and it is a concern). But Ziggurat’s gameplay more than makes up for any of its flaws. The frenetic bullet hell of any given room coupled with the various strategies for dispatching foes efficiently do this game well. I find myself up each morning running a dungeon and/or the challenge dungeon (each day, a new challenge dungeon appears that you can only run once; my name is on multiple hall of fame lists for those days, too). There’s plenty of value to be had in that alone, but the game offers you about twenty characters to unlock and play as (in fact, there’s a trophy for beating the game with each character). Each character is unlocked by completing different objectives throughout your time with Ziggurat. For example, by killing a certain number of Kobolds or opening ten mystery chests, you can unlock different characters. Dealing 25,000 staff damage unlocks another character and so on. I see myself playing plenty more of this game, especially because there are multiple endings.
On the whole, Ziggurat is as it claims to be: The best first person dungeon crawling rogue lite game. As far as I know, it’s also the only one, which means it’s the worst first person dungeon crawling rogue lite game, too. All jokes aside, I highly recommend this game (especially after they patch out the issues in that last boss fight). The gameplay is fun and addicting, and the unlockables/challenges will keep you busy for days. For $20 on disc or less via digital download, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Ziggurat is not perfect by any means, but it does its job well and provides one hell of a time.