Ziggurat does several things differently to most other “Rogue-lites”, a genre that is always at risk of wasting the time invested by the player. In an industry that is beginning to become over-saturated with the genre, it’s worth noting how some games do it well and how some games could improve. It is my honest opinion that Ziggurat should be put on the mantle as one of the best because of everything it does right.
The concept is relatively simple. You are an apprentice sorcerer about to undertake the most dangerous trial in your wizarding career: conquering the five floors of the Ziggurat. To begin with, you have a wand that shoots both rapid-fire shots or small bursts depending on which button you press. In front of you on every new floor is a brand new weapon, complete with its primary and secondary fire mode, using one of three magic bars. By opting to give you two weapons to switch from on the fly from the get go with two different fire modes, Ziggurat takes the first step into making combat interesting no matter how the randomly generated rooms formulate each floor.
Each floor is a maze that features arena style battles, trap rooms, and treasure. But they can also include trial rooms where you must traverse traps to reach a chest at the end, rooms with scrolls in that contain notes from previous travellers, or rooms where you can pray to totems for randomised buffs/debuffs. To advance though, you must bring a Portal Key to a boss room, before defeating the guardian to go to the next floor. Featuring tight controls, it is a joy shooting all the foes in each room, despite the basic AI.
Enemy variety is rather limited at first, but as you progress you will come across increasingly intimidating foes whose projectiles become harder to avoid. The cast is colourful, ranging from skeletons and slimes to poison spitting Dodos (they’re called Basilisks, but really they resemble extinct poultry). Overall though there is a lack of variety in enemies, but that isn’t apparent for a long time. Bosses tend to be larger versions of standard enemies, able to summon their kin to aid in battle, resulting in occasionally hectic battles for survival.
When you do eventually die, your score is added to a hidden checklist that informs you of when new items, perks, or weapons can be found within the Ziggurat. Depending on whether you met the criteria, you may also unlock new characters that mostly affect how much of a certain magic bar you have. This essentially means that win or lose you can unlock most perks and aren’t cheated because of a poor run.
It probably won’t win any rewards for graphical fidelity, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good looker. This labyrinth of death is full of colour and larger than life foes. For the majority of encounters, there is little to no slowdown, but on both PC and Xbox One the frame-rate takes a nosedive when dozens of imps are throwing fire at you at once. Also, word of warning, if you’re playing as the novice, make sure the volume isn’t too high as the bloodcurdling scream is deafening!
By avoiding many of the pitfalls of the genre, Ziggurat is one rogue-lite you’ll want to play over and over again. Even though enemy AI is somewhat basic, you’ll have fun blasting your way through hordes of monsters with a varied weapon set, trinkets and perks that gain new additions after every game. It may not be the longest of its genre, but it harkens back to classic FPS games of old with a varied arsenal and lots of things to shoot. Who knew that killing anthropomorphic carrots could be so satisfying?