Ziggurat is a first-person shooter rogue-lite from Milkstone Studios with a fantasy aesthetic that I really vibe on. You play as a mage finishing their training and taking on a lethal final test: the Ziggurat. Plenty of hectic, frenetic action awaits, with magic items to master and hordes of monsters to slay.
It’s a shooter, first and foremost. Everyone starts off with a wand, which acts primarily like a handgun. You can find a multitude of weapons in three different categories. Arcane is represented by a spellbook, and typically has large damage and a slower rate of fire. Staffs are generally rapid fire, multi-projectile weapons that at least vaguely resemble a rifle of sorts. And finally, alchemy is almost always some kind of explosive. These items have myriad permutations, and each run is pretty wildly different because of that, but at their heart, they represent classic shooter elements.
The aesthetic I need to comment heavily on, because I love it. A lot of work went into these magic items, settings, and monsters. Magic weapons are intricate and detailed, and quite often stunningly beautiful. Environs are wild, dangerous feeling, and again frequently beautiful to look at. I find myself occasionally standing still and admiring areas after I’ve killed and looted my way through them at high speed. Music swells and fades, and excellent sound effects wrap the entire vibe up into a pretty specific and enjoyable experience.
But the carrot monsters deserve a solid pre-warning. Those things’ll scar your psyche. I want to know the thought process that went into this specific creature creation. The sound they make is perfection.
The Ziggurat itself is a dungeon. In order to escape the dungeon and prove yourself worthy to join this cabal of powerful mages, you are expected to trash the monsters within, overcome the traps, and bring down the bosses. The mechanics are well blended to provide that lovely sweet spot in gameplay loops. The runs are different enough to stay fresh, but similar enough that you can learn the Ziggurat and defeat it.
Each floor has a pretty simple layout. Lots of rooms with lots of monsters, in a variety of types with a variety of abilities. Each monster has variations the game will throw at you to keep it fresh. Traps are all over the place, but honestly feel like more of a speed bump than a threat. Occasionally you’ll find a platforming puzzle to engage with too. Nothing heavy though, the primary gameplay loop is all about zapping monsters with magic. Find the boss key, kill the boss, and you get to go to the next floor where the loop awaits you with advanced difficulty.
The magic in this game seems to stem mostly from items and level ups, which make each individual run unique. If I can, I’ll take the extra exp perk early and stack it pretty high. Reaching the end boss with 20 extra levels is a great way to focus your build. Plenty of other options too though, as any time you increase in level you are offered a choice of magical perks. Perks run the gambit and generally fit into classic gameplay molds like extra mana/health/speed/rebel, etc, but there’s plenty of odd cards thrown in the mix to create interesting and powerful builds.
Progression in the form of new perk cards, weapons, characters, and other gameplay enhancing effects rack up every time you play. Winning provides more of those, and isn’t unachievable on a few different difficulties. Nothing fancy really, but it does add nicely to replay value and encourages interesting runs. This game can be a lot of fun.
Overall I pretty greatly enjoyed most aspects of this game. The core gameplay loop is its strength, and the theme and cool worldbuilding is a joy. It works nicely as a backdrop to murdering monsters with magic. I’m sold on this as a quality addition to my rogue-like shooters library.
Joseph Phelps doesn’t just play games, he writes books in them too! Check out his LitRPG here on Amazon. And feel free to sign up to our newsletter for free serials, contests, books and a list of new releases in every genre!