Ziggurat is a first person shooter roguelike – it has permadeath, randomised map layouts but also different characters, perks and items to unlock for subsequent sessions. It’s worth clarifying that the perks unlocked in-game only, as different leveling benefits to choose from, but before I talk anymore about the mechanics I’d like to talk about the plot.
The plot is relayed thusly; upon starting the game you are given a slideshow, with subtitles that exposit that you are an apprentice, who has been studying magic for twenty years and now in a rite of passage to join the Daedolon brothers, the most powerful of wizard guilds, you must complete the trial, “held once every ten winters”, the titular Ziggurat, a five floored gauntlet of beasties, each topped off by a boss.
There’s really not too much to it in this regard, and this opening only seems to make sense with the ‘main’ character Argo. Regarding the background of twenty years training at least. The end goal would be the same for all characters though, complete the Ziggurat and become a Daedolon brother (there are female characters too if you were wondering). A fairly basic plot but in games such as these, it’s generally just a lip service for the setting, it doesn’t come up in game at all save for lore pages, which are more a matter of background/setting than anything specific to your character. These are the games that are more gameplay driven than plot driven, and though the plot is nothing major, that’s not to say that the game lacks character.
There are over fifteen playable characters, most of which are initially locked. However you are shown the requisites for unlocking new characters, without knowing what that character is until it is unlocked. Each character has different benefits and drawbacks, for example, one character starts with lower stats but levels up faster, another has lower health but deals more damage. And on top of these differences, each character has a different wand.
Wands are one of the four main weapon types of the game, along with spells, staves, and alchemical weapons. Each weapon type uses a different energy type to function, spells use blue, staves use green, alchemical weapons use orange and the wand uses purple. Purple energy, by default, is the only energy type to regenerate passively, the other three types are restored by picking up the corresponding colour crystals which can be dropped by enemies or sometimes found in barrels. There are modifiers that may, for example, allow them to regenerate over time or grant you energy when you take damage.
Every character has their own wand with different characteristics, such a slower fire rate, greater accuracy or firing multiple weaker projectiles per shot for example. Spells tend toward multiple projectiles that spread or track enemies, staves tend to have accuracy and speed in their firing, and alchemical weapons tend to have high damage with a slower rate of fire and an area of effect. On top of the weapon types, each weapon also has an alternate fire which is generally just a stronger version of the basic attack at the cost of more energy.
At the beginning of each level, a weapon of one three types is available for pickup. However you can only carry one of each type at any given time, so there’s chance of not getting a third or fourth weapon at the start of later levels. Weapons can also be acquired with perks or occasionally found in treasure holding rooms. There is a decent array of weapons and other items, over one hundred and fifty, those including weapons, perks and amulets.
Perks cover a wide variety of aspects, increased speed, more experience and increased enemy drops just to name a few. They’re earned primarily through levelling but can also be found by chance in select room types or granted at altars to the elder gods, which may hinder you, help you, or do a bit of both.
Amulets are rarer, and you could go through many, many runs without picking one up, you can find them in treasure rooms from time to time or you may get a chance to choose to get one as a perk. They are all active use items with temporary effects such as health and energy regeneration, increased experience gain or increased speed etc. Their recharge is based on combat, not simply time. So don’t be getting any ideas of using the regen amulet to fill up your health before a fight. They can be handy if you have then but even if you do have one you may go on without even using, wanting to save the charge for the right time or maybe even simply forgetting about it.
Each floor is primarily made up of minion rooms, wherein you must defeat all of the enemy mobs to continue, a room with the ‘portal key’ needed to spawn the floor’s boss and the boss room which is specific to the boss your fighting, so you will know who the boss is if you’re familiar with the rooms.
Other room types include: altar rooms, where you can seek the gifts of the elder gods; box rooms which simply contain a box in the centre which opens on approach, heralding good things or bad; trap rooms which are essentially just junctions to other rooms but filled with hazards; platforming trap rooms which require platforming to get to a chest at the end but failure will most like cost you health, and some hidden rooms which you will learn how to find…
The game has leaderboards to compare scores with specific characters to either the world or it can be filtered to your friends (which is generally all I look at on leaderboards), as well as a daily challenge which is a common run to all players that can be attempted once with the same character, pickups and perks for everyone. As well as a more even playing field for competing on the leaderboard it’s also handy for giving you the chance to play with a character, perks and items you may have not yet unlocked.
Overall it’s a fun but challenging game that encourages dynamic play styles through its random nature, of weapons, perks and map layout.
Enjoyable and not rage-inducing
Ziggurat is available now on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One.