Roguelikes are becoming a little like reality TV shows these days. Every time Steam is opened, the eyes are bombarded by newly released or Early Access procedurally-generated games without checkpoints, where death means starting from the beginning. Turn away for a second and there’s suddenly two more. Standing out in this crowd is always going to be difficult. The team at Milkstone Studios seem to be on the right path though with their roguelike sorcery-shooting first person game, Ziggurat.
Why? To find out you need to put on your wizard robe/swimming costume and dive into a maelstrom of spells, sentient carrots, and angry featherless chickens.
Ziggurat puts you into the role of a sorceror/wizard/magic dude who is set loose into a Running Man-style, procedurally generated gauntlet of death-dealing nastiness. The aforementioned nastiness comes in all sorts of weird and wonderful forms; ranging from floating suits of armour raining fire down upon the ground, to some rather antagonistic root vegetables. If the idea of being attacked by a rabid root vegetable more suited to being sliced up next to a steak sounds silly to you, then Ziggurat is the wrong place to play. If it is though, you’re in luck; the whole game never takes itself too seriously — thank heavens for that.
For lore lovers, Ziggurat does attempt to edify you with plenty to read and mull over. Mentions of the competition and creature origin stories add a depth to proceedings but, if anything, they radiate to the tongue-in-cheek aura which envelopes the whole game. Sort of like a clown school really; those involved take everything very seriously but from the outside, everyone’s just smiling.
Apart from Dave. Dave was attacked by a plucked goose at a circus. He’s over there crying in the corner.
Like all the best and most compelling games of this kind, Ziggurat sets out a simple pattern and expects the player to follow it. Load into an area, kill a bunch of evil critters, find the portal key, kill the boss, and move onto the next arena. What really makes this special is how the zones are laid out. Of course it is all procedural but Milkstone have invoked some sort of voodoo magic to ensure that every created level is laid out in a unique and interesting way.
To keep you coming back, the game incorporates a leveling system of sorts in the form of challenges. Kill so many creatures or collect so many pick ups and you can unlock new characters to take into the competion. Completing these just happens in the background, but it slowly gives you new weapons and perks to apply during the game to add a sense of progression. These perks are not simply random pointless additions. Certain ones can change the way you play quickly such as bonuses to movement speed or regaining health just before each battle.