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I’m the type of person that loves the satisfaction from overcoming difficult challenges, so I’ve always enjoyed games that offer gameplay that can bring about that specific scenario. I also hate the crushing defeat when one is unable to obtain the sweet elation of completing a challenge, which tends to make games of this type a bitter-sweet experience. Ziggurat, created by Milkstone Studios, was chalk full of mini-victories and soul crushing moments that kept me crawling back for more, knowing full well that the journey would most likely end with being kicked back down. I was utterly disappointed with the amount of glitches this title had but the solid gameplay and polished graphics were enough to keep my eyes on the goal, reaching the top of the Ziggurat to become a Daedolon Brother.

Story

Ziggurat follows the same basic formula seen in most roguelike games but is able to form a creative gap from the rest of the pack by utilizing in-depth customization through perks, randomly dropped weapons, a large variety of enemies, and an enormous pool of unlockable content which all melded poetically to provide a unique experience during each attempt at the daunting Ziggurat. You play as a mage who has trained in the art of Magic for the past 20 years and the time has come for you to test your skill in the most deadly challenge available, the Ziggurat.  Every ten winters the Daedolon Brothers host this event for any magic welder who feels they are strong enough to overcome this challenge, knowing that most do not make it out alive.  The concept of the game is simply attempting to clear the five floors of the Ziggurat by searching for a key on each level which will unlock a boss that guards the entrance to the next floor.

Gameplay

With Ziggurat being a roguelike game, it enforces permanent death which means when your character dies, the game ends, forcing you to restart your adventure each time until you beat the final boss without a single death. Once you are able to conquer the five levels, an Endless Mode is available in order to see how many floors you can complete. With the staggering amount of perks, weapon combinations and unpredictable gameplay, you will be skipping with joy back to floor number one after every death. The weapons in the game are all ranged and suited for mages which forces a calculated approach to every level, since distance is your friend. Your character starts with a basic wand which I was able to use exclusively during the first floor but as you progress in the Ziggurat, it demands greater power coupled with critical thinking. This is accomplished by utilizing the weapons you collect during each playthrough. The weapons you obtain are always randomized and each offers a unique style that provides options as to how you approach each enemy encounter.  Your character can hold up to four different weapons, one of each type in the game which are: the wand you start with, a staff, a spell book and a magical ranged weapon. Each weapon slot has its own mana pool, which forces you to pick and choose when to use your most effective weapon and to figure out which weapon is best suited for the challenge before you.

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Speaking of challenges before you, Ziggurat shines with its randomly generated system. This is another trademark with roguelike games that Milkstone Studios melded beautifully into Ziggurat. No run through will be the same due to the auto generated rooms, random weapon drops and the large pool of enemies thrown in your way.  As you progress to higher floors, stronger enemies are added to the pool of monsters that could appear in the game. Each room that starts an encounter will spawn 2-4 different species of monsters which all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some examples of monster you will encounter are Carrots that will charge at you, attempting to tear off your flesh when you enter their range and Bone Rangers that will throw spinning axes toward you. Traps and lava are found throughout the game as well, which adds a platforming element into the mix.

Another way Ziggurat randomizes each play through is with the use of perks. These perks are obtained through leveling up and collecting in Secret rooms and Treasure boxes. Each perk will either give you a small advantage like allowing you to gain health from smashing objects or providing extra mana and health drops from enemies. There are also perks that offer great bonuses at a cost like increasing the amount of health gained from potions but cutting your health pool in half. Ziggurat encourages players to continue playing by providing multiple perks, characters and weapons that can be unlocked by completing a variety of achievements.

The Issues

Ziggurat is a great game but the glitches I encountered ruined my otherwise joyful experience. There are a couple monsters in the game (the Carrots being one of them) that will, in some instances, becoming invisible. This happened to me eight times during my 13 hours of play. The reason this glitch happened was due to a monster traveling on elevated platforms that they were not programmed to be on. Seven of the glitches ended once I killed the enemy that lost their sprite, which was frustrating but bearable. The reason I dropped my overall rating to 3.5 was due to the one time that the invisible sprite became indestructible. I finally made it to the final floor and was killed due to a monster that glitched to the point where they could damage me but my attacks would not register. Its safe to say that I was not a happy camper.

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I don’t want to completely rage over this because I understand that these type of things will happen when playing a game with auto-generated maps, never knowing which enemies will spawn. I just feel like when a game that is focused on your character not dying has a bug that causes you to die, it becomes something that can’t be ignored. To give Milkstone Studios credit, they have been releasing patches consistently in order to resolve glitches like the one mentioned along with adding and re-configuring weapons and perks. The only other aspect I did not love about Ziggurat was the soundtrack. The sound effects and background music were very basic compared to the depth the rest of the game offered. The audio effects associated with each type of weapon never hindered the feel of the game but nothing special was added from them being there.

Design

Every room I explored was nicely designed and never gave off the feel of being randomly generated. Every trap, lava pit and maze of pillars felt that they were meant to be there which increased the joy of playing the same level more than once. All five floors in the game were designed based on different themes which helped revitalize each playthrough. Every monster in the game was designed in an odd but creative way.  Most games will use the basic enemies like wolves, dragons, and bandits but Ziggurat decided to throw all of that out the window. I have never felt terrified of carrots before, so when a game can make an innocent vegetable sinister, they are tackling character creation correctly.

Final words of wisdom

Ziggurat was a wonderful game that took the best parts of Binding of Isaac and Doom, added some original ideas and created an addicting game to be proud of. There are some major glitches and more could have been done with the audio effects in the game but the flaws were thrown under the rug of in-depth gameplay, stunning level design and unlimited ways of playing the same simple game over and over and over again. So if you enjoy having the taste of victory ripped from your fingertips but enjoy all the mini victories that come with them, then I would gladly recommend Ziggurat which you can check out here.

 3.5/5

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Being a gamer has been in my blood since I discovered the magical land of video gaming. When I was a kid, I never understood why everyone wanted to be Lawyers, doctors or police officers. All I wanted was to become a Pokemon master, while being trained in the art of Fire magic by a wise monk in the mountains. Once I realized this was not possible, I settled for being part of the video gaming industry in some form. Since then, I have completed a 1.5 years of college for game programming, and spent countless hours playing games like DOTA and Pokemon, hoping to one day become a pro. Since those two options didn’t fit, I currently create YouTube let’s plays, while writing reviews here. Out of all my adventures, this one is the most satisfying and I’m looking forward to where life takes me. Also, I’m a CSR drone, working in a call center, but that part of life is not important, since it lacks magic and animals in balls.

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