Ziggurat 2 is the sequel to the original Ziggurat, 2014’s first-person shooter dungeon crawl video game developed and published by Milkstone Studios. The game was released for Linux, Microsoft Windows, and OS X.
Before we get into the story, let’s have a quick look at what indeed a “ziggurat” is. According to Merriam-Webster; an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top.
In Ziggurat 2 the titular structure is a prison, used to contain the world’s most dangerous, unkillable monsters and fiends. A group of wizards were assigned as the caretakers to keep the Ziggurat intact. Over time we are told a civil war broke out between the wizards and in the process the prison is destroyed! The monsters are let loose and have begun to take over the world (or some other nefarious scheme).
The game follows a pretty simple structure: pick a character, choose a load out and head off to tackle the threat in the area. Initially you can only choose between two remaining wizards from the aftermath of the civil war. As you progress you unlock more, each with their own individual move sets, strengths and weaknesses. Gameplay is like the original title – a roguelike/lite FPS with RPG levelling elements strewn throughout.
You start with a basic wand that functions exactly like a basic pistol would in a shooter with guns, yet at first it feels jarring to have a magic wand or staff behave this way. Slowly as you learn the weapon types you might find a warm smile creep over your face as the shooting in game when matched with the different weapon types is just superb.
As you clear areas you slowly increase in power and by finding a new weapon such as a staff or wand your fire power becomes stronger or faster, whilst claiming a chest after clearing a room may give you new abilities such as reduced MP use for the level of stronger attacks. Exploration is encouraged my friends, as ignoring these extras found in side rooms can lead to failure come boss time.
Extra or side rooms are optional, however it is highly recommended that you explore these. From extra weapons to challenge chests – which are treasure chests that when opened will set a challenge such as tasking you to survive the waves of enemies, before it gives up the glorious bounty held within – the bold adventurer will definitely leave these rooms with plenty of plunder to help progression. Basic platforming is sometimes required to reach bonus chests or keys but this never feels off or unbalanced, a rarity for a FPS that contains platforming.
Ziggurat 2 really feels like a love letter to DOOM (2016), with level layouts and characters feeling like the developers took a pinch of DOOM, a splash of Unreal Tournament and mixed it with three spoons of Harry Potter. Fast paced movement and solid mechanics were a pleasant surprise for a game that appears to be another slow paced fantasy dungeon crawler. Zipping through from room to room with a magic wand like a Rambo version of Ron Weasley felt absolutely epic.
Finishing areas gets you coins that can be used to upgrade characters, and your weapons as well. You choose from a mission on the game’s map, with each being varied by length and difficulty; choose wisely! Levels gained in areas are not transferred over and you only get one life per level, so the roguelike roots are very present throughout.
The replayability is high for Ziggurat 2 as you can revisit any area from the menu between missions. Rooms that were missed or even items that you didn’t quite collect the first time around can be grabbed with a second visit after levelling up in the lab or improving your character’s abilities. Statistics at the end of each level give you the one more go feeling that many games struggle to achieve naturally.
Graphically the game looks absolutely beautiful. As mentioned above it really does feel like DOOM (2016), especially in terms of movement and gameplay, but that is mixed with Fable in looks. As someone who is not a huge fan of fantasy, I can comfortably say that visually Ziggurat 2 will appeal to all. Carrots from the attack of the killer tomatoes, eye things from DOOM, goblins ripped right from World of Warcraft and witches out of Destiny delightfully make up the rogues gallery.
Sound in the game is very apt for the setting too, from magic wand zaps to monster squelches, the sound effects are engrossing, and combining well with the magical movie quality soundtrack they make a musical spectrum that is never too offensive to the player.
To summarise, as an avid avoider of roguelikes and as a mild to non-fan of fantasy, Ziggurat 2 appealed in ways I never thought possible. It has that one more go gameplay appeal, combined with a fun world that you want to spend time in. The only downfall is that it would really shine with a non-roguelike single player campaign which it does not have, as the universe created here begs to be explored and deserves to be wrapped in an expansive story.
Ziggurat 2 is a really nice surprise; one that is highly recommended for old school Quake fans who have missed that arena-based shooter feel. I warmly accepted the challenge which was presented in-game and look forward to my next run with new characters. That in itself is testament for a genre and type that I would usually avoid.
Ziggurat 2 is available over at the Xbox Store