I love when a game has a setting completely unlike anything else. There are so many cyberpunk, fantasy and colourful cartoon worlds out there to adventure through, and although I enjoy all of them it’s much more interesting when something new comes along. It’s fair to say that Aztech Forgotten Gods’ futuristic Mesoamerican setting is something new.
In an alternate future where the Aztec empire continues to flourish, our hero Achtli is trying to live her normal life. When her archaeologist mum discovers an ancient artefact from long ago, Achtli tries to help her unlock its secrets and in doing so unleashes huge monsters across the land. Now with the power of the artefact, she decides to take on these titanous beasts personally and restore peace to Tenochtitlan.
With the artifact Lightkeeper in her possession, Achtli gains access to a bunch of powers. Lightkeeper is essentially a big mechanical hand, which has the power to boost her through the air, perform massive punches and climb up walls at will. You’ll spend most of your time flying around the city with your fancy new toy, soaring from skyscraper to skyscraper to your next objective. This would be great, if not for the fact that controlling Achtli feels horrendous.
Lightkeeper doesn’t so much let you fly, as it does let you do a big jump then glide slowly downwards for a long time. This means you’ll need to use buildings and debris to get some height, and moving Achtli up them just doesn’t work. When boosting into a wall you are supposed to be able to run up them, but that rarely actually happens. It’s much more likely that Achtli will erratically run in different directions, and eventually drift embarrassingly to the ground like a discarded carrier bag. Sometimes you won’t even get that far, and the Achtli won’t even stick to the surface to begin with. Frustrating is not a strong enough word to describe moving around the world in Aztech.
Even when moving around on the ground, Aztech is an unpleasant experience. The screen shakes slightly as you wander about, and coupled with the subpar framerate (despite playing on PS5) it made me feel slightly unwell. When for so much of the game your objective is simply “go to this place”, the motion is just unacceptable.
When you finally get to meet one of the massive bosses that Aztech is based around, you start to see where the enjoyment could come from. Flying around these huge fellas and dodging attacks is actually entertaining when you manage to wrestle the controls into submission. Most of them involve dodging attacks until you can find a way to reveal the weak point, then mashing the punch button when you are in the range of Achtli’s dash attack.
Not all the bosses are created equal though, and I seemed to break quite a few of them while playing. I got stuck on top of one boss, and ended up punching wildly until it died while the screen just showed a mess of writhing colours. During another boss fight I attempted to fly away from attack, and ended up under the arena with no way to return. I think it’s fair to say that progressing through Aztech was a significant test of my patience.
There are other elements of Aztech I could talk about, like the upgrade shop or new abilities you unlock after defeating bosses, but none of these change the fact that actually moving Achtli around in any setting is a miserable experience. And alongside a slow moving story to start the game and various crashes and glitches I found throughout, I simply couldn’t recommend this title to anyone.
It’s also worth mentioning the visuals and audio in Aztech, which are again disappointing. To say Aztech looks like a PS3 game wouldn’t be particularly unfair, and the visuals are often just overwhelming. The city itself is a nightmare of bright colour that would overwhelm all but kaleidoscope aficionados, with blurry textures greeting you whenever you get too close to a surface. The main issue I have with the audio design are the character voices. Instead of voice acting in Aztech, characters make a small noise at the start of each sentence (which isn’t uncommon). These noises get very grating very quickly, especially with how often they repeat. Eventually I ended up turning the sound off, because I just couldn’t take it anymore.
Aztech Forgotten Gods has a great concept and interesting setting, but the gameplay is simply unacceptable in its current state. I can’t remember the last time I found controlling a character this unpleasant. While the idea of a futuristic Aztec setting is fantastic, I experienced far too many bugs and glitches for this to be worth recommending right now.
An interesting setting
Story is okay
Controlling Achtli is painful
Loads of bugs
Very slow starting