Some eras of history are pretty well-trod in the video game world, while others could use a second look. There are plenty of medieval worlds to explore, but we don’t get too many caveman games, for instance; your average early access survival game might make you feel like a (glitchy, unfinished) caveman, sure, but it’s no Far Cry Primal. Likewise, the ancient Aztec empire is largely new ground when it comes to games. Why not take the ol’ time machine for a spin and give ruling that empire a shot in Aztez?
Aztez casts you as the leader of the ancient Aztec empire. Running the joint from day to day isn’t too bad – just collect taxes and make sure everyone stays in line, right? Well, turns out things aren’t always that easy. When situations come up that require that special touch, you send in the Aztez, which are essentially ancient special forces units armed with powerful weapons and magic. You’ll control your Aztez directly as they battle their way for the glory of the empire as well as performing your duties as leader, making hard decisions when needed; you only have so many Aztez, after all, and they can’t be everywhere at once.
On the one hand, Aztez is a light strategy game. You’re given a map of your empire showing which cities you control, which are neutral and which are experiencing dissent and can’t be added to your empire. Using the empire’s resources, you can forcibly incorporate cities, clear away dissent and deal with random occurrences. Said random occurrences are the central gameplay feature in the strategy mode, since choosing which ones you want to deal with and how will determine the fate of your empire.
How do you typically deal with events? By sending in an Aztez to kill everyone, of course! When you send an Aztez into battle, you’ll control them directly in a 2D side-scrolling arena mode. Aztez can wield a variety of weapons as well as a shield, allowing for impressive custom combos and skillful timed parries. Slashing or smashing away at foes results in blood being spilled everywhere, and in true Aztec fashion you can offer this blood to the gods to earn their favor. The resultant god powers can provide vital boons like area damage, healing or slowing time.
These are a necessary edge later on, especially since losing a battle usually means losing your Aztez, and as mentioned you only have so many to go around. Victory, meanwhile, earns advantages for your empire, such as resources, special items and even new gear for your Aztez. Your Aztez will feel like human blenders early in the game, but things steadily grow more difficult as you keep going. Let’s just say that this one’s very historically accurate when it comes to the hardware advantages the Spanish conquistadors had over the Aztec empire.
The combination of light strategy and intense combat make for a memorable title, especially when you consider Aztez’s unique presentation. It’s somewhat similar to the classic Wii brawler MadWorld, where nearly everything but blood is in black and white. Clear, thick drawing means that it’s not hard to see what’s going on, and attacks are clearly labelled so you know when one’s coming and can defend yourself as necessary. Combined with some satisfying, crunchy sound effects, Aztez’s aesthetic is striking and does a lot to help the game stand out.
Don’t be too turned off by screenshots of the game’s strategy map – Aztez is, at its core, a stylish brawler that lets you pick your fights. It’s a great time when you get into the zone, smashing and slashing away with the game’s snappy control scheme; that enjoyment’s even greater when there’s a vital city on the line. Fans of brawlers and spectacle fighters should do themselves a favor and take a look at Aztez.