I am a firm believer that videogames are a truly incredible medium for storytelling. They’re highly interactive and provide a lot of different methods of conveying a plot, from visuals to sound to gameplay. They also represent an ideal way to tell new or often underrepresented stories in ways that wouldn’t be possible in other mediums.
However, a good plot alone does not a good game make. The same goes for having the best intentions. These, along with lackluster gameplay and wonky visuals, are the major issues that keep Aztech: Forgotten Gods from being the game it desperately wants to be.
Aztech: Forgotten Gods is an action-adventure that takes place in a technologically advanced Aztec metropolis and follows delivery woman Achtli as she embarks on a quest to defeat the Forgotten Gods and unearth the secrets that lie beneath the city she calls home. Armed (pun intended) with a gigantic stone gauntlet, she battles her way to the truth and learns a lot about herself in the process.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward. You do a lot of running around and exploring the city, finding beacons of light that may lead you to a fighting or racing challenge or an area to snag Achtli some new hairstyles. Sadly, that’s all there really is to uncover; although the city is quite detailed on the surface, everything in it is pretty closed off, even the NPCs.
Then there’s the combat. Your weapon is the gauntlet attached to your arm, which allows you to propel yourself through the air until your gauge goes empty (and this is by far the best way to appreciate the design of the city, in case you were wondering) and also pack a powerful punch while fighting high-tech stone enemies. For having such a neat tool at your side, the combat itself is lackluster. It’s a lot of button mashing, especially for the small-time enemies.
Even for boss battles against the Forgotten Gods, the combat is far from challenging. All it takes is a moment to understand their movement and weak points, and then…well, it’s back to your regularly scheduled button mashing. It feels like there’s very little combat in general, and it always feels like it’s over too quickly.
There’s also quite a few issues with the game’s visuals. While the design is impeccable, with tons of details in the environment, wonderfully put together enemies, and dynamic characters, the execution is a little crusty. The graphics are a little too grainy, the motions of the characters are a little too stiff and awkward, and there’s more than a few moments where parts of Achtli clip through the things around her. It makes for an overall unpleasant experience visually at times.
And speaking of unpleasant visuals, the game’s camera is less than stellar. It seems to have a mind of its own, especially during boss battles, and moves to some very awkward angles that often take Achtli out of frame. This becomes incredibly annoying, even after you learn how to fix it; be aware that managing the camera is practically part of the gameplay.
That said, there are a few things in Aztech that are absolutely incredible, like the plot, setting, and music. Aztech takes place in an Aztec city that has never been conquered or colonized, and this has become a technological marvel while still maintaining the stone structures the culture is known for. The story is deeply rooted in Aztec myth and uses those myths to create the image of the Forgotten Gods.
The influence of Aztec art and culture is seen in every detail of the city, and the soundtrack provides a modern techno sound to amplify the idea of this city being home to an ancient-cyber society.
The plot is a real strength for the game. Aztech attempts to tell the story of a young woman who is in a sort of limbo, spending all night delivering items and all day sleeping. She is traumatized by the death of her father and feels as though her life is in disarray. Her journey into becoming a hero for her city and coming to terms with being a chosen warrior despite her feelings of grief and inadequacy is one that is interesting and rather heartfelt.
Despite being an action-adventure game, Aztech: Forgotten Gods feels like it lacks both action and adventure. On the surface, it looks so promising, but this potential ends up being skin deep; there’s very little to explore, there’s not enough combat and what fighting does exist is simply underwhelming. However, the game’s story is original with plenty of heart and unique influence, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not quite enough to save the experience. It’s truly with a heavy heart that I say this one misses the mark completely.