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The RPG and Platformer Had a Baby… Aztaka [Review]

AztakaIt’s a rare sight to behold when two very distinct genre’s blend so perfectly that you almost have to ask yourself why this game didn’t happen sooner. Games like Diablo successfully blended the action and RPG genre into an awesome experience. Morrowind and Oblivion took the modern FPS and merged it with the RPG… beautifully. Uncharted melded together the platformer and adventure games effortlessly. Now, Aztaka has successfully combined the RPG and the patformer in what’s certainly not the first of its kind, but a great addition nonetheless.

Aztaka, like I stated above, is a platformer/RPG hybrid that’s based on the ancient Aztec civilization and all the religious deities held within. The game takes place during a sort of depression in the Aztecan society. Strife is everywhere and the people are in an overwhelming state of disarray. That’s where you come in. As the prophetic hero of the Aztecs it’s your job, like in most RPGs, to right the wrongs and fix the mess being caused by Cihuac, a witch who not only seems to hate you but also sees you as her main competition. A fairly typical “save the world” type scenario it may be, but one that works for the unique setting within.

Anyways, onward to the review:

Gameplay

Aztaka is already a unique game. Let’s face it, RPGs and platformers don’t mix all to often. Luckily, it seems to do a fairly capable job as well. The game blends in both of the genres in such a way that neither feel tacked on, nor does it feel like it would be a better game were it just an RPG or just a platformer. Bottomline, is that the developers seemingly had a clear idea of what they wanted going into the game which then produced a fine game.

As with most RPGs, Aztaka has quests. However, while some RPGs seem to falter in their quest management, Aztaka does it simply yet effectively. Now, I haven’t played in a long time, but I’d liken the experience to World of Warcraft’s quest management system. Descriptions and objectives are clearly laid out and it’s easy to see which quests you have completed and which still need to be completed. I’ve seen a lot of games mess this part up and it becomes such a hassle to deal with when you just want to play the game.

Aztaka boasts a unique “magic” system. While traveling throughout the game’s world you’ll be picking up “energy”; this energy can then be used to heal yourself, or create various affects like growing extra tree limbs. The way you actually use them is by dragging the energy with your mouse over onto whatever it is that’s needed. For example, if you need to heal you can simply drag some Vital Energy from your container and onto your persons. It makes for an easy, yet effective, way to heal in the middle of combat amongst other things.

Alternatively, however, the combat is a little too simplistic for my taste. While you do have a companion you can casts spells, your primary method of attack will be with your spear. You press the right mouse button to attack and that’s it. It’s just “click, click, click” until whatever it is that you are viciously clicking at dies. Definitely could have used a bit more inspiring combat.

That said, this game is by no means easy. While the “click, click, click” example may have made the game sound as such, I assure you there are plenty of challenges in the game. In fact, most monsters/enemies can dispose of you fairly quickly if you don’t know what your doing. While this may sound like a bad thing, I’d liken the experience of dying in Aztaka to the experience you have in Bioshock. Upon death you simply and immediately — i.e. no load times — respawn at the last checkpoint. Everything else is continuing on as if you had just run away from whatever it was that was attacking you. Definitely makes the challenge of the game easier to swallow.

When starting out, the game can be fairly confusing. In fact, the game doesn’t really explain many of the mechanisms like dragging and dropping energy onto various things to get the desired affect. Also using skills and leveling up isn’t fully explained either. The game makes a lot of assumptions that you should already know these things, but, unfortunately, there are very few games with a similar control scheme so the fact is that most people will not immediately grasp these concepts.

Style

Aztaka is gorgeous. From the backgrounds, to the characters, to even the fluid movement of the characters. There’s little to dislike about the game unless you just aren’t a fan of Aztecan style, of which this game is based on. In particular, my favorite parts are watching the backgrounds. It would seem special detail was paid to them to ensure the world felt alive and not… well… just a background.

Additionally, the music is very nice. I honestly can’t tell you if it sounds Aztecan or not since I’m not all to familiar with the culture, however it does give the game a nice flow to it, which is to say, it’s mostly appropriate for the events happening on screen.

One final thing, there is no voice acting in Aztaka. Whether this is good or bad is dependent on you.

Story

Aztaka is deeply rooted in the Aztecan culture, for obvious reasons. This means that even beyond the game itself the world is situated in a very unique setting and one that is mostly unique from the typical European/American/Japanese cultures that are attached to almost every other game created.

Beyond even that, however, being an RPG, the story in Aztaka is deep and very well written. Those with interests in the ancient Central American cultures would be doing themselves a favor by investing in Aztaka. While the actual story is just that, a story, it’s told in such a way to to be truly believable of the culture surrounding it.

Everything Else

My final complaint with the game is that the NPCs talk… a lot. Now, I’m no hater of reading. As somebody bred on Final Fantasies and the old Dragon Warrior games I’m used to a hefty amount of reading in RPGs. But in Aztaca it just seems like they ramble on and on about stuff that, by and large, just doesn’t matter. Sure it adds a bit of depth to the game, but eventually… well enough’s enough, y’know?

Bottom line, Aztaka is a great game. It’s also one of those games you know is being swept under the rug due to the holiday rush being so prevalent right now. Which is a shame, because it truly does offer unique gameplay that is not only fun, but also deep in story and history. This is a game that broke free from the traditional settings for games and, given the fact that the game is pretty good, should be rewarded for it.

Aztaka is currently $11.24 until tomorrow on Steam.

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