Ziggurat

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Ziggurat on Steam

MSRP: $14.99

Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux

Release: 10/23/14


I’m pretty sure Ziggurat and I are breaking up.  See, I hate this feeling – the feeling that I’m playing a very good game so badly and with no real hope of getting better.  And I suspect that Ziggurat is a very good game, but it’s also a first person shooter version of a rogue-like, and it feels – at least to me – fiendishly difficult. I probably should start avoiding any games that brag about how much skill matters, because my brain and my hands don’t always communicate as well as they should anymore.

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I even gave the controller a shot – figuring maybe I’d have an easier time with that like I do in some platformers.  What I had apparently forgotten is that I cannot aim and fire effectively in 3D with a controller. So I went back to keyboard and mouse, where I felt like I was a little more competent with the shooting part and a little less with the moving part, so I had a tiny modicum more success.

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I’m 16 games in now – most of those on the easiest difficulty. For me at least, some monsters are easier than others, not because they’re any easier to hit, but because it’s a lot easier to avoid their attacks.  I would fight axe-throwing skeletons all day to avoid ever having another floating skull launching itself at my face at the speed of light.

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If I were asked to name the defining quality of Ziggurat, though, I would have to say randomness.  The maps are randomly generated.  Which rooms have monsters and what monsters they are is completely random.  When you level up, you’re given upgrade options and those are – you guessed it – random (albeit random from a set pool of available upgrades). The secondary weapon that spawns in the first room? Yep, that’s random too, although I feel like there’s a small innate preference for spellbook rather than staff or alchemical weapon, but I’m working with a pretty small sample size here.

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Playthroughs under five minutes were pretty common for me. Although I’m very interested in the unlockable characters and their abilities (or lack thereof), I don’t know that I’ve got it in me to keep grinding through all the randomness and my own distinct lack of skill to see what else this game has to offer.  Which is unfortunate, because I love the concept, and the game looks great, but I can’t for the life of me make it work.  Twice, I’ve gotten to the level boss on the first (of five) floors before dying horribly.

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Ziggurat might be a game that I come back to after I spend some quality time with some of the FPS games in my library, just to see if I’ve gotten any better at dodging attacks while WASD moving, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope.  I really prefer the challenge in the games I play to be a challenge of the mind, not a challenge of dexterity, and the idea of spending even dozens of hours on a game made up of five-minute failures just doesn’t appeal. I can only imagine how rage-inducing it might be, then, to fail on the cusp of success.

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