Lost, But Not Forgotten
Aztech Forgotten Gods is the latest game from the developers at Lienzo based in Mexico. Previously known for their award winning game, Mulaka, I was intrigued to see their new game creation. Unfortunately, despite a strong score and fantastic mythological inspirations, Aztec Forgotten Gods is a flawed game with uninteresting combat and flat story.
Set in an alternate future where the Aztec civilization was never conquered by Europeans, the Aztec people were able to grow and thrive in technological advancements. The story centers around Achtli, a reluctant heroine that is quickly thrown into the midst of adventure in no small part thanks to her mother. Distinguished as a top scientist, Nantsin uncovers some ancient ruins and is dead set on delving deeper into the mystery. After some unfortunate events, Achtli is charged to save her mother, the futuristic civilization, and somehow bring peace to the futuristic metropolis of Tenochtitlan.
Though the premise of Aztech Forgotten Gods offers plenty of potential, I constantly found myself bored of the story. The constant stop-and-go of story elements wasn’t exciting nor exceedingly interesting. I wanted to care about the characters and developments, but despite a very small cast of characters, I had little interest in hearing their contrite thoughts. This, however, was happily saved by the relationship between Achtli and her mother. Most of their interactions within the story was heartfelt, emphasizing the realistic relationship with a few sny comments and sassy remarks (totally normal with me and my parents at least). But, even with these bursts of emotional connectivity and occasional drips of meaningful story, the game offers little insight on the overarching premise – and frustrating does a massive exposition dump at the end in the attempt to explain everything within the game.
Despite all this, I adored the premise of the game – a futuristic Aztec civilization that can grow and prosper with a focus on technology sounds like Lienzo’s version of Wakanda from Marvel. Plus, the attention to detail pertaining to Aztec lore and mythology is a refreshing approach to various mythos seen in other games.
Even more disappointing was the visual presentation of Aztech Forgotten Gods. While playing in handheld mode on my OLED Nintendo Switch, I noticed that all the 3D environments were excessively blurry and smudged looking. The framerate while traversing was choppy and I constantly found my character, when traversing or fighting enemies, crashing inside of large creatures or part of the environment. I can only hope that other versions of this game on other platforms are less like this.
Happily, the music is fantastic throughout the game – highlighting some Mesoamerican beats with a heavy-metal inspired score in a uniquely awesome way.
Ultimately, the gameplay within Aztech Forgotten Gods focuses on combat and traversal, which the game struggles with massively. Early on, Achtli obtains the Lightkeeper, a powerful prosthetic arm from a civilization in the distant past. After some story elements, various gargantuan creatures start popping up. Achtli must work to defeat them in order to advance the story (specifics not detailed in order to avoid possible spoilers). However, despite this intriguing Shadow of the Colossus vibe, the game never comes close to reaching any of the heights of the presumed inspiration.
The game ends up boiling down into the following loop: watch scene, traverse to story-driven area, watch another scene, traverse towards a story-driven area, maybe fight enemies, repeat. At first, I was convinced that the loop would change or that there would be more opportunities to interact within the metropolis of Tenochtitlan. Sure, there’s an area to lightly customize Achtli’s hairstyle and another area to engage with a very simple ability tree, and occasional ‘challenges’ but it doesn’t go any further than that. The fact that it takes such long stretches to go to one significant area to progress the story, over and over again, seems a bit silly and more of a time-waster than anything else. If anything, the traversal is mainly done through the Lightkeeper, acting like a rocket propelling you forward, which admittley is cool. However, with the current rate of long stretches for traversal, the idea of the open metropolis could have been completely wiped out and would have offered a more streamlined experience through the story and combat.
Even moreso, the combat feels too aloof and inconsequential. With every major boss, there is a light puzzle element that needs to be explored in order to expose their weak points. However, most of these are either time sensitive (aka just wait) or are so obviously presented that it hardly seems like it was a mystery. Even less exciting was the fact that simply button mashing offered the same result with these gambits as careful consideration. The traversal within the fights is also problematic – a very floaty acceleration makes it difficult for precision in the maneuverability. Luckily, there is a wide breadth to lock into the weak points, allowing this to be a lot less frustrating. It is worth noting that the designs of the major enemies were distinct and eye-catching, unexciting combat excluded from it.
Overall: 4.0 out of 10
Though Aztech Forgotten Gods has some moments of emotional resonance and glimmers of hope within its music, I simply found the entire experience difficult to get through. Luckily, the game ends up being a short 5-hour experience for those curious about Achtli’s story and engaging in the fantastic mythos of Aztech lore. I look forward to Lienzo’s future works and see what they’ve learned from this game.
A copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review on Nintendo Switch.
A version of this review is also posted on Six One Indie.