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Aztech Forgotten Gods

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Lienzo
Release Date: March 10, 2022


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PS4 Review - 'Aztech Forgotten Gods'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 17, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Aztech Forgotten Gods is a Latinx-Futurism cyberstone colossus fighter.

When there's a story about lost civilizations, you tend to see them at their height before the calamity arrives to reduce them to ancient memory. There is nothing wrong with this method of storytelling, but it is rare to see anyone take those civilizations we have read about and place them into more fantastical scenarios. That's why Aztech: Forgotten Gods can initially seem so appealing; it focuses on an alternate future where the Aztec people are not only alive but thriving as an advanced technological civilization. It also ends up being a disappointment to see that there isn't much done with that promise to make it a compelling and interesting game.

Players take on the role of Achtli, a woman living in a future version of Tenochtitlan, where the Aztec empire was never taken over by Old World explorers. The Aztecs are flourishing and have become a technological superpower worldwide. In helping her archeologist mother on a canceled project, Achtli finds herself in possession of an advanced stone arm — dubbed Lightkeeper — that grants her a powerful punch and the power of flight. It also embeds the god Tez into her brain, and he gives her the task of defeating resurrected Aztec gods before the world is thrown into chaos.

The narrative is hit-and-miss. On the one hand, the setting is fresh, and it's delightful to see people with a mix of present-day and native speech and clothing. There's opportunity to get some good tales out of the setup, and the main characters are charming. On the other hand, the pacing is messy. After an action-packed opening sequence, the game slows to a crawl with lots of exposition and world-building. All of the major action sequences are held back until the latter half of the game.

On top of that, the first half is where the game tries to uncover almost all of the big revelations and character-building moments, and it does so in a way that feels too quick, so the lore has little to no impact because it doesn't feel earned. Further editing of the pacing and story beats would've gone a very long way, as would the inclusion of voices. Only grunts and gasps accompanying every line of dialogue, and there's an immense amount of on-screen text, so players will tend to gloss over what's being displayed while waiting for the chance to retake control of Achtli.

Gameplay-wise, the adventure feels slightly inspired by several other landmark games. Notably, it takes the basic open-world concept from Spider-Man 2 and Marvel's Spider-Man and wants you to fly through the world. You can walk around if you want to interact with people, but the world design encourages flying; there are numerous rings in the air for you to boost through and get more flight energy. Several important stops, like your upgrade store, are located atop skyscrapers. Gliding near a building also gives you a decent increase in energy.

Some may have had their fill of open-world games, but even genre fans will find it difficult to be mildly impressed by Aztech: Forgotten Gods. The city feels rather small; it takes almost no time to get from end to end. Navigating the world means looking for red light spires, but they're so well hidden that even with the built-in map, you can sometimes get lost while finding the next spot. The world also feels rather dead. Except for a few parts where you might find some enemies, it feels sterile. The people say nothing of value, and there's not much in the way of extra missions.

The combat takes inspiration from two big titles. The main concept of taking down giant gods is reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, and while the ones you face in Aztech aren't quite as massive, they do require learning about their patterns and taking them down piece by piece. When you start fighting, you'll see that the game takes a bit of inspiration from Dark Souls; all of your attacks are tied to an energy meter that also governs your flight booster. It isn't as punishing, so depleting your meter doesn't make you take on more damage, but you can't attack for a few seconds while it recharges.

Like the game's movement, the camera is troublesome in a skirmish. There are enough things in the environment that can block your view by interfering with the camera, so you really feel the lack of a manual lock-on system. Overcome that, and you'll discover the tight timing for button presses. Then again, it doesn't seem to matter, since standard button-mashing remains just as effective, leading combat to feel pedestrian. You'll also miss the manual lock-on because the automatic one never really displays, and logic is unclear on how the target is selected. You end up aiming at a weak minion that's far away rather than a major weak spot on the boss that's much closer.

The adventure can last about six hours, and there's little else to do aside from replay the adventure at different difficulty levels. You can try to go around the world to pick up the rest of the documents that'll fill in on the game's alternate history, and you can also try to fully power up Achtli so she has all of her buffs. There are no real side-quests to speak of, so prepare to shelve the game once the end credits roll.

Like the rest of Aztech, the presentation fumbles some great ideas. The idea of a futuristic Tenochtitlan is nice, but it's gaudy and there's nothing interesting to look at. All of the textures are low resolution to the point that you'd think the game hasn't fully loaded; Unity games generally don't have a texture loading issue, though. The main characters look fine, but some of their cut scene animations look exaggerated. Bystanders have low-resolution textures and a low geometry count; additionally, a lack of collision causes some to sink into the environment. Bosses are impressive if you can stomach their low textures, but regular enemies seem like a mess of stones that move somewhat organically. The frame rate does hold up well, though.

Aside from the aforementioned lack of voices, the scarcity of music throughout most of the game makes the world feel a little dead. The music that is present is fine, but it's nothing special.

Aztech: Forgotten Gods is a classic example of a good idea with failed execution. The premise feels fresh, as does the use of gods from a civilization that isn't often covered. The combat system and various traversal mechanics have potential, but technical issues, bad presentation, and an uninteresting open world lead to a game that squanders its potential. Hopefully the team can rebound to present some of these ideas again with more polish. In its current state, it's difficult to recommend Aztech.

Score: 5.5/10

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