Aztech: Forgotten Gods is a third-person, boss-centric action game with way, way more story than you'd expect.
Title: Aztech Forgotten Gods
Release Date: March 10, 2022
Suggested Audience Age: Teen
Time to Play: 8 Hours
Availability: Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, Steam
Recommended for fans of: Zelda, Uncharted, and weird Cyberpunk-infused settings
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
The first look at Aztech: Forgotten Gods had me hyped for a game that felt like a 3D Zelda game with superpowers set in a cyberpunk-inspired Aztech culture. It turns out that the game is all of those things, except it’s also got way, way less gameplay, and way, way, way more story than I anticipated.
The Opening Moments
The opening few minutes of Aztech are awesome. You drop in as a woman with a giant fist strapped to her arm and start wailing on robots. Think Iron Man 3, where Tony had to build himself little scraps of a suit when the whole suit was offline. Except instead of building a joy buzzer gauntlet to knock people out he just strapped one arm of the Hulk Buster armor on and started punching people with that.
Hitting the attack button causes your character to jet towards enemies, at which point you kind of go into a quick time event of hitting the attack button at the right moment to continue a combo. The combat isn’t really very deep, and the gameplay is more about maneuvering around using the arm’s built-in jet pack to get into a position to start a combo than it is about the actual fighting itself.
After platforming and punching your way through the cave, your character gives up the arm, knowing that it’ll be there for the next character who needs it, and then the screen fades as we jump from the past to the story of the game itself.
A Sparse City
In Aztech, you take on the role of a young woman named Achtli. She lives with her scientist mother and is still mourning the loss of her archeologist father. You live in a pretty rad version of Tenochtitlán, envisioned as a futuristic city with arbitrary neon and floating cars. Pretty early on your character finds Lightbringer, the big robot arm from the opening, which opens up the ability to explore the city using its repulsor-like flight abilities.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to do in the city. There are very, very, very few characters in this game. There are less than 10 characters that you’ll interact with throughout the story, and very rarely do you see actual people in the city. Flying cars, monorails, and boats move around the city on fixed paths to give a sense of life, but the open world isn't very engaging.
Here and there you’ll find little challenges you can complete for rewards. There are races and combat encounters and those sorts of things that you’d expect to find in any open world, but they aren’t very fun or engaging. As rewards you get one currency you can spend on upgrades and another you can use to change the appearance of your character. I found that most of the upgrades I was able to unlock through the rewards I got from the main story, so all that stuff felt kind of superfluous.
Punch Gods, Again and Again
The gameplay aspect that felt much more developed than the open world was the boss encounters. Without spoiling the story, Aztech is structured around your character going up against a series of massive enemies in set arenas. The spectacle in each of these fights is pretty cool, because the foes you are fighting are so much bigger than Achtli.
Each of these fights has a hook that makes them unique, but ultimately they are much more about maneuvering than they are about hacking and/or slashing. Each boss has some sort of vulnerability that you can reveal through interactions with the environment, which then lets you lock on to a weak spot and initiate the same sort of QTE sequence that you used to beat up the smaller enemies in the opening sequence.
This was really offputting at first. After a few fights, I started looking at these encounters more as cinematic adventure sequences like you’d find in Uncharted, rather than expecting the sort of boss combat you’d find in Elden Ring. Once I made that shift, I ended up liking them a lot more.
The only thing that really bummed me out about these fights, in the end, is that almost every single boss at some point had this same challenge where they made a big, expanding sphere with gaps in it that you had to fly through. Judging how far away the sphere was in order to get through the gaps was weirdly difficult for me, so I didn’t like that the first time I saw it and definitely didn’t like seeing it over and over again.
So much story… too much story?
Between each of the boss fights in Aztech, there is a lot of plot. Like, a lot a lot. Like, probably too much. When you start a boss fight, you’ll usually have your mother chatting at you via a cell phone-like device while the god that lives in your head (I did mention the god that lives in your head, right?) is also giving you advice. This is super helpful for figuring out how to handle each encounter, but since there is no voice acting in the game you have to read what they are saying while trying to avoid getting punched by a giant.
Then, once you beat the god you’ll usually get a short cutscene of Achtli talking to her mom or the god in your head about it. Then you’ll drop back into the open world where Achtli will have a conversation with someone else about what’s going on while you make your way to this one specific location you go to over and over again. When you get there, you’ll see a cutscene of Achtli and the god chatting as you ride an elevator, then she’ll talk to her mom when she gets off the elevator. After that, there’ll be an earthquake signaling the arrival of the next boss, you’ll have a quick chat about it on the elevator. After that, some more plot will unfold as you traverse the open world to start the next boss fight.
It’s a lot. It’s a lot of story for a game that I expected to be action-packed. The thing is, I really like the story. I think it’s got fun characters and interesting explorations of grief and loss and legacy and guilt, but it is really, really a lot.
I would guess that in total there are about 90 minutes of solid action gameplay in Aztech, but actually playing through it takes closer to eight hours. There is just that much story and stuff between the big action set pieces that it’s hard to recommend this as a great action game. Still, once I reframed how I looked at the boss fights and also settled in to really see the story, I found myself getting absorbed in this game and really liking it.
If the open-world was dropped entirely in favor of a more graphic novel presentation to the story, I think I would have liked it even more. It feels like perhaps there was a bigger idea here for in-between-bosses gameplay than the team managed to pull off.