Aztech Forgotten Gods Review | Tech Raptor
Ever since human history has been cataloged, mythologies have become embedded in our collective psyche. Naturally, the games would also look to the past to inform a setting, mechanics, and more. Developer Lienzo (The Hunter’s Legacy, Mulaka) looks to the past in two disparate ways: Aztec mythology and early 3D-era video game design. These two fundamentals run through Aztech Forgotten Gods and succeed in standing out in a crowded action/adventure market. Too bad his polish doesn’t deserve the same credit as his personality.
In an alternate universe where the Aztec Empire was not colonized by Europeans, the thriving metropolis of Tenochtitlan is a technological beacon of humanity. In the distant future, a young Achtli joins her chief archaeologist mother, Nantsin, at a secret dig site. Desperate for this valuable research to be thwarted, she equips and tests her mother’s latest archaeological discovery: a giant stone glove. The resulting domino effect causes her to inadvertently trap her mother in the dig site, awakening age-old colossi across the land and the essence of a god (Tez) residing within her. Now the fate of everyone she loves rests on her shoulders.
We can be quick to judge these two to throw caution to the wind, but that’s what I’m here for! Likewise, the game’s design doesn’t take into account the lengthy formalities to get you to enjoy what Achtli’s new gauntlet, Lightkeeper, has to offer. There’s a gameplay break between these early plot points allowing you to test out this arm’s rocket propulsion and explore nearly all of Neo-Tenochtitlan out of the gate. “Wait a minute,” you say, “an open-world game eschewing the modern shackles of extended prologues that seem specifically designed with Steam’s refund policy in mind?” I’ll give you a minute to sit down.
In all seriousness, being off the leash within 10 minutes of starting was a real surprise compared to the deluge of recent blockbusters I’ve played. It captures what the ideal start to a 5th generation superhero game might look like. After the cutscene ends, you can immediately see how she grabs that glove, adjusts her trajectory mid-flight, how quickly the fuel meter fills up upon hitting the ground, the air boost rings scattered everywhere, and more. You can soar to empyreal heights above the city and dive to the ground without worrying about fall damage. Even without all the bells and whistles of the glove right off the bat, this city truly feels like a playground.
Freedom is palpable and invigorating, but it is not without drawbacks. Ambitious starts seem more like sheer madness when you consider that these rocket-powered maneuvers have to be mapped onto a single control stick. When you consider all of the mechanical permutations on the x/y/z axes that Achtli has to mirror, its incredibly twitchy animations make the game feel like it’s struggling to keep up. This gets further complicated when a permanent stat upgrade allows him to jump walls. Due to the inherent flakiness of complex maneuvers, it’s nearly impossible to feel like you’re conquering your surroundings with a controller. The specificity required in the optional race events made me give up after a few tries.
This rocket-powered mobility is grafted onto an action game. In this regard, the structure is more familiar: each stone colossus has an essence that will bring Achtli closer to freeing his mother, each boss tackles a different theme (mechanically and visually), and most encounters give him a new blueprint. . Although a few are more visually impressive than others, each god captures a different aesthetic; Plus, the extra collectible for each is useful for those unfamiliar with this mythology.
Concept-wise, they all strike accordingly and feel distinct from one another; however, execution is not the same story. Going after their marked weak spots can sometimes result in an antagonistic camera. When the auto-lock pops up, that invisible hook shot pulling you into its weakness feels so uncoordinated. And since each hit – in addition to the finisher – only smashes the X button during a quick event window, that’s missing phew! you expect from a half-ton stone fist. One of the most common moves for most bosses is what I would call a Swiss cheese shield: a hard-hitting expanding bubble unless you navigate through one of its holes. Given the capricious flight behavior, in-flight adjustments sometimes seemed insane; also, the small timing windows to dodge those and hitting their weak points was aggravating for the last two gods.
Beyond these battles, minions hover around town and in challenge rooms. They follow the same pattern of a boss’ weak point: the time your X button presses in a narrow window. If it fails the first time, just wait for your UI indicator to hit again. While there’s a micro layer of complexity to mindless button mashing, it quickly seems trivial to get a successful 3-hit with the same finishing animation. And since their offensive closeouts are so languid, you can essentially blitzkrieg entire teams without getting hit. Whether it’s battling them around town or completing challenges, they’re just annoying fillers that reward you with cash for cosmetics and ability upgrades.
Style and material
Along with those praises and frustrations comes the mode through which you see everything: the camera. I’ve talked about how insane it is against bosses, but it’s also incredibly annoying in confined areas. Hell, even the prologue made you feel like it still needed polishing. It’s a shame, too, because certain stylistic choices give him a different energy: each loaded punch comes with a slow-leaning Dutch angle and Achtli is shifted to the left when walking but centered in the frame when flying. I’d appreciate these creative flourishes more if they were tied to a still-functioning camera.
Dissatisfaction also creeps into its visuals in some regards. When it comes to architecture, the techno-Aztec metropolis looks vibrant and unique. The term “cyber-stone” is appropriate here for both enemies and the world itself. It truly captures what one would imagine towards Aztec empire building if cyberpunk and sci-fi existed as genres here. It’s a shame that such a large world is tied to the Unity engine. When you consider the pop-in texture while hovering in the sky, the low-res foliage, mostly recycled NPCs, Achtil’s shoulder-length hair, etc., those The staples of the N64/PS1 era can sometimes disturb the appreciation of its artistic design. It’s less about wagging my fingers at a low-budget developer and more about my mind seeing its greatest potential.
In line with most early 3D titles, voice acting is limited to everyone who growls or says a word before every few sentences. You’re probably familiar with the old staple. While it’s not quite as entertaining, it’s a shame to rely exclusively on pantomimes for its emotionally heavy moments. Thankfully, the tension with the boss fights remains high thanks to Diego Borja’s wild soundtrack. Rock is at the heart of his composition, but his handling of wind instruments, vocals, etc., gives it a different texture. Coatlicue’s theme is just one example of why it’s among my favorite game soundtracks of the year (so far).
Stories to see
Aztecs The narrative won’t set the world on fire with The Hero’s Journey retooling, but the little things add just enough flavor. You probably know that song and dance: the heroine is forced into the new role of godslayer, spiritual mentor helping to excise her petulant attitude, come to terms with past guilt, and so on. Artificial conflict and an undeserved sense of resolution aside, it’s a pretty thread that succinctly achieves most of its looks. Little touches like the Spanish (or straight Aztec?) words sprinkled in the English subtitles, Achtli & Tez quips, and a few inspired reveals added something special to what was expected.
If there’s one takeaway from Lienzo’s third effort, it’s that it could have been more. Aside from the soundtrack and some nostalgia-driven creative decisions, I can see this tapestry being improved — marginally or not — in every other way. That doesn’t outright discount its accomplishments, but it does dampen my enthusiasm to recommend it beyond ardent fans of the genre (in its current state). Taken as a whole, Aztech Forgotten Gods manages to stay in the air but never really takes off.
TechRaptor reviewed Aztech Forgotten Gods on Xbox Series X with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and PC.