REVIEW: ‘Aztech Forgotten Gods’ Is a Great Experience Even With Its Stumbles (XSX)

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Aztech Forgotten Gods - But Why Tho

Published and developed by Lienzo, a studio founded in Chihuahua, Mexico, Aztech Forgotten Gods is the sophomore game for the studio whose first game, Mulaka, brought a beautiful indigenous world of adventure that earned them recognition on the indie scene in 2017 and 2018. A very different game than their first, Aztech Forgotten Gods is grounded in Indigenous-Futurism, which puts players into an Aztec world that was never colonized. Instead, they were allowed to thrive and grow into a world of high-tech developments. But in the growth of technology and science, they’ve forgotten the gods.

Aztech Forgotten Gods is a cyber-stone action-adventure. You play as Achtli, the daughter of scientists who has always loved history. To save her mom, Atchli must beat back the gods rising from beneath the Aztecan capital of Tenochtitlan. Equipped with an ancient gauntlet granting her incredible strength and abilities, this disabled protagonist is set to fight the gods and save her mom and Tenochtitlan. You can launch rocket punches, grind rails, leap across buildings,  and soar through the skies.

We’re used to seeing films, series, video games, and more based on Norse gods and the Greek pantheon. These myths set the stage for much of our pop culture, but the overreliance on them isn’t necessary, not when the world is filled with rich mythologies and histories. Thankfully, we’re seeing more stories from other cultures not based in Europe, both in visual media and video games. For me, though, I’m in desperate need of seeing Mesoamerican mythologies take center stage, and given my heritage, I always jump at the chance to review and engage with media that centers on Aztec culture and stories. Unfortunately, while we’ve seen more stories like Onyx Equinox and Maya and the Three bring these stories to larger audiences, video games are still lagging with representation produced by white studios, if at all. Thankfully, Aztech Forgotten Gods is here to pull audiences into the vast and vibrant mythology of Mesoamerica.

Now, it should be said that Aztech Forgotten Gods isn’t perfect. The game’s camera suffers from a common 3D game problem. With little to no automatic focus points, you have to make sure to adjust it at nearly every moment, which is fine for the most part when you’re in a large environment, but when you’re in smaller spaces, it becomes hard to keep the camera where it needs to be. While this isn’t inherently bad, having to fight the camera in settings with large bursts of colors is a perfect recipe for motion sickness, even when turning the camera sensitivity all the way down.

Next, the flight mechanic makes traversing the world that Lienzo has built an absolute blast. It can serve to break some aspects of the game, like finding yourself stuck in a building or just ignoring what the game wants you to do. That said, so long as you don’t push this traversal method to the absolute limit, you’ll be fine overall.

Additionally, the lack of voice acting hurts the very story-heavy narrative thanks to no adjustments outside of speed for the text on the screen. While we do have the person’s name on screen while they talk, there are no adjustments allowed for size or color. Visually, the text puts some words in different colors while leaving others white for what I assume is emphasis but the choices in what to highlight don’t necessarily add any weight. With only small vocal noises that note emotions like frustration, confusion, or just to note general understanding, the game’s text carries the burden of ensuring that the player understands the story, and that isn’t always the case. While the story is well-written, offering large thematic elements like coping with grief and guilt, the text size and the choice to color some words is distracting.

Additionally, haptic feedback is there for everything, and I mean everything. Walk a small bit, the controller vibrates. Have a big battle, the controller vibrates. While controller feedback is one of my favorite things when it comes to feeling out boss battles and action elements, it was too much to have vibration for every single thing the character did. This, coupled with the polygonal aesthetic choice, makes Aztech Forgotten Gods a game that plays straight from the early 2000s. While this can be distracting in the beginning hours of play, the aesthetics become the game’s strongest point by the end.

At first, I didn’t appreciate the game’s simplistic polygonal art style. The facial animations and a city that looked the same at every block felt too small and too much like games of the past. Then I met the first god and fought the first boss. In these moments where you stand in front of a colossal god, it’s awe-inspiring. To see the way that traditional renditions of these Aztec deities have been melded with sci-fi tech is beautiful. Every piece of them feels intricate and thought out to showcase the heart of what the gods represent. Additionally, no god is defeated the same way. Sure, you learn things from your past encounters, but each stage is incredibly different than the last.

And that last part is what makes Aztech Forgotten Gods truly stand out. While the game itself is relatively easy, the mechanics you need to execute to defeat bosses take some thought and sometimes multiple deaths. But, if you’ve been paying attention to every stage you clear, you learn what environmental cues to look for. In designing the boss fights, Lienzo put as much thought into the environment as they did the gods you’re fighting, making sure to leave hints on every platform and prepare you before you go in.

That said, the game is short, and part of that shortness comes from how quickly you can clear stages once you know what to do. However, to make up for the length (it took me about 6 hours to roll credits), Aztech Forgotten Gods also offers mini-games throughout the city that put you up against enemies on a timer or even allow you to race.

Overall, Aztech Forgotten Gods is a really great time, even with its stumbles. It’s a beautiful world with a character you can see yourself in, especially if you’ve lost a loved one. Additionally, the design of the gods is a sight to behold. Truthfully, I can’t wait to see what other stories Lienzo tells next.

Aztech Forgotten Gods Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC March 10, 2022.


Aztech Forgotten Gods
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Overall, Aztech Forgotten Gods is a really great time, even with its stumbles. It’s a beautiful world with a character you can see yourself in, especially if you’ve lost a loved one. Additionally, the design of the gods is a sight to behold. Truthfully, I can’t wait to see what other stories Lienzo tells next.