Making an open-world game where you fly around using an Iron Man glove seems like something that would be challenging for an indie team. Lienzo, the developer behind Mulaka and Aztech Forgotten Gods, still tried though. Soaring through the city is great fun at first, and many of Aztech Forgotten Gods‘ ideas are promising. Even the story is quite good despite the game looking like it came out well over a decade ago. But the whole thing feels unfinished, like the bare minimum was awarded for such an intriguing idea.
Aztech Forgotten Gods concerns a delivery woman named Achtli. She lives in an alternate, hi-tech version of the historic Aztec city, Tenochtitlan. In this world, the Aztec culture continued to flourish. It’s a remarkably fresh idea that’s well suited to the medium. Achtli’s mother, Nantsin, is an archaeologist who was excavating nearby ruins until her boss calls the dig off. Not willing to let go of the potential discoveries, she has Achtli come with her into the ruins and don a strange giant glove she has found within. Achtli uses the glove to retrieve energy from a strange core in the room, and, naturally, all hell breaks loose.
The glove is home to a being called Tez, an ancient Aztech “god” of sorts. Achtli draining the core’s energy awakened six giant “gods” that are now set to destroy everything, so it’s up to her and the deity in her head to fight back against these titans and protect the world. Early on, Nantsin gets trapped behind a barrier that requires the energy of all six gods to open, so your goal is to beat all these bosses and save her. The story is the best thing about Aztech Forgotten Gods. I wish it had voice acting, but the characters are decently realized, and the narrative and lore are quite interesting.
What year is it?
Of course, that doesn’t mean that enjoying the story is free of challenge. Aztech Forgotten Gods appears to run on the Unity engine, and it looks like a lot of janky indie games made on tight budgets. The character models and general look of the game feel like it came out of the GameCube era, albeit at a higher resolution and with much better draw distance. Everything looks subpar, from the character models to the animations and UI.
At least flying around with the glove is fun. Achtli gains access to the glove, called Lightbringer, fairly early. You hold a button and, as long as you have energy, you quickly propel forward or upward. It feels pretty great, and stays satisfying for the entirety of Aztech Forgotten Gods‘ playtime. Achtli can also launch herself with a boost, although there’s typically very little reason to do this. Lightbringer has other abilities, including a charged punch, and downward slam, and I was highly curious to see how the game would evolve due to its early premise.
You can fly around the open world at your leisure and take part in fight or race challenges. Both of these are quite underwhelming, though. Fights with regular enemies aren’t enjoyable, and the races are badly laid out without enough instruction on how to win. The combat can be summed up as a glorified quick-time event. When you’re near an enemy, you press the attack button. Achtli teleports to a foe and a prompt appears, where, if you time it correctly, you do extra damage. But it feels floaty and disconnected, like you’re hitting anything — as if you’re just watching a poor cutscene play out.
Cutting room floor
The good news is that enemies typically only show up randomly in the open world and in the fight challenges. Aztech Forgotten Gods doesn’t have actual missions or places to explore. It would have been a great idea for Achtli to delve into ruins to find and dispatch the giants. She could have braved combat and platforming challenges to make it to them, which would have served as the meat of the game.
Instead, the game is structured around going to main story icons. The story quests center around one of two things: you either watch a cutscene, or you’re told a giant has shown up and you have to go fight them. That’s it. It’s like most of the game was just completely cut and the cliff notes stuff was all that remained. The boss battles are mostly just as poor as the aforementioned regular enemy fights. Some bosses are so mindlessly easy that you just fly at them, press the attack button when prompts show up a few times, and then they die.
There’s some variation, and a couple of the fights do actually want you to pay some degree of attention. One fight makes no sense and requires you to wander through rooms for no explained reason to make a boss spawn in the main room, which is confusing and pointless. Another boss is just a super simple puzzle that fakes you out and has you wander in a maze before Achtli beats it during a cutscene. It’s all equal parts uninteresting and disappointing. Boss battles in general are also clunky and suffer from poor collision detection, but that’s common for games like this. Aside from the glove movement, nothing in Aztech Forgotten Gods is really worth anything of note.
It takes about four hours to play through Aztech Forgotten Gods, and it ends with an obvious twist that even small children will likely see coming. You can complete challenges and find lore entries to extend the game, but there’s just not really much here. With an actual combat system and some real game content, this could have been something special. Instead, it feels slapped together with some great ideas and a solid script that simply didn’t have most of the content it needed. It’s a real shame.