What if Tenochtitlán, the island city at the heart of the Aztec empire, had never been sacked by European conquerors? In the alternate timeline of Aztech Forgotten Gods, we get to see what that might have looked like: a thriving, technologically advanced metropolis that blends Mesoamerican-inspired design with a Tron-like aesthetic. Described by Mexico-based developer Lienzo as a “cyber-stone action-adventure,” Aztech’s memorable setting can be delightful to explore — that is, when the wonky camera and frustrating boss fights aren’t getting in the way.
Aztech Forgotten Gods is a fairly linear, eight-hour adventure about Achtli, a young woman so haunted by her past that she can’t move forward in life. After uncovering an ancient artifact — a giant stone arm that replaces her prosthetic one — that allows her to soar high above the city streets, Achtli finds herself facing off against a number of newly awakened ancient gods that threaten to destroy Tenochtitlán and all of its inhabitants. The story works well enough but Achtli is underserved by the fact that the dialogue is text-only and often accompanied by repeating animations that show characters moving their lips and bodies in the same way over and over again. Even so, I became fond of the defiant Achtli, her ride-or-die best friend Tepo, and her supportive mother Nantsin thanks to their snappy writing and the enjoyable story.
Flying from one edge of the city to the other felt amazing once I got used to it. Launching Achtli into the air, soaring around in every direction, and using speed boosts from strategically placed floating rings feels natural and fluid (though it’s a little weird that there are so many of them when Achtli is the only person who can fly). You’ll spend most of your time in the air, though a depleting energy bar sometimes requires you to be thoughtful about when and where you land, particularly when trying to take down a rampaging stone giant. Few games have made flying feel so intuitive, and this system sets Aztech apart from other action-adventure games that take place largely on solid land.
That said, despite being large and full of structures, the city often feels empty — hardly the bustling metropolis and global superpower it’s supposed to be. There aren’t many inhabitants, and the NPCs that do meander around don’t have much to say. There are a few off-the-beaten-path spots where you can engage in combat or race challenges or discover missing memories to find, at least.
Unfortunately, Aztech’s combat isn’t nearly as enjoyable as its exploration. For the most part, fighting both the smaller enemies that pop up throughout Tenochtitlán and the oversized stony gods is an exercise in button-mashing. Achtli does have a few special moves — a powered-up super-punch, shooting energy-based projectiles, a downward strike — but it’s rarely worth it to use this entire skillset because doing so requires precise placement and timing in boss battles that are largely chaotic. Instead, it was much more effective to spam basic attacks unless otherwise required and fly away to recover when Achtli’s health bar got too low.
Speaking of those boss battles, that’s where you’ll do the bulk of the fighting, and they can feel like more of a chore than a challenge. These hulking masses of stone and mythology typically require several steps to defeat, but the objectives of each phase are often unclear and the bosses don’t react visibly to your attacks. There were times when I couldn’t tell if I was doing any damage outside of watching the health bar at the top of the screen, and all I felt after each giant battle was a sense of relief that it was over, not satisfaction.
Aztech Forgotten Gods Review Screenshots
Still, the most challenging foe you’ll face in Aztech isn’t one of the titular forgotten gods — it’s the camera. Though you’re technically in control of its movement, it sometimes feels like it has a mind of its own, especially when you’re getting knocked around. Rogue camera angles can remove Achtli from view entirely, which isn’t an ideal way to play a third-person action game. The camera might also switch angles depending on where she lands, messing up the fluidity of the otherwise-delightful mobility. This is a big reason why the boss fights can be frustrating; it’s not fun taking the time to set up an attack, only to have it thwarted when the camera switches around seemingly at random.
Aztech Forgotten Gods certainly isn’t a display of high-end graphical tech, but what it lacks in polish – such as the frequent clipping issues we see in Achtli’s hair and apparel – it makes up for in style. The Mesoamerican inspiration shines through in the customizable outfits and hairstyles, character design, and the sprawling city itself. The small but memorable cast of characters would definitely stand out in a crowd, and the dialogue sprinkles in bits of Nahuatl language that helps bring this futuristic version of Tenochtitlán to life. It feels like this vision of an alternate-history Aztec empire was crafted with care and consideration, which went a long way towards making me willing to overlook the more frustrating parts.