Released this week on Steam, Aztez is a single-player strategy board game in which the ancient Aztecs attempt to survive and thrive until the Spanish invaders arrive. It just happens that surviving and thriving involves lots of bloody black and white beat-em up action.
The two-man development studio known as Team Colorblind first introduced Aztez way back in 2011, when it was mainly a showcase for fast action and a distinctive black, white and red all over art style. They have spent the years between introduction and release honing the combo-based combat system and building a strategy board game around it.
The goal of the game is to keep the city of Technochtitlan in good condition until the Spanish show up and ruin everything. That involves bringing surrounding cities under heel, quelling unrest, and gathering and spending resources in the board game portion of Aztez. Players utilise advisers and items won in battle to influence the Aztec nation.
The player also gathers a small army of Aztez warriors. These are the skilled fighters that participate in the brief, bloody battles that spawn as missions on the map every turn. The Aztez warriors are outfitted with different weapons and armours and sent headlong into battle, which is fast-paced and quite technical. Enemies can be juggled, bashed, slashed, parried and riposted. Combos range from simple X button mashing to complicated strings involving switching weapons in-mid fight. Between punches, kicks and stabs the Aztez absorb the blood of their enemies to summon their gods to perform powerful special attacks.
It's pretty much how ancient Aztec diplomacy works in the game. Is there civil unrest in a nearby city? Kill a bunch of guys. Is a patron god being disrespected? Kill a bunch of guys. Is a city holding a fertility festival? Kill a bunch of guys. You get the idea.
It's an odd combination of genres, but it works. And folks who've been interested in the long-in-development game simply for the combat have an extensive arena to paint red with the blood of their enemies. Everybody wins. Except for anyone going against the ancient Aztecs.