There’s a fine line between complexity and obfuscation, and an even finer one between simplicity and boredom, and somehow Quest to Aztlan manages to end up on the wrong side of both of them. Ostensibly it’s a turn-based RPG, but it’s closer to Final Fantasy’s ATB system than anything else. And there isn’t really a story to follow either. Instead you traipse between battles and shops, killing things to earn gold so you can kill stronger things in the next fight. It’s grindy, it’s not very good looking, and its attempts at scope and scale all fall flat.
The game starts with you picking a team of four different adventurers. They’ve got different skill sets, and there are multiple save slots if you want to try out different combinations. Once you’ve chosen, you’re walked through a tutorial that explains the fundamentals of the game. Basically you need to whomp a bunch of monsters. And then whomp a bunch of other monsters.
These fights are split into days. They’re 4 vs 4, and you can give commands to each member of your squad individually. You do this by tapping on them, then tapping on the foe you want them to attack or the friend you want them to aid. Timers fill up on your character’s portrait, and when they’re full they’ll act. You’ve also got an inventory of items you can use by dragging them onto the field of battle. Kill all of the opposing force and you wander off screen.
Between days you get to spend your cash at the shop. Here you can get more powerful equipment for your heroes as well as restocking the items you used in the last battle. The shop is filled up at random, but you can spend a few coins to re-roll the stock and hope you end up with something better.
While your stats go up when you equip new things, there’s no aesthetic changes. If you’ve got a sword and a brown jumper on then you’ve got a sword and a brown jumper no matter how powerful you become. And you’ll often find that the cash you get isn’t quite enough to make you strong enough for the best battle. Normally that’d mean you’d need to reconsider your strategy, but the game just isn’t deep enough for that.
Quest to Aztlan isn’t casual enough to appeal to that side of the gaming spectrum, and it isn’t in-depth enough to appeal to more hardcore players. There’s never enough going on, and if the tide of battle turns you feel helpless to stop it. There are some decent ideas here, but unfortunately they never quite come to fruition. And after a few attempts at getting to grips with things, you’ll end up frustrated and bored. And that’s a combination that nobody really wants.
This isn’t a terrible game, it all works reasonably well, and the art style is unique, if a little scratchy around the edges. It just feels like it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. And that means you’ll never manage to get a real handle on it. There are better RPGs out there at both ends of the scale, and you’ll have a much better time playing through one of those than trying to eke some fun out of this one.