The immediate impression Aztez will leave most gamers is "oh, that looks like that one game from the Wii." Yes, Aztez looks a lot like Madworld visually, but despite the same style, and concept, the two are completely different games. While the latter focuses on traversing through a world and killing enemies in the most over-the-top way imaginable, the former is all about bloody survival to the fittest.
Gameplay takes place in an enclosed arena. You are a gladiator, set to do battle against an endless horde of enemies who want nothing more than to chop you up into tiny pieces. That's okay, though, because you're a skilled gladiator who can combo said enemies into tinier pieces. Combos are the name of the game here as you'll either be able to button mash your way for decent points or aerially combo enemies for more points. It can all come crashing down, though, if you're not too careful. You can't forget about your BFF: the block button.
Aztez's enemies aren't exactly mindless, as they'll do their best to interrupt your best laid plans. That said, they're not exactly intelligent either. You'll be able to pick up on their attacks from various tells they give off. Over time, things become a bit of a repetitive, albeit somewhat entertaining, romp. One interesting mechanic is the fact that you can absorb enemy blood to heal damage. It's nice to use in a pinch, though it does leave you a bit vulnerable while absorbing.
The game truly shined on the Oculus VR, despite the fact that my VR experience wasn't exactly stellar; the game felt out of focus, but what do I know, I wear glasses and have a big, goofy head. The VR's hook for Aztez is the fact that instead of playing in an arena, you're on a ledge. The only way to see the enemies approach you is to turn left or right. It feels a lot like an intense twin-stick shooter, as you're carefully looking back and forth to make sure you didn't miss anything. That being said, it doesn't have the same pace as a twin-stick. You're not dying due to being overwhelmed, you're dying because you missed someone sneaking up on you.
Despite the fact that Aztez's booth was solely about the beat 'em up action, that's only half the game. There's a turn-based strategy/empire management game packaged in as well. What's interesting is that this unadvertised (on the show floor anyway) aspect of the game felt more intriguing to me than my hands-on time with the combat scenarios. Maybe I've yet to truly dig past the surface of what Aztez has to offer. I'm not against mashing buttons and killing enemies for hours upon hours (I absolutely love One Finger Death Punch, which I wish my editor would edit so I can tell you all about its awesomeness), but there needs to be an engaging hook to it. My fifteen or so minutes with Aztez didn't provide that hook.
We'll find out if the combat and strategy games can create an attractive package when the game releases later this year for PC/Mac/Linux.