Golem Gates Early Access Preview

Golems Gate is a hybrid real-time strategy game mixed with deckbuilding. The game plays like a traditional RTS, ala Command & Conquer. However, instead of having a HQ or any form of building to create units from, you use cards. You start the game with a basic deck of 34, which showcases the games varied unit types, buildable items (the majority of which are turrets) and activated abilities.

I’d highly recommend the tutorial before moving onwards with this game, even if you are an RTS Veteran as it does do quite a lot different.

As well as utilising cards, or “Runes” as they’re known in-game, you start the game with a “Hero” character known as a Harbinger, they work as your HQ, meaning if they die; you lose. Harbingers will attack enemy units that come for them, as well as having the ability to summon temporary scouting birds.

Units can be summoned via runes, however they also cost power, this power is gathered via generators which are placed around the maps. These generators can be taken by any player and keeping them secure is normally an uphill struggle.

Now here comes the main issue with runes, their randomness. The runes you place in your deck spawn in a random order, I found this out the hard way when I lost a game solely due to the fact I hadn’t drawn any units, only passive effects. I don’t mind losing to RNG if the games combat is solely determined by RNG. However, having a great set of strategies and field defence and still losing because you didn’t get the right unit at the right time is incredibly frustrating.

This is where I feel the game falls flat. It’s an RTS, without the Strategy. I’m used to games of the same genre to work off a “rock, paper, scissors” system, for example in Halo Wars, Air beat Infantry, Vehicles beat Air and Infantry beat Vehicles. Of course this isn’t true for all units, but it’s very useful for finding out what units are strong and weak against.

Golems Gate doesn’t seem to work like this as far as I can tell. There clearly are units that are designed to counter other types of attack; however it seems to be down for the player to figure out what needs to go where.

Now trial and error tactics can encourage replay ability, however I feel as though you can’t afford to utilise in trial and error in an RTS, which is normally about making the right decision in the shortest amount of time.

Issues like this of course can be ironed out by learning the game in-depth, what can’t be forgiven however is the awful line of sight system. Units have a massively limited sight, this seems fair, however you need to play Runes within a viewable area. This has led to countless in progress because the games small visible area is also very picky about where units and passive abilities get used. I frequently found myself in the middle of a heated fire fight unable to hit enemies with my aggressive powers (i.e you can call a fireball down to kill enemy units) simply because it was a pixel or two out of range. Once again, this is an issue that can be avoided with a bit of patience and double checking where you click, yet it still doesn’t take away how frustrating it can be in the heat of the moment.

The game controls how you would expect an RTS too; it plays the same as Dawn of War, Company of Heroes & Halo Wars. Mouse movement, WASD & Arrow keys all navigate you around the map whilst number keys are used as unit hot keys. Shift allows fast movement, Q allows select all, and that was all the tutorial taught me as I’m still unsure if they’re anymore hotkeys that could be used.

Sadly the copy I was playing didn’t allow me to go further than the tutorial, so some of the issues mentioned above may also vanish later on in the game. This also meant I couldn’t sink myself into the campaign to see what the story is like. The game lacks any form of splash screen or in-game encyclopaedia so working out any of the story without playing it is pretty much impossible. I know many people won’t be fazed by this, however I love some fluff in my games, and those extra details are normally a sign of a well-designed piece.

The game’s soundtrack is overall forgettable; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing however. I personally enjoy ambient soundscapes whilst play tactic games. This is because it adds to the tone of the game, without being distracting. I wouldn’t recommend putting Golem Gates OST on your iPod anytime soon though, unless you love the sound of winds and “quiet robot rumbles”.

There is a lot of replay ability within Golems Gate if you find yourself enjoying the base game, within two hours I had found myself with a large variation of unlocks from new units to new abilities. Items are unlocked via the Campaign (although as I mentioned I could only do the tutorial) and via Skirmishes, the items unlocked are randomised, yet the game does also have its own in-game currency. This allows the player to purchase Rune. The runes available for purchase changes each day, which adds incentive to log in every day.

Overall, I feel like Golems Gate is a flawed game. I respect it attempting to take a new approach to RTS games, yet what we’ve ended up with is a worse version of Halo Wars 2 Blitz Mode. Golems Gate offers nice visuals, yet they’re hardly unique, it’s as though Halo 4s forerunners we’re fused with Skyrims dwarven machines. The soundtrack is hardly worth noting, it suits the game, but it won’t be winning any wards soon due to its blandness. The overall gameplay may be an attempt at being fresh, yet it still fails to hold a light to classic RTS like C&C, Age of Empires or DoW. Whilst forgettable, the game is fun. I did find myself engaged with the tutorial and each skirmish I attempted. However, once the rewards we’re reaped and this review was written I struggled to find reasons to boot the game back up.

If you’re an RTS Veteran and you’re just looking for another fix in the genre, I’d recommend it. However if you’re new to strategy games, stick to the classic.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this Preview. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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