It’s a relatively rare occurrence to be sold on a game at preview stage. When you’re playing a game that isn’t ready to be out in the world in all it’s glory, you can’t help but look for those things that are still being worked on. Those things that aren’t quite right yet but with some time and care are going to be fixed and make a title marvelous. As we all know, in some cases these elements are never put right and a very promising game goes into that “nearly, but not quite” category. I’m very pleased to say that I’d buy Golem Gates at the stage it’s currently in and I can’t wait to see the fully finished product. I’m also rather looking forward to telling you why.
See that big glowing thing? That’s The Archive and it’s not to be messed with.
I’ve noticed that the CCG and TCG gaming genres (collectible or trading card games, for those of you who don’t like acronyms) have gotten a really bad rap. I think there’s several reasons for this. A lot of these games have a financial element to them. If you take a game like HEX for instance, it’s great playing for free but it all feels like practice until your’re entering tournaments. Cards in HEX have monetary value and playing properly means putting your hand in your wallet.
If you understand this, you’re going to love the game. But if you’re a casual player, it might come off as a bit grabby. The mobile market is using card based games as a cash cow, so you tend to find a lot of clones that involve cards and none of them are particularly good. Lastly, with some really big releases in this genre (MTG arguably being one of the biggest), there is always a point that devs are aiming for and it’s really easy for comparisons to be made. What’s the best way of avoiding this? Don’t do any of the above and go your own way. Golem Gates certainly does this and it’s all the better for it.
In Golem Gates, you take on the role of the Harbinger. You are sent out to try and redeem your world by a godlike being called The Archive. In doing this, you weave spells and summon units from The Ash, which is technically the world’s atmosphere. You must then use the tools at your command to destroy the mighty Golem Gates and complete other objectives including putting together a golem in order to raise a bridge.
The setting is dark and brooding, and you actually feel like you’re up against a pretty tremendous foe. The atmosphere created by this title, both in graphical style and the broody music and effects that accompany it create a game that sets you a little bit on edge. This is a brilliant thing, a card game that actually makes you feel like you’re playing more than … well … a card game is actually a relatively rare thing to find.
So why isn’t this just cards then and where does the card battling element of the game come into play? Well first off this is definitely more than a card game. There are some really nice, deep, RTS elements in Golem Gates that make it a really well rounded playing experience. Your cards are called Glyphs and you use these to summon your forces. When you play a card you actually summon that unit and these become fully controllable.
The best way to think about it is that if you take pretty much any RTS, remove all the construction and resource buildings and swap these with cards you’ve kinda got this game. What is also very important to note is that the card and RTS mechanics are very much integral to each other. Nothing about this feels like an afterthought, which is really nice to see.
Your Glyph deck is broken up into roughly three types of cards. Let’s call these offensive, defensive and spell for the purposes of this review, as I can’t remember all the exact wording in the game. You offensive cards come in the form of your units. These are the cards you’ll be using to complete the variety of objectives that you’re given. Defensive cards are largely tech Glyphs. These come in the form of turrets, mines and the like. These are really important.
You’ll find yourself having to take and hold various points on maps and of course keep your Harbinger alive. If you want to be making the best use of your units you don’t want them standing around guarding points too much so these are going to be your mainstay. Your spells are basically extra muscle for your deck and have a variety of uses. These may be as simple as obliterating enemy units in a ball of fiery death or have other strategic uses such as allowing your to draw cards or make existing units stronger. You’ll want to think about how you balance these elements if you want to succeed.
Be glad he’s friendly. You just have the small task of putting him back together.
I know I’ve mentioned a bit about the nature of the plot with Golem Gates, but there are a few more points worth mentioning when it comes to the story. The first is very simply that it exists. This might sound daft, but I’ve played a lot of card-based games, and in most cases I’ve found that the single player side of things just gives you a bit of an idea about over all plot. You aren’t being launched into a story that is going to hook you and reel you in because it’s not necessary. Most of these games have so little PVE content that actually shaping and fleshing out a game world isn’t warranted. You just need enough of an idea why you’re doing what you’re doing so you can go into PVP without feeling lost.
This brings me on to my second point. The lack of need for a deep story often leads to the single player campaign being less campaign and more extended tutorial to set you up for the multi-player everything that is to come. Golem Gates has a deep single player mode which is broken into three books. The devs obviously really care that some people want a great single player experience and this title delivers. The third book hasn’t been released yet but from what I’ve experienced so far I can’t wait for it to come around.
I’m not going to go too deeply into the new update and the second book because you can read all about this in my recent article. I actually played through the new material not only because I wanted to and because it’s just awesome but to ensure that the new update hadn’t broken anything. I think we’ve all played games that have been wonderful and looked forward to updates only to be disappointed when the game we love has been turned into a bit of a mess.
So these are all plus notes. Surely there has to be some negatives here right? Well actually no, not really. The only negative I can actually see at the moment is that this game might be a bit too good for lower end computers. The graphics in Golem Gates are genuinely fabulous and I’m not sure all machines would cope with them. This isn’t detracting from the game itself of course, it’s just the point that if you can’t play it, you can’t experience it. This isn’t me attacking anything, by the way, it’s just something that happens as technology gets better both from a gaming a developing stand point.
Meet Tetra. Or should I say you will if you survive to book 2.
Golem Gates is currently set for release at the end of the month and I strongly suggest strategy fans out there giving it a go. This isn’t something that’s been crafted for a free to play/pay to win audience. The game is incredibly well balanced and there isn’t any trickery to get you to spend your hard earned cash appearing, thus far at least. If this might be your sort of game, keep your eyes peeled for the finished product and definitely get your hands on it.
This preview is based on an early release copy of the game provided by the publisher.