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Golem Gates Review

Do you like real-time strategy? How about card games? How about stories about a technological apocalypse where you as a lone technomage must use your powers restore a ravaged world? Though this game certainly shakes up the normal RTS formula in many welcome ways, it definitely isn't going to be everyone's cup of nanobots.

Golem Gates Review

Intro

Hi, my name is Ben and I'm a turtle.  There is no strategy to me more attractive than slowly building up my defenses, tentatively poking my head out of my shell of turrets and land mines to gather resources, then unleashing a wave of doom upon my opponent as soon as the time is right.  I do this in every RTS I play: from Rise of Nations to Age of Mythology to Dawn of War.  I open with this to emphasize that, though I do enjoy a good strategy game, this one really isn't for me.  Objectively speaking I can soundly say that Golem Gates is probably a good game.  It looks and sounds incredible, the story is interesting, and the gameplay is a break in the usual RTS formula that many games of the genre adhere to very strictly.  There is some actual fresh air here, so I feel it important to note that even though a lot of this game rubbed me the wrong way on a personal level, I totally get why the reviews have been glowing thus far.  This game has many good points that I could see why anyone would overlook, but for me it got too bogged down by the reliance on the RNG, the lack of really in depth strategy in combat or with the cards, and the lack of a few features typically standard to RTS titles that I never knew I would miss until they were gone.

Golem Gates is available on Steam for $29.99.

Story

In a world desolated by endless battle, you are the Harbinger.  You have been called to battle by an unseen force against the forces of ancient constructs controlled by the ancient and powerful (name drop) Golem Gates.  Your power:  you can manipulate "the Ash," an ancient power lingering around the world, and command nanites to take the forms of servants, constructs, and spell-like abilities to lay waste to your enemies and restore the world to glory.

Yes, you do get to play a robot technomage and yes I do involuntarily shudder every time I type or speak those words.  The game does create a general sense of you being powerful, but there are bigger things out there.  It hits you right in that sweet spot, giving you power and agency without making you wonder why exactly you're listening to the yahoos at the top.  There is some legitimate mystery in there and the ambiance is incredible.  I take no issue whatsoever with anything involving the story, its a well-done apocalypse.

Golem Gates Review, Wow you're a bigun'.  Please don't hurt me.

Gameplay

The gameplay is a mix of Real-time strategy and card battle, which is something that sounded good in concept as someone who enjoys both, but while I could see it working out for someone it really didn't work for me on a personal level.

Build your deck

You start off with a standard starter deck, but as you move forward in the game you get more glyphs to add to your deck.  The glyphs come in the forms of units, buildings, traps, and powers.  There are a lot of options to choose from, but one of the big issues I take with the card system is that all of the cards are just cool things to summon or do, I didn't really feel like they bounced off each other well.  I never felt the need to have a deck with actual synergy.  Aside from supersizing the destroyer unit (something my roommate ad I affectionately called "the big papa), I never really felt like it mattered all that much which cards I used.  Individually the glyphs worked fine, but maybe its the former Magic: The Gathering player in me, but when I have a deck I want deadly combinations and deck building strategy, and I just never felt that with Golem Gates.  
Golem Gates Review, They're all really neat but there aren't any good combos.

From the Ash

Unlike other RTS games where you need to recruit builders and build harvesters to get strategic resources and use those strategic resources to make and upgrade buildings and units, all you have in Golem Gates is your Harbinger, who you need to protect, and over the course of a match you can use your glyphs wherever you or your units can see, which feels pretty cool, like deep striking with Space Marines in Dawn of War.  In order to do this, you need to take and hold generators that give you the sole strategic resource in the game: energy.  Each of these generators is a "King of the Hill" style free for all, making even the action of getting resources a pitched battle.

My biggest problem with the gameplay itself, and it is a big one, is the over dependence on chance.  I'm not opposed to a little luck in games, but I did not like getting screwed on a hand and so I lost an entire match in a strategy game.  Maybe I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to strategy, but I just couldn't get too into the game because I didn't really feel like I had a long game, just a list of short term goals and I'm done.  Adding to this problem was the fact that there wasn't (at least so far as I could tell) a pause function that could let me gather my thoughts, bark a few orders, then watch it play out.  I never realized how much I would miss that feature until it was gone.

Golem Gates Review, No victory is complete without an explosion.  That isn't sarcasm.

ALL of the chosen ones!

There is an online function to Golem Gates, both competetive and a cooperative survival mode, the latter of which I was curious about until I realized the servers are about as lively as a pet cemetery.  If you hope on trying this game online, think about giving a friend a copy as well so you have someone to play with.  Personally, I'm not too terribly bothered by the fact that not everybody is jumping at the chance to play a strategy game multiplayer.  I've never been one to delve too heavily into multiplayer on these games, and the single player is enough of an experience to not need multiplayer to be considered a full game.

Golem Gates Review, Oh...okay...

Graphics and audio

The issues I have with this game are purely on the levels of gameplay.  On a pure aesthetic level, I love the way this game both looks and sounds.  All of the units are modeled marvelously, honestly better than they should be with you looking at all of them through an eye in the sky.  The music and sound effects:  spectacular.  The voice acting is pitch perfect for the roles they play.  

If I have to critique (and I do) I will say that the color palates made everything look a bit homogenous to me after a while.  You're gold, your enemy is red, and the ground is brown and green.  The colors aren't displeasing, I just wasn't a fan of the rather bland palate used.  

Golem Gates Review, Gold vs Red...the ultimate battle.

Conclusion

I came into Golem Gates expecting to not be able to get enough of what sounded like an innovative blend of two genres that I generally love.  I will grant that for some, it will definitely seem so.  The gameplay is smooth, though it lacks a few features I use a lot in other RTS games.  There are a lot of cards to choose from, but they never really felt like they had synergy to me.  The graphics are extraordinarily detailed, but the colors leave a bit to be desired.  Objectively speaking, I can probably say that this is a good game and I could recommend it to fans of the genre, but it wouldn't be passionate.  Maybe I'm just the monacled traditionalist who's just taking this entire review to shout "Most Unorthodox!"  I don't know, I really wanted to love Golem Gates but something about it just wouldn't let me in.  If you think this sounds like a neat genre-bending game, maybe check it out.  I wouldn't think less of you for liking Golem Gates.  If, however, you prefer a more traditional strategy game, maybe head back to Dawn of War or Starcraft.  There are plenty of good old RTS games to fall back on if you're old school like (apparently) me, so I don't feel offended, but if you're looking for a fun new twist, then Golem Gates is a good game to look out for.

ProsCons
+ Good variety of cards to choose from– The cards don't combo well
+ Fast-paced skirmishes– RNG rules all
+ Great unit models– Lackluster color palate
+ Cool online mode concepts– Dead online lobbies
7.5
Good

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