War can do many things. It can bring nations together, it can tear them apart, it change future intentions for better or worse, and it can devastate lives. On occasions though it can prove the final saviour. In the moment however, war is a terrible thing for all those involved, and in the world of Golem Gates, war is no stranger, completely ravaging the land and turning the world into a dark and dangerous place. Now though you join that very existence as none other than the legendary Harbinger.
So, what is Golem Gates? Well if you’re a fan of all things strategy based – real time strategy in this instance – and don’t mind the odd deck builder here and there, then it’s most definitely a game for you. In Golem Gates, players take a stab at building a formidable deck of cards that, if built correctly, consist of huge armies, machinery and robots. By utilising these forces correctly, you will get the chance to get the world back into a righteous order.
Throughout each game, players take on the role of the previously mentioned Harbinger, a rather central being who is essentially the command centre for your entire team that controls multiple units at once. The Harbinger not only controls every unit on your team but is also the key target for your opponents, so keeping the Harbinger close enough to control the battle, but hidden enough that you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of defeat, can prove enough of a strategy game all on its own. And that’s without chatting about hunting down and destroying the huge Golem Gates – which is the overall objective of any given game.
Before you get into any of that stuff though, you first come to the main menu, and on the initial load-up I have to confess to feeling a little overwhelmed. You see, here there are a vast sum of things to take in from your Starter Deck loadout, to the various game modes including Campaign, Challenges, Survival, Versus and then more that goes into Chapters. Fortunately, once you progress and head on into the game, developer Laser Guided Games have been kind enough to include a tutorial that teaches the game mechanics well, covering the variety of gameplay aspects and what they mean through a helpful learn-as-you-play type affair. If strategy/card games aren’t your go to choice for a relaxing afternoon, I’d advise you to take it in fully to truly appreciate what Laser Guided Games have on offer here.
At the start of any given game, players begin the battle as the Harbinger, and by way of spending energy can purchase the various units needed to push forward and attack the Golem Gate, or protect a machine from attack before winning the battle. Moving across the battlefield is very much like other strategy titles in which you essentially point and click where you want them to go.
Initially though, it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re going to go up against thanks to the genre favourite fog-of-war covering the map, only uncovering itself as you pass units through.
The key to success in Golem Gates is knowing when to progress and whilst many will most likely be keen to push through the map and attack from the off, you’ll need to move your Harbinger with you. With numerous enemies to face on any given map, you’ll often be spending a vast sum of energy to ensure you have enough units to protect the Harbinger; his death means game over and a full restart of the level you are currently on.
So how do you gain this precious energy I hear you cry! Well that would be in the Nano Generators of course. These are spread across the map and gaining control of these will soon see your production of energy increase, with further units then able to be produced. Be warned though, Nano Generators are an important part of each game and no opponent is going to sit back and leave any unclaimed so leaving a few units behind to keep any captured generators protected is always a wise choice.
Everything I’ve talked about so far fails to really strike the tone of a deck building venture, but let me tell you, without deck building you won’t have any units to speak of. Known in-game as Glyphs, cards allow you to summon units to the field. Each card in your deck is of a different type, be it a weapon, troop or ability card and with 30 making up a complete deck, and each match giving a random shuffle to that deck, you never know exactly what units you’ll have available to call on at any given time.
Unlike most other strategy titles, Golem Gates is a rather fast paced affair and it’s not rare to find yourself under attack just a few moments into any given game. Fail to defend quick enough and you’ll hear the dreaded ‘The Harbinger is under attack’ and that’s when you really must get a shift on. The issue faced here however comes back to the deck building and a little dependence on luck. You see when moving forward in battle, it’s easy to feel relaxed knowing you have some suitable and rather menacing cards in your deck, but what you’re never prepared for is the fact that each card is drawn randomly due to the deck being shuffled. This means you never know exactly what the next Glyph is going to be and there’s a chance you could end up having used your best units early on, only to be left with spells or traps that can’t do enough to prevent a loss later on.
Another issue that presents itself is the lack of distinguishing features between units that belong to the player, from those that belong to the opposition. This is especially true in the multiplayer side of things and when things start to get hectic, with vast numbers of units on screen at one time amidst a huge battle, it can quickly become confusing unless you know unit for unit who you have in battle. Believe me, it is no small task to remember.
Onto a positive though and while there is a lot of deck building to be enjoyed within Golem Gates, unlike other card games on the market, Golem Gates brings no microtransactions to the table. Once you’ve powered through the 9-10 hour campaign, there’s a good chance of having most Glyphs available to you, as well as a better understanding of which ones are worth having in your deck.
Another vast plus point comes from the audio and visual side of things. From the moment you load into a game, you can immediately see the care and dedication given to the intricate details, with characters and maps looking worthy of a triple-A tag rather than something created out of an indie budget. The audio is equally on point – from the main menu all the way to the rough and tumble of battle.
As mentioned before there are multiple game modes to get involved in, and there is an online component that allows for 1v1, 2v2, or 4 player free-for-all, but in all honesty, it doesn’t matter which of the modes you play as; the level of quality is equal throughout. Online play is smooth and fluid, and whilst it would be nice to be able to differentiate the units a little more during large scale battles, anyone wanting an intense and competitive card/strategy title will be happy with Golem Gates on Xbox One.
It’s not perfect, but it’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, and with a tutorial that is helpful enough to get a genre noob fully up to scratch with the basics, Golem Gates is possibly one of the more accessible card based strategy titles on the market. It is certainly one to try if you’re looking to get your foot in the door.