The world is a ruined place, darkness blankets every surface. But even in this darkness hope awakens, it’s the Arbiter. Guided by a mysterious entity, he’s on a quest to recover his identity and free the land, and to do so he must destroy their Golem Gates

Genre(s): Real Time Strategy

Developer:  Laser Guided Games

Publisher: Laser Guided Games

Spawn Date: March 2018 

Played Single player campaign. A few challenges

Platforms: PC

Purchase At: Steam

Good:

  • Unit design.

  • Great soundtrack.

  • Interesting mechanics.

Bad:

  • Samey visuals.

  • Repetitive missions.

Review

Since my preview of Golem Gates a week and change ago, I’ve had the chance to keep playing the title to completion, going through the full campaign and some of the challenges, and unfortunately, the same issues I saw with the preview version continue well into the full game.

To recap, for those who didn’t read the preview, Golem Gates is an Deck Building RTS game, where players control the Arbiter, a strange mechanical entity who can control the Sand, clouds of nanites left in the wasteland of the war-torn world. Guided by a mysterious benefactor, he’s out to reclaim the land from the forces that control it and have it mired in darkness and stagnation.

Golem Gates - Gate Destruction
Destroying Golem Gates is by far the most common objective in the game, which is ok, if the missions themselves weren’t so repetitive in content!

Using his powers, the Arbiter can summon forth warriors and powerful weapons, as well as mysterious powers at the cost of his energy, which slowly regenerates, its maximum expanding even slower but getting a boost as long as you conquer and control generators.

Each mission tasks you to conquer and control several of these points, usually with the goal of opening the way to the level’s Golem Gate and destroying it. Chapter endings include missions such as assembling a golem and opening one of these gates to reach the final boss of the chapter, which appears as an enemy hero in the following mission.

Golem Gates - Golem
By far the most intense part and it was just another “control this point” scenario, but with waves and a time limit.

Your units, from the simples of soldiers and turrets to powers that decimate enemies to heroes and giant ultrapowerful canons are all glyphs, and part of your deck. As long as your hand isn’t full, you’ll draw a new glyph every few seconds and much like in card games, there are glyphs for drawing more glyphs. Once you run out of glyphs, you can click on your deck to reshuffle, but doing so leaves your entire UI unusable for about 15 seconds, and the Arbiter won’t make a single move to defend himself, which I discovered in the most painful way.

One of the key thematic elements in Golem Gates is light vs dark. The Arbiter is light in the barren wasteland and your enemies thrive in the dark. The darkness of this post-apocalyptic world is an ever-present blanket and only the arbiter, his units and structures lift it, but only in a small radius around them. This zone of light is also the only place you can summon more forces or even use your special spells.

Golem Gates - Light
The darkness around your units NEVER goes away.

This mechanic has its pros and cons, the latter being slightly infuriating.  On the upside, your units generate their own light field and so you can summon and reinforce your squads on the move, and even in the middle of a battle. In fact, many times I sent my squads into battle and then when things turned hairy, I dropped a hero—a unique, golden glyph–in their midst and they conquered the enemy base.

The downside is that if you’re in a losing battle, you lose ground too fast and as the light fades with each unit downed, your chances of effectively using your abilities become slim. Even worse is that enemy ranged units easily stand outside the edge of your light and freely attack from there, yet unless you illuminate enemy units, yours won’t target them. This becomes a severely unfair advantage on the enemy’s side as you progress through the game as is the availability of glyphs on their part. From the beginning your enemies can do things you won’t get the glyphs for until many missions later, from revealing points in your map to countering your abilities.

Golem Gates - Arbiter
Love the Arbiter’s look

Worse still and this is the part that nearly made me quit the game. Enemies not only control points like you do, but they also have zones you cannot disable or conquer from where they can endlessly rebuild their armies. It’s profoundly unfair that the rules are different for those involved.

But beyond the game mechanics my greatest issue with Golem Gates is how incredibly samey it all feels. Every mission is about holding capture points in increasing numbers, and while the purposes are different, in the end you’re just controlling and holding points. Even generators are control points. There’s absolutely no variety in the missions, nor is there in the visual design.

Golem Gates - Mulligan
You can swap out your starting cards. It’s so useful!

Every level looks the same, a blasted wasteland or an ancient mechanical ruin. It makes sense, of course, but it becomes visually dull extremely fast. And though I often admire visual elements that also serve as gameplay mechanics, such as Golem Gates’ darkness, the ever-present blanket obfuscating the environment just makes things look even worse, an uninteresting and unappealing spectacle.

I will, however give them props for the visual design of the Arbiter and his units. They are stunning, and the arbiter could pop up in any sci-fi or superhero movie without it being too weird. He already has the cape after all.

While the visuals and missions may be samey and often feel dull, the soundtrack is impressive, and the intense beats playing during combat had me tapping my feet. The music is a highlight, while the voice acting, what little there is, is just bland, mechanical voices without any hint of emotion or intensity. And we live in a world post-S.H.O.D.A.N & GLaDOS, so you can’t tell me compelling mechanical voices aren’t possible!

Conclusion

Golem Gates is one of those games that proves that having a kickass mechanic just isn’t enough. The ideas are there, but there are crucial elements which could have used more work to spice up the game and stop it from becoming formulaic and repetitive.

TMA SCORE:

3.5/5 – Good!

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