There is no shortage of virtual card games, which are available across multiple platforms. In contrast, not many RTS (Real Time Strategy) games venture onto consoles. Combining the two genres, well, that is perhaps even more rare if not completely unique. Golem Gates has an answer to that bidding and gives you a different, challenging experience. You are the ‘Harbinger’ and are equipped with a handful of powers via a deck of cards; yet, you also must move through your objectives like a traditional RTS. Interested yet!? Well, our review should get you even more so.
Boot up Golem Gates and you will first notice the great aesthetic and powerful, ambient music. A story is presented but isn’t really needed to enjoy the game. You have a quick tutorial and off you go! You have a deck, which can be any number of cards, but I would advise not trying to build until you are well through the first act of the campaign. Your cards are drawn based on a timer, once you run out, they reshuffle, but you are unable to perform actions during this “cool off” period of 15 seconds. So, while there are advantages to having a small amount of cards, it is also nice to not have that shuffle cooldown if you have a bigger deck.
The mechanics are simple: you cast cards from your hand and you can preview the ability when the card is selected. Over time, however, you will begin to recognize the shape/card without the need to read descriptions. Players will eventually unlock ‘Heroes’ as well. Those familiar with Warcraft 3 will recognize this concept. Hero units will be extremely powerful, only one can exist on the battlefield, and they have a unique ability to help lead the lesser troops to victory.
As the ‘Harbinger’ you also have the ability to cast spells directly on top of enemy units or set traps, but this is only if you have the ability to see this portion of the battlefield. Which brings us to the “fog of war” mechanic in which the battlefield is uncovered as you move through the map. The concept helps keep your location hidden from your opponents and also gives you the opportunity for stealth attacks.
Your objective can vary but generally involves capturing points on a map. Sometimes you have to simply destroy your opponent, defend waves of enemies, or capture points in a particular order. When you capture points, you gain faster resources to cast more cards and also higher cost cards become available. In short, you can’t simply hide at your base and build up an army! But with that being said, there is a ‘Challenge’ mode which gives very specific scenarios that may require you to use only one base or limited powers. This definitely helps you in the later game scenarios. And once online players start to populate servers, it will most likely help you, too. (At the time of this review no players were available online)
The “Switch Factor,” if you will, is definitely at play here. This game was originally on the PC, so you had the ease of using a mouse. On handheld mode, you can use the touch screen to move/command units which makes it a lot easier than using a controller in docked mode. The controls are very nicely laid out: you use the C-buttons to quickly select or cast cards and you use your analog sticks to move around the screen. In addition, the game looks great docked, so either method of play will should satisfy the player.
In terms of performance, I sometimes noticed a slight frame rate slow down, and action-heavy scenarios sometimes appeared cluttered. The latter is, however, the nature of RTS games. Although there are minor performance issues, they don’t really distract from the game enough to be a true problem.
One last point, and this can be either a good or a bad thing, is that your average match can be fairly lengthy. I found myself regularly playing 15-20 minute rounds. Challenge mode, however, can be much shorter, if time is of the essence.
If you are looking for a RTS game with elements of deck building, look no further. Golem Gates delivers on this end and does so in a challenging and fun way. Developer Laser Guided Games has my attention. This one is a strong 7/10 with additional points reserved for online aspects, which will be evaluated at a later date.
- Intuitive Controls
- Great sound track
- Unique concept
- Occasional frame drops
- Uncertain online community as of the writing of this article
Prognosis is Good