Golem Gates is a card-based real-time strategy game (RTS) that has recently entered early access on Steam. RTS games are one of my favorite game genres, but what really piqued my interest was the "card" aspect of the title. With the RTS genre being so formulaic, this change in the formula was something I was excited to try. I got some hands on time with the early access build of the game, and there’s plenty of potential for a great game.
The early access version of the game doesn't yet include the full campaign, but I was glad to find that this did not mean that a tutorial was left out of the game. RTS titles can sometimes feel daunting when the player is tossed into the deep end, and so any amount of tutorial in a welcome sight in my book, and so I started there. It was quick and simple to follow, covering everything the player needed to know to master the basics of Golem Gates. Most of the tutorial shows the player how the card-based gameplay works in conjunction with the more traditional aspects of the RTS genre.
Rather than gaining new things to build/abilities as time goes on, Golem Gates' card method creates a level of RNG involved with what things you can build or what troops you can spawn. Cards are slowly drawn from a deck as time progresses and then are reshuffled once all the cards are spent. The time in which you can spawn in new cards is based on a timer, and each card has a specific amount of mana needed to be used in game, meaning that spawning new things can only be done as fast as cards are drawn and mana regenerated. This slows the speed of spawning troops in while also not limiting you to what you can spawn at any given time. The player can spawn in their strongest unit from the very beginning of the game, it just comes down to the luck of the draw and waiting for the mana to charge enough.
Currently, Golem Gates does not include all of the cards it plans to have after its full release. This being said, even the early access release feels like it has enough cards to keep games interesting. There are a number of different forces and turrets to summon, all with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. It took me some time to stumble upon, but Golem Gates also offers a system of creating new cards. This card forging system uses points that the player gains after each successful match to create new cards that can then be added to your deck. Decks can be as simple as the base deck you begin the game with, but Golem Gates allows you to make your own custom decks with newly gained cards as well. This means that the amount of different card synergies could really make for some interesting gameplay once it's fully released. It's my hope that they take full advantage of what a card-based system could do for their game and adding something special to the RTS genre, but all we can do as of now is wait until release to see what they do with such a potentially fantastic mechanic.
Golem Gates is a visually impressive game most of the time, but there are times where I feel like all the effects added to the game's map create confusion for what is a path and what is an obstacle. The maps are covered in a series of lighting and particle effects, and while these add quite a bit of atmosphere, there were areas that were obscured by the effects and what seemed like fog of war was actually an inaccessible area. Luckily, the game's minimap was much more clear, but I feel that the areas would benefit from a bit more clarity as well, especially because Golem Gates tends to be fast paced and being able to quickly judge the map would be extremely useful.
Golem Gates is an RTS with a twist that has a lot of potential in its card-based gameplay. It is my hope that this is expanded on so that some interesting synergies can take place with creative deck drafts, but even in early access, Golem Gates is a fun RTS experience. The fast-paced gameplay is challenging yet rewarding, the card system is extremely promising and easy to grasp, and the game looks great except where the graphics seem a little too overdone and muddled.