It has been a very long time since I played a good RTS. I don’t think I would be remiss to say the last true RTS I played was probably StarCraft II. With its Rock, Paper, Scissors, style of combat, two resource system, and population caps, SCII was the last true entry in a grand genre that just got too old for its audience. It was supplanted by a younger, faster, generation of RTS games that relied more on heroes, and individual units, and less on base building and strategic army placement. Now it seems we have reached a second tipping point, even such RTS games and Dawn of War no longer sell well, and so to answer the sirens call of new content we have Golem Gates.

Golem Gates is not a proper RTS, nor is it really a card game, nor is it any sort of MOBA, but it does barrow elements from all three and glue them together in to a fairly fun experience. Two small disclaimers: 1) Golem Gates is not finished yet, so in leau of a review, this is a sort of preview; 2) I don’t like MOBA games. So those out of the way, lets take a look at what its core, is basically one of those push pull arcade games reminiscent of Demigod (2009) smashed together with some base building and a little bit of tower defense, and a card aspect that will probably only confuse most players at first, but if you drill down makes sense enough to pass muster.

Gameplay is very RTS like. You start with one hero unit (think Supreme Commander with out bases) who can spawn In using cards various other units. You can then control these units, and march them down various “lanes” to capture points to increase your resources to spawn more units. That formula should sound familiar to anyone who has ever played an RTS game post Star Craft II, but Golem Gates manages to mix in some very clever aspects to make it feel more fresh.

 

The first of these is the card deck. Units can only be built after their cards are drawn. Cards is a bit of a misnomer here, I would probably have been more comfortable with calling them units, but that’s a stylistic complaint, rather than a design one. The card deck dictates what sort of units and defenses you can build. You use a currency that’s called energy to play cards, and it recharges constantly at a set rate. To make the game feel more like and RTS and less like a simple push/pull game, you can capture and hold points that generate your energy faster.

This system is basic as can be, but works well enough to force “Strategy”. As a player you have to choose lots of cheap units, or base defenses, or one big unit. There is no tech tree, or research to speak of, but you do have some management to do. You have to keep an eye on your deck size, how much energy you have and your unit placements.

The second is that aforementioned energy. It accrues by itself with no intervention, with one caveat, you can increase how fast it comes in by capturing some points on the map. The maps have a series of lanes, down which you will end up marching your units. These points can be fortified by the few cards that build buildings, most of which are turrets, or traps. I spent some of my energy on turrets at every area where I had captured and this seemed like a good strategy. The rest of my energy I spent on units.

 

Units or cards are the main focus of this games innovation. Instead of allowing you to build a base, and then add to it and have buildings that build units, Golem Gates lets you play cards using energy to create units. This system felt more like one of those old push pull game types I used to play in the Star Craft II arcade than a real RTS, but I did enjoy it. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of the rock, paper, scissors type of game play that Star Craft was famous for, but it does have some strategy. Some cards are used for buffing or nerfing units, and those made the game a little more interesting.

RTS fans will recognize the common UI elements from their favorite franchises

The developers are building a campaign in several parts as they continue development. This has a story, but as of now it’s a bit rough around the edges so I wont be reviewing it at this time. Instead Ill be returning to review this game when it is in full release. Until then I have allowed myself only to play multiplayer, and the skirmish mode in order to not spoil the story.

 

Overall I appreciate the new features, and attept to breathe some life in a genre that has largly expired by modern gaming standards. Golem games is going to be one of those games that I will keep my eyes on as they add more content more cards, and more exciting twists to the age old RTS genre.