A few years ago, I was introduced to the collectible card game scene when I picked up Netrunner from my local game store. I was familiar with collectible card games (CCG’s as they are more commonly referred to) such as Pokémon or Magic: The Gathering, but Netrunner was the first to draw me in. Netrunner’s cyberpunk theme and more importantly the fact that there were no random blind packs to purchase made it seem a lot more accessible than other CCG’s that were on the market. Well now I’m hooked, so when I was given the opportunity to review Golem Gates by Laser Guided Games I jumped at it.
Golem Gates is a game that mixes the tried and true Real Time Strategy and the collectible card game genres. You begin the game with your starter deck that consists of 15 cards and your Harbinger. The mission begins with 5 cards drawn at random from your deck, and you are given the opportunity to redraw any (or all) of these starter cards before embarking on your mission. Once the mission begins your energy will steadily increase, and the maximum available increases as mission time goes on. You use this energy to play the cards in your hand (which in-turn activates the card’s ability) and each card has minimum amount of energy required to play it. As the mission continues, you can use your deck to add additional cards to your hand to build up your army and fortify your positions to ensure swift victory. The cards consist of Units (troops that you utilize to complete your mission), Traps (cards that do damage to other units that wander into them), Structures (such as defensive turrets) and Techs (cards that grant your units special abilities); all of which you will utilize to complete the specific mission you are given. The mission ends when you either successfully complete it or your Harbinger is killed.
As you complete missions you will be awarded random cards that you can add to your deck. This is where the deck building aspect common to a lot of CCG’s comes into play. As you earn these random cards, you have the opportunity to expand or completely modify your starting deck, which makes the deck one you selected as opposed to the randomly drawn deck you started with. For those familiar with deck building card games, this will instantly feel familiar. The game itself doesn’t provide much guidance in how you should choose to build your deck or limit the size of your deck. How you choose to build your deck is entirely up to you. As with most games though, there are a few rules. Certain card types allow for multiples in your deck (for example, you can have up to three turret cards in your deck), and some cards you can only have one (a specific hero card for example). Also, during gameplay, once you have gone through all the cards in your deck, you must “shuffle” the cards that have been played and this shuffling takes 15 seconds, during which time you are unable to control any of your units or play additional cards.
You do have the option to build multiple decks and at the start of each mission you can choose which deck you feel is best suited for the task at hand. You can also put all your cards into one deck, and play through the mission with all of them. The advantage to this is obviously access to every card in your arsenal, however it also means that you could be stuck with a bunch of cards that you must play through until you go through your entire deck and get to reshuffle. For folks who haven’t played a deck building game before it may be a bit overwhelming at first, but the game does a good job at starting you off slow, and letting you work your way up.
As with all good RTS games, there is multiplayer and co-op available so you can test your RTS/deck building skills against others, which always keeps things interesting. There is also a lengthy 15 mission single player campaign that you can play through. This campaign gives you a good background story as to who you are, who the Harbinger is, and what has become of the world. In either game mode, the mix of deck building and RTS works well, and certainly requires some planning and strategy on the player’s part as to what cards to hold and use later and what cards should be played right away. The graphics are another great feature of the game. It’s a very futuristic robotic like setting and looks absolutely stunning. The music is also well done and gives the game a very Flash Gordon / Dune type atmosphere.
Golem Gates definitely has some issues that come with the territory of either an RTS or a CCG. Pathfinding can be frustrating if you aren’t careful where you place turrets and other obstacles. There are cards that allow you to increase the size of your units, which makes them more powerful, but also makes it more difficult to fit through tight spaces if you don’t plan accordingly. Since the deck is shuffled and your hand is drawn at random, there is always the potential that even with the ability to replace cards from your starting hand, you will start with such a bad hand that you will struggle early on or lose before the game has even begun. This is not a huge issue in the beginning, but certainly can become one if you are unlucky like I am and draw a large number of cards that provide little defensive capability to defend against an assault. The game can also tend to fall into the old “tank rush” mentality, where you simply build up your forces and then send them all directly at the enemy. None of these issues are anything particularly new for either genre and certainly doesn’t detract from the amount of fun that can be had, it’s just important to understand that with this mix you get the good and the bad of both genres.
Golem Gates takes two of my all-time favorite game styles, RTS and CCG and mixes them together in a unique and fun way. I love the ability to experiment with different decks and try to plan the deck accordingly for the mission at hand. The game play is smooth, the characters interesting, and even in some of my biggest frustration moments I longed to play it as often as I could. It’s commendable to take two beloved genres and make it appealing for both, and Golem Gates does this in a tremendous way.
What I liked: Diverse units, Deck building, Beautiful graphics
What I liked less: Pathfinding, Lack of detailed descriptions of the cards
4 out of 5 stars