On the surface, Golem Gates looks like a pretty generic sci-fi game. Hell, sitting through the beginning can easily give that illusion. When I read it had a card-based fighting system, I prepared myself for the worst. But, somewhat to my surprise, it was hiding a pretty good game underneath it all.
You are the Harbinger. Just reading those four words can tell you a lot about the story. Once I saw that in the game, I knew my character was going to be called to fight by some powerful entity, because it was my destiny. It didn't disappoint, but at the same time it very much disappointed. You need to defeat whatever it is that's attacking everyone (powered by the Golem Gates), and yes, you use spells and abilities to do it. This is pretty much every fantasy game ever, but with a slightly different skin of techno past/future. It does the job just fine, but it's not very original.
The gameplay is a mix of real time strategy (yay!) and card collecting (boo) in a top-down 3D style. I'm not opposed to collecting cards to gain powers and attacks and things, but it seems so counter-intuitive. There's not much to look forward to when it's based on chance. It's kinda funny – you're supposed to be this powerful person, yet you're limited by the cards (glyphs in game). From there you have direct combat, fighting by proxy Pikmin-style, interacting, and pretty much getting from place to place so you don't die. It does get a little samey after awhile, but it's addictive.
The game's graphics are done in a top-down style for the most part, but they're not half bad. In fact, they're very good. Pulses of blue energy look pretty lifelike, and the world has this concrete/metal feel that looks pretty cool when you look at it. When you select beings to fight for you, the circles that appear around them look pretty integrated. Fire looks real. But most of all, it doesn't look like each map is copy and pasted piece by piece; everything looks new and unseen. I know that how the game is played (i.e. in rain) masks this a bit, but it's good to see a game taking an integral but rarely used part of world building and doing it so well.
On Steam, the controls were fine. For the most part it's point and click, and being real-time, you need to be quick with that. Buttons are easy to learn, and you will get to know a few of them since you use them a lot. If Mavis Beacon taught this, lessons would be simply "click around for ten minutes, then hit a key or two".
Music is somewhere between X-Files and early- to mid-2000's sci-fi movies. There's this grandness, mystery, choir, electro-ness and synth-ness to it that makes it engaging and great to listen to; it sounds like a throwback future, which never really gets tiresome. Sound-wise, it's on par with other games. Selecting things makes a computer sound. Guns make explosion sounds, etc. It didn't impress me, nor did I hate it. It was just there.
When playing through, there were no real bugs. The rain looked weird, but that's a graphics thing. The frame rate was just fine, and honestly, I couldn't find any gameplay glitches. I must have selected all of my character's fighters a billion times and not once did one get left behind. They tested the hell out of this and you can tell.
There's not too much left to say about Golem Gates. It does a lot right. If it had a more interesting or remotely original premise, I'd give this very high marks. In fact, minus a few design choices, a really unfortunate card-playing-style gimmick, and the story, this is a great game. It's fun, addictive and leaves you wanting more. I highly recommend it, especially for people who really liked to sacrifice their pikmin in Pikmin.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.