Laser Guided games mostly excellent Golem Gates ($24.99) made me wish attract screens were still a thing in modern games. While it’s a solid and enjoyable take on the Real-Time Strategy (RTS), card collection and MOBA genres and translates well enough from its keyboard and mouse-centric PC origins to a game controller, it’s also the sort of game where a rolling demonstration mode would just be a cool thing to have happen when the game is booted up if only to get a few more people on the fence about it wanting to give it a shot. If you’re super-old school and need a sort of reference point, imagine Herzog Zwei, StarCraft and DoTA having a baby and getting it onto PC and now, consoles and you’ve got an idea od what to expect.
Granted, if you’re buying this game for yourself, you know exactly what you’re getting into and likely don’t need any persuasion. Conversely, if a friend drops over and is itching to know what the big deal is, you’ll just have to have them plop down on the couch or wherever and play as they watch, or pick up a controller and join the fun if they’re more than a little curious. Thankfully, other than the rather dry main screen that greets you along with Dalvan King’s stellar music, the gameplay hooks you right in if you’re a fan of this sort of play. Kicking off with a tutorial that explains the basics, your Harbinger uses cards (called Glyphs here) to summon up a small variety of troops and useful goodies to assist in dealing with assorted enemies as you attempt to take out the enemy Harbinger. In Campaign mode, that list of Glyphs gets larger as do the enemy types that need crushing, and yes, decks can be created and customized to your liking as new Glyphs appear.
Core gameplay is pretty much taking out the enemies and bosses as well as destroying those titular Golem Gates while keeping your resources from dwindling as you churn out all sorts of units, structures, traps and other fun stuff. Regenerating timers, some random Glyph draws that can sometimes force your hand with temporary useless units, and surprise attacks keep things at a pretty frantic level, but this isn’t some mere hack and slash with a tactical skin at all. There’s a solid feel of accomplishment in the 15 missions where you’ll be losing a map, only to snatch back a win with a desperation move or three, or a case where you’ll be wiped out thanks to the Glyphs in your deck not being adequate, only to gain a few new ones that make you a force to be reckoned with. Well, until you get steamrolled by the challenges the next map throws your way.
In terms of performance, the game looks great running on PS4 and as noted, that soundtrack, albeit brief, is glorious throughout. That said, on the base PS4 things can bog down a tad when you and your AI foes end up summoning a few too many units and the Clash of Them Titans turns into a temporarily ticked-off crowd trying to make its way off a crowded train during rush hour. That and there are some path-finding hiccups when units get jiggy with getting held up in tight spaces, which gets problematic when you have enemy traps and weaponry whittling units down as you try to keep up the summoning pace. Bumpy stuff aside, the game’s fun factor more than makes up for these flaws.
As for the other modes. you can (and should) test out the offline Trials mode for its 33 tightly timed challenges that will put all of your skills to the test. It’s tough going, but a great way to take a few created decks for a spin and see what’s what. Six maps make up the Survival mode, which is exactly what you think it is – fight ’til your Harbinger gives up the ghost, rinse and repeat (hopefully with a better deck that will keep you alive longer). Finally, there’s Quick Match, which features online Duel, 2 v 2, and 4-player modes to dive into. There’s certainly more than enough content offline content here for those who want it, although I’ll need to test out the online play at some point in the near future. I started writing this post based on a review code I received before the game launched and even a few days later, it seems not a lot of folks are jumping into this tactical pool.
Still, this is one of those not so hidden gems that deserves an audience that likes what’s on offer and wants to pass the word around. I guess that’s where I gracefully step in and say go get yourself a copy of Golem Gates and yes, tell a friend who may be interested. That, dear readers, is just how you end up with evergreens.
Score: B (80%)
Review code provided by the publisher