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At the Gates has a ton going for it, and this is easily the most addicted I've gotten to a game that I am reviewing. Although the replay value might not be as vast as some of the bigger 4X games on the market, it has enough of a unique and condensed feel that by the time you're getting ready to make moves to win, it hasn't overstayed its welcome by 20 hours.
Jon Shafer’s At the Gates is a great 4X game that is promising and will keep you coming back for more. It’s beautiful, it has deep engaging systems and it’s flexible enough for players to experiment and optimize their playstyle and builds. Hopefully, At the Gates minor flaws can be worked out with post-launch support or by the time the next installment comes along.
For those who do understand their 4X genre, however, At The Gates will come across as a breath of fresh air. It's a ground-up rethink on how the genre can work, and what the 4X might look like as applied to the many cultures and civilizations out there that didn't have the imperialist intent that most 4X titles assume. For that, it's one of the most interesting strategy games I've played in years.
It's take on managing clans, professions, and resources very clearly distinguish it from similar titles such Civilization. It has a couple of weak points I'd like to see improved, the AI in particular. But If you like titles that make you think and plan. You will probably enjoy At The Gates.
At The Gates is a brutally hardcore strategy game that will keep fans engaged for dozens, if not hundreds of hours. The amount of time it takes to learn even the basics, coupled with its simplistic art style and obtuse menu-based UI, will scare off newcomers.
At the Gates is a good and acceptable independent experience (with leniency) that can be enjoyable and satisfying for players who don't have very high expectations from it. Because it's created by lead designer of Civilization V you can expect to see lots similarities with that game, and this might be a great thing for players who are struggling to cope with Civilization VI.
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Should Jon Shafer's At the Gates be judged for what it is now, or what it has the potential to become? The experience is hamstrung by glitches, oversights, and unfinished systems, but playing a 4X game from the perspective of the barbarians remains a fantastic concept and some of that Civilization “one more turn” allure is still intact. Forgiving types may want to give At the Gates a try now, but most others should probably leave the game out in the cold until a few updates are released.
So my final verdict on At The Gates is that it’s a 4X brimming with potential, but in its current state is certainly not a game I can recommend to everyone. The story of the development and of Jon Shafer himself is a hell of a tale, and I always hate sounding negative about projects like this but ultimately there some pretty big flaws holding the gates closed. Unless you’re a die-hard 4X consider waiting a while for this one.
Jon Shafer’s attempt at slow-burn strategy has been mixed with rogue-like elements to give the game an original feel, and, overall, it works. At the Gates’s randomly generated land, clans, and enemies allow for hours of replayability The clans and personality features give the game an edge against its competitors and forces the player to strategically look at every move they make. At the Gates is a game that strategy lovers will enjoy and holds just enough depth and content to keep players entertained, but it can also be difficult to players new to the genre.
In spite of having unique mechanics and a fresh take on the 4X and roguelike genres, Jon Shafer's At The Gates falls woefully short of delivering on both counts with frustrating RNG, mechanics, unintuitive design, and bugs.