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At the Gates (PC) Review

At The Gates

At the Gates is sold as a spiritual successor to Civilization.   Not only is that interesting as the series is still going, but it is also a bold-faced lie.  One is a classic series that has only experienced diminishing returns after almost 30 years, the other is a hastily cobbled together chunk of code that falls apart under its own complexity.  The question quickly becomes, if it one was so inspired by the other, where did it go so wrong.

Civilization is, at its heart, a simple game that slowly adds complexity until the systems themselves have expanded to the point where the player is running an entire world-wide empire.  At the Gates forces the player to micromanage every detail to such a degree that there is no real enjoyment to be had.  Beyond this, there is no real instruction on how to proceed with anything.  There is an attempt at tutorials, but it might as well be a brief description that there are systems, rather than an attempt to explain how they works.

One of the key things that Civ is known for is making a player forget about time and realize hours later that they have sunken an entire day into one single game.  At the Gates has the opposite effect, five minutes on starting it will feel around the same amount of time as all time lived before it, stretching out into the distance and greeting an unending horizon. 

The game also makes attempts to do what could be called minimalistic or reductionist graphics, but instead they simply look like a dumpster fire.  Not pixel art, but not retro enough to make anything look really nostalgic, the units end up looking like cut out pieces for a homemade board game by someone with no artistic talent.  The landscapes all look flat and boring, and the avatars look like something that was thrown together in an afternoon.

At the Gates isn’t a good game, but it is functional, which is more than I can say for some titles that I have been forced to play.  What good will it created by starting it quickly destroys by basically doing everything wrong that can be imagined.  I am someone who has bought bad games on a Steam sale to try and give myself a good laugh from time to time.  This game would not even fall into that category.  Stay away.  Stay far away.

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