Card battling and unit commandeering join forces in Golem Gates, while Pilam Sky takes to the aim in a steampunk hot-air balloon that’s armed like a battleship. Indiego is a regular column dedicated to highlighting the promising efforts developed by smaller studios.
Golem Gates, Laser Guided Games, $29.99
Even the most resolute real-time strategy fan must admit that the genre is feeling a bit stagnant lately. Beyond Petroglyph Games’ incorporation of freeform units in Grey Goo and Forged Battalion, commandeering a legion of troops can all feel a bit too familiar across the trickle of contemporary RTS titles. But with Golem Gates, the incorporation of card battling and deck building components enliven play. With an additional bit of balancing, this could easily be a requite experience for real-time strategy aficionados.
Play through the game’s interactive tutorial and you’ll comprehend the raw power held by the Harbinger, a hooded protagonist who makes up or his weak offensive output by converting nanites into a multitude of different entities ready to do your bidding. Shirking the traditional need for farming, the ability to summon new units stems from an ever-accumulating pool of energy. So, while there’s no worry of halt in workflow, Golem Gates does allow you to increase the recovery rate by capturing control points on each map.
Play involves using energy to summon cards, called Glyphs, creating combat units, defensive turrets, AOE spells, and traps. In keeping with card battling convention, some Glyphs even have influence on your hand, where you can use a bit of energy to discard any unwanted cars. Gradually, you’ll ebb away at the fog of way and the largely symmetrical MOBA-esque maps, commandeering troops to attack opponents, to simply to guard a contented zone. Pleasingly, there are safeguards in place to keep players from unit-spamming, such as the 15-second suspension from summoning when you have used up every Glyph in your hand.
The result feels like two parts StarCraft to one-part Heartstone, which makes for compelling competitive matches. For those who prefer solitary pursuits, there are currently a healthy number of missions in Golem Gates, with more promised when the game leaves Early Access on March 28th. Right now, enemy AI isn’t very aggressive, opting to defensively protect itself instead of pursuing the player. The upside for tackling either online battles, campaign, or trials is unlocking new glyphs, which is a gratifying reward, especially in an era where lootboxes and downloadable content have parasitized our pastimes.
Visually, Golem Gates’ masterfully mixes technological with classical Dungeon & Dragons archetypes, resulting in style that’s both distinctive and eye-catching. While environments lean toward the darker end of the spectrum, a lavish number of glowing particles, lighting effects and even glowing gridlines help to illuminate things. Quite possibly, Gates is one of the most attractive indie-efforts of the year.
Recommended for: Real-team strategy fiends seeking a bit of innovation.
Pilam Sky, BeagleGames, $7.99
There are several solid reasons not to pick up Pilam Sky right now. Although the game offers a tutorial, the on-screen advice extends only a modicum of insight. You’ll have to delve into Pilam and experiment to really comprehend how the game’s components work. Then there’s the localization. While the English translation generally obeys the rules of grammar, it often feels like text was run through Google Translate, making comprehension a bit tricky. But overlook the title, and you might miss an inspired gem in the making. There’s already a healthy amount of potential demonstrated by the title, and hopefully, additional progress will be made.
Jump into Pilam’s campaign, and you’ll opt to play as either the Burmese, Chuns, or Hussians, three rival factions who each seek control of a shared continent. Their modus operandi for dominance involves the use of dirigibles, and to a lesser extent, ground-based defense structures. While each culture’s balloons differ in style, they all have a similar arsenal, carrying massive anchors capable of ripping through exteriors, razor sharp spears, and even cannons. Your base of operations is an even bigger airship, outfitted with rooms that contribute to the efficiency of your air fleet, with some working as a marketplace to profit off the buying and selling of goods.
Pilam Sky’s showpiece are undoubtedly the game’s battles. Shirking the pinpoint maneuverability of most games, the game’s zeppelins steer like giant ships. While sluggish movement might sound like a drawback for a game, here it’s handled brilliantly. Like the navel battles in games like in Assassin’s Creed 3 or Rogue, the protracted speed forces prediction. Instead of instantly reaction to you opponent, you’ll need to speculate where they’ll be in a second or two and position yourself to take advantage. All the while, your adversary is doing the same, making for a semi-realistic take on the classic Nintendo title, Balloon Fighter. While there’s plenty of polishing that still needs to be done, Pilam Sky’s visuals are already realized, with ornate steampunk vessels skirmishing across skies where voluminous cloud drape the action.
Recommended for: Steampunk enthusiasts looking for an off-beat title, who don’t mind a few rough edges.