A Short Summary
At The Gates is an empire builder. If you're unfamiliar with the genre, a good example is Sid Meier's Civilization. Starting with a small tribe, you must explore the world, exploit its scarce resources, and eliminate or outsmart potential enemies. The decisions you make start off simple but grow in complexity until you command a mighty economic and military powerhouse.
Over the course of a single game your tribe will migrate to more lush and bountiful lands, conquer and barter with other clans, work alongside the Romans, learn from them... and finally destroy them. Along the way, you'll need to master the art of war and craft cunning plans to strengthen your kingdom - all while enduring the worst mother nature can throw at you.
A Longer Summary
At The Gates features several innovations which separate it from other empire builders.
A single playthrough of At The Gates becomes more interesting the deeper in you get, unlike many strategy titles which lose steam when victory becomes assured midway through. Over time, the world’s resources are slowly but inevitably consumed, forcing you to seek out new ways to obtain food and wealth. The most satisfying victories are those which are hard-earned!
But the world is more than simply a canvas for resources, as At The Gates takes the traditional concept of randomized maps to a new level. As time passes the world around you transforms with the seasons. Intense summer heat scorches the landscape, while winter sees the world around you become cold, white, and hostile.
But mother nature also aids you. Important rivers can freeze, eliminating familiar barriers and opening up valuable new lands to you. And you’ll need them, as resources run out and the day will come when you must uproot your kingdom in search of greener pastures.
Other groundbreaking features in At The Gates include a combat system where morale and supply are key, a leadership council to which you can appoint wise and powerful sages, plus memorable leaders you’ll interact with through a new form of ‘story-based’ diplomacy.
• Adapt to an ever-changing landscape as the seasons change. Craft plans where you not only survive but hope for fields to dry up, marshes to flood and rivers to freeze solid.
• Build a robust economy by finding and exploiting new resources. Deposits slowly deplete so you need to always be on the hunt for more - even if they belong to your neighbors. If none are nearby, a better option might be to migrate your entire tribe to a different part of the world.
• Vanquish enemies on the battlefield by deftly maneuvering around them and destroying their supply lines. But make sure your own are protected, as tactical victory means nothing if your own armies starve to death!
• Forge lasting diplomatic relationships with other leaders with strong personalities and true awareness of what's going on in the world.
• Fight or cooperate with the Romans - and become more like them. Barbarian kingdoms become more “Romanized” and gain access to powerful new technologies as they interact with the two halves of the Empire.
• Play on a geographically accurate map of Europe or 100% randomly-generated worlds.
• Lead one of ten barbarian factions, each with unique strengths to take advantage of and challenges to overcome.