A Short Summary
At the Gates is an empire builder. If you're unfamiliar with the genre, think of a game similar to 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 so do the seasons, transforming the very landscape which surrounds you. Once-fertile grasslands become barren dirt. Waterways you've grown familiar with will freeze over, thwarting or aiding your travels. Blizzards can stop a mighty army in its tracks. Accounting for the environment is essential not only while executing military campaigns, but also when planning for the harvest, vital to feed your hungry clan.
At the Gates innovates on the diplomatic front as well. Relationships are cultivated by completing situational requests for other leaders, giving you the ability to dramatically reshape the political landscape. If Attila’s people are starving, then providing him with a timely gift of food could very well earn you a friend for life. The tools for forging powerful alliances are always right at your fingertips.
While making friends is always nice, there will be times when discussions break down and you must take to the battlefield. Success in combat requires careful timing and management of supply, particularly during the harsh winter months. Starving an enemy into submission can be a powerful tactic - but you must first ensure your own troops are fed.
• 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 chains of supply. But make sure your own are protected, as tactical victory means nothing if your armies then starve to death.
• Forge lasting diplomatic relationships with other leaders by lending them a hand in times of need. If Attila’s people are starving, sending him grain might earn you a friend for life.
• 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.
Click here to read a detailed description of the major features in At the Gates.