Imagine sitting down in a concept car that has all kinds of awesome extras and amenities - things you’ve wished cars had for ages! But then you try to take it for a spin and a lot of the basic stuff that your beat-up sedan back home can do fine seem to be a challenge for this flashy wonder. Things like… brakes. That’s what At the Gates is to the 4X genre. Conceptually, there are so many reasons to be excited about it, but once you start playing it falls apart pretty fast.
Coming from Jon Shafer, the lead designer of Civilization 5, Sid Meier’s storied series is the closest point of comparison for this hand-drawn, turn-based trek through the early 400s CE. But where recent Civ entries have stuck a bit too close to familiar design space, At the Gates holds no cow sacred – and that’s the best thing about it.