Jon Shafer has been quietly working on a new game for the past seven years, and At the Gates is finally set to release next week. Shafer served as the lead designer on the critically acclaimed and BAFTA winning Civilization 5. Now, he and his small indie studio have prepared a roguelike strategy game completely focused on the single-player experience. One could say At the Gates is at the gates.
Development on At the Gates began in 2012 shortly after Jon Shafer left Firaxis to found Conifer Games. Shafer worked on the project largely himself with the help of a number of contractors and freelancers pitching in to make it a reality. He was able to pull it all together thanks to a Kickstarter launched in early 2013 that raised over $100,000 to fund future development on the At the Gates prototype.
At the Gates will release on January 23 for PC. It will retail at $29.99 and be made available through Steam, the Humble store, and the At the Gates website. During launch week, the strategy title will be available for 10% off normal price.
In At the Gates, players take on the role of a leader who will forge a mighty kingdom out of the ruins of the Roman Empire. Using tactics, wit, and some luck, players will build up their clans, subjugate or negotiate with their neighbors, and eventually strike the killing blow against the Roman Empire itself.
All of the action takes place from a point of view that should be immediately familiar to fans of the Civilization franchise. However, the design decisions behind the game are very different. Perhaps most notably, At the Gates has been designed to be a completely single-player experience. The reason behind this according to Shafer is to allow for an element of asymmetry. In other words, the design will sometimes be unfair, either for the AI or for the player. The randomized roguelike elements make each playthrough unique. That randomness can be increased when taking the design decisions multiplayer necessitates. Random factors include the appearance of various characters, their unique traits, the seasonal weather that can open or close opportunities. Winter in particular can lead to devastating situations if a kingdom hasn't properly prepared.
Overall, At the Gates looks to be a real labor of love made by one of the best strategy designers in the business. If you have any interest in strategy games, check it out when it releases next week on January 23 for PC.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!