Jon Shafer's At The Gates


I agree with this, but I disagree with your assessment of AoW.


Let’s be honest I was putting AOW in a bet less admirable light just to frame a different perspective, but I personally find AOW coming up short in the opportunity cost equation when I have Warhammer 2 Total War to play (or any Total War game) as an alternative. I struggle to not be bored to tears in AOW. I try to really lean into the racial differences in AOW and occasionally this does make things fun for a bit. EL is a different kind of 4X experience, and it therefore has a place at the table for me.

Where I really disagree is in the above review’s description of EL as being narratively inferior, as the reviewer states at the end…

but I put a much higher priority on how the game feels and how well I can construct my own personal narrative out of it

… since EL has one of the most meta-narrative 4X experiences in years. But different strokes for different folks! I wouldn’t blindly recommend EL to everyone carte blanche. If the narrative part of EL doesn’t do it for you I think you’ll struggle hard with that game - or any of the Endless games, tbh. Maybe Dungeon of the Endless is the most “pure” as far as pushing narrative way into the background and gameplay into the foreground.


And now I feel confused and I don’t understand the universe… :-)

Seriously, it’s interesting how people get such different things from the same thing. I absolutely love the battles in AoW3, but after maybe 5 hours into a TW game they feel like drudgery. TW Warhammer was the best but I still couldn’t get myself to complete the campaign.


In AOW I play the battles, taking my time, managing units, casting spells and whatnot. In a TW game, I mostly watch the battles, wishing I had more control of the mass of units piling into another mass of enemy units. Sure, I can pause and individually select groups of units to do a particular thing, but in the end it seems I’m just zooming in and out with the camera, playing as a cinematographer rather than a general.

I’ve always liked turn-based combat over the mess that is real-time with pause.


I actually hardly ever finish a game - and I think this pacing issue is a big part of whether I like a game or not.

AOW is boring for hours (to me) until you get a few decent battles vs the AI; but a lot of people also grind MMOs for hundreds of hours before they get to the “real game”. Which is insane to me (I think I got to level 20 or something in Guild Wars 2 and WoW before bailing because I just couldn’t take it anymore).

The best part of any Total War game is the first few hours. Which is also true of games like EL or Civ V or Endless Space 2. But I rarely if ever actually finish a game. Once I have all the power I need to make victory inevitable I tend to quit. IOW, I vastly prefer a good early game than a good late game.

I do think AOW would be fantastic in multiplayer, otoh. This might be why I find the game a bit dull, since many of the cool abilities don’t really actually do much vs the AI but would be very useful vs. people.

It’s also a bit idiosyncratic, but I also get annoyed that I can’t make my Hero unit in AOW a real melee monster. Warhammer Total War actually does hero units better, with larger variety of use cases and deployments. Because the AI focus fires your Lords, I’ve never really been able to make a Lord a true tank in AOW. I’m sure it’s possible, but again, it will be a late game, not an early game, thing (if it’s feasible to do so at all). So Warlord and Mage characters don’t feel as different as i’d like them to be.


I would argue that this is actually more like a general than the TB tile-based approach in that it limits your control to something closer to what a general might have, as opposed to being an omniscient controller-being. (Though let me state firmly that I don’t want to come close to accusing Total War of being realistic.)

I love both TW and AoW; I think both have their place and they’ve found a way to do it well.



I played the necrophage and got a powerstack and romped through the map without losing a single unit.

Good luck not losing a unit on Emperor in AoW3.

You are referring to the quests?

A great idea, totally badly done.

Gladius does that better, and even there it is not quite right (like the final stage of quests just suddenly swamping you in units.)

Against someone at more or less your level, the game truly shines.

Structurally speaking though, the multiplayer isn’t done as well as i would like (mod management, finding a game etc are all harder than I would like.)

Totally possible. A bit of work required. I’d recommend Warlord or dreadnought, stack defence, beeline for the item forge, get tireless boots, a shield with aura of x (frost, fire, lightning, you pick. I like frost the most) a decent ranged item (you can loot these) a melee item with lifestealing or life drain, a helmet with seeker.

With seeker + ranged attack, enemies will come to you.

When they do, you hit them, they hit you, and then get frozen/stunned/set on fire.

Stack inflict x on your hero (inflict severely poisoned is my favourite.)

If you have creation adept, abuse the heal spell. If you have a Theo or Druid hero, abuse their heal ability.

If you have none of those, create an item with higher regeneration.

This has been pointed out enough times that it is a legit critique imho.

If I were making an AoW4 (assuming ofcourse it was fantasy again) I’d make Sorcerors into something like Wizards (your standard mage, using grimoires in battle), Warlocks (blood sacrifice, your units or the enemies, to power sopells and warlocky units, i.e. demons) and Sorcerors (innate magic, makes them physically frail)

I’d also split Druids into Rangers (lots of shootiness, pet companions in battle), Shamans (lots of nature spells and abilities) and Beastmasters (lots of beasts, turns into various animals, no or few spells. think Beorn from The Hobbit)

Similar treatment for Theocrats (Priest, Paladin, Monk) and finally Warlords (melee brute, tactician/general etc.)

And, for magic casters (the Sorceror classes) I would actually introduce the Wizard Throne mechanic - if they are sat on their bum inn their magic tower, they get magic bonuses.

I’d also revamp the magic system entirely, although that’s a post for a different day (spells able to be cast over multiple turns, spell chance failure, range and line of sight requirements etc.)


A bit back on topic. Anybody still playing the game? Jon’s roadmap looked like a lot of things I’d be interested are coming over the next several months. Having waited so long for the game, I’m content to wait a few more months to have better initial impression. On the other hand if it is fun game now, why wait.



Developing your tribe, dealing with clans and resources, moving around, all that is very enjoyable. But moving on from there, lots of rough edges to be smoothed out.

Unless you are feeling particularly impatient, it is probably better to wait a bit.


Still playing. I’m on board with the core gameplay loop and interested now, so why wait for the polish?


Sounds like a bit more than mere “polish” is coming.

I own it, but I have yet to install it and I’ll give it time to cook a bit before I do.


Had to put this one down - no notifications when 2 of my clans disappeared ain’t really acceptable.


Ouch. Did the 1.01 patch come out yet? I don’t see any mention of it on Steam, and we’re beyond the “1-2 weeks” window. Just curious if there had been any updates or news on the updates that aren’t posted on the Steam page.


The game’s concurrent players are dropping like flies, and it’s at the Mixed rating. Unless Jon has cash stashed away for further development, I don’t see how post-release plans are going to work.


Yes, this is one of the main things which needs fixing. If a bandit kills or captures your explorer, you do not get any notification.

It is almost too easy to clear things out with a spearman, but if you fail to do so, your people just disappear into the ether. In one case, I had one captures and later I recovered him, all without any special messages.


Some news about the first update


One strategy question - it seems like the best strategy is to beeline out to find a source of stone as that fundamentally changes how the resources nodes work (making them permanent vs degrading). And also leave any resource nodes once they’re done to 1 or so units before you have stone as I guess you can come back and then they’re basically full powered…


At least one migration is pretty much designed into the game. Doing as you say could be viable, but it would necessitate a pretty early expansion and might slow your initial development.


Stone blocks are not very hard to get- stone, coal, or even wood all eventually get you to stone blocks.


I think it depends on the map. If there is space available with good resources, it can be advantageous to move around a while, in which case depleting a resource is not particularly a negative. But if space is limited (or key resources have limited availability) then definitely, stone blocks are the way to go.

But it is a definite sacrifice if you hold up resource usage in a big way, just waiting on stone blocks.