Jon Shafer once again drinking from the 4X well with his upcoming At the Gates


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PC/Mac/Linux •

I’ve been fascinated with the story of Jon Shafer ever since I heard about him back in the Civ IV days where he was a prolific modder catching the eye of Firaxis who hired him as an intern and, eventually, a full-time developer to help with the two Civ IV expansions. Big deal, sure, but the story took an epic turn when he was promoted and made the lead designer for the series’ next iteration, Civ V. Yep, it was his idea to move from square grid to hex and (controversially) abandon the Ultimate Stack of Doom tactic by eliminating units’ ability to stack. Oh, and he did this all before he was 25. When I was 25 I made my own beer bong from parts scavenged from my dad’s garage and Home Depot. Once again, I lose.

Since then, he’s meandered around and, eventually, settled with his own dev house, Conifer Games. Their first title, At the Gates, is another epic 4X strategy title and it’s coming to PC/Mac/Linux in January, 2019.

At the Gates looks a lot like Civ, but its premise is a bit more focused. Instead of guiding a fledgling civ from Stone Age to the stars, you’ll be trying to bring clans together not to simply survive the Roman Empire’s last gasp, but to thrive in it. Yep, you’re trapped in the Dark Ages and that means…well, we’re not entirely sure what it means. Let’s get the blurb:

At the Gates is a 4X grand strategy game from Jon Shafer, designer of Civilization 5.

You are a dark age lord. Your destiny is to build a kingdom in the shadow of the crumbling Roman Empire. Explore the dangerous landscape around you, harvest its resources, and build a mighty economic and military machine. Your clans have their own personalities and desires, so carefully consider how you use them.

It won’t be easy. Your path is unsure. Overcome your immensely strong neighbors. Outlast the frigid winters of the far north to discover a source of gold and vast riches.

Are you the leader who will usher in a new era of European history? Or will you be forgotten?

I’ll probably be forgotten, but that’s because I’m the Charlie Brown of 4X games [of ALL games -ed.]. Still, a new 4X game that’s not a Civ sequel of spin-off sounds fantastic. There’s more:
  • An Evolving Map: Seasons and weather dramatically transform the landscape around you. The river that once served as a barrier in the summer might become a highway in the winter - for both you and your enemies!
  • Character Management: Each of your clans has unique traits and desires, so choose carefully how you use them.
  • Survival & Roguelike Elements: Keep your clans fed through the harsh winter. Resources run out so always be hunting for more. Your neighbors can be immensely strong. Every game poses new challenges and opportunities.
  • Watercolor Art Style: A beautiful watercolor landscape serves as the canvas for your clever economic and military strategies.
  • Tooltips-in-Tooltips!: AtG features a revolutionary user interface which utilizes "tooltips-in-tooltips" for the very first time, making it far easier to learn without sacrificing any gameplay depth.
The best part was announced today: we don't have to wait six months or a year to get behind the wheel, instead we can expect At the Gates (I mean, Jon Shafer's At the Gates; looks like Sid taught him all about top billing when he was at Firaxis) in just over a month. The release date for PC/Mac/Linux is January 23, 2019, so head over to Steam and wishlist this baby so you don't forget. Of course, you can rely on us to remind you, but you need to remember that I'm notoriously lazy. Up to you if you want to risk it.


To add to your John Shafer envy he also seemed like a really nice guy when I met him at the 2006 civilisation convention. I got to sit down for a game of bang with him, Sid Meiers son and Soren Johnson (lead designer of civ 4). If I remember correctly John instantly figured out that Soren was the renegade and brutally murdered him. Maybe a sign of things to come with John taking the reigns for the next installement of the civ series.


It almost looked like he wasn’t going to finish it, but I’m glad he’s made it through. I’ve just been playing some Pandemic; Fall of Rome, so I’m not only ready for this, but I’m ready for some of the less-polished parts of the game. It’s clearly a labor of love, sweat, and tears.




I don’t give reviews from IGN a ton of weight but they just reviewed this game a 4.8 and seemed to suggest it is very broken.


Unfortunately not been seeing great things.


I gave it a 3, but I’d want to give it a 3+ if we had that kind of system. TBH what’s there is very polished. It’s just very noticeable what’s not there (which is a lot).