The next title from Jon Shafer, designer of Sid Meier’s Civilization 5, finally has a release date. Called Jon Shafer’s At the Gates, it’s a novel strategy game seven years in the making. The game will be available through Steam on Jan. 23.
At the Gates begins in Dark Ages Europe, tasking players with leading their tribe to glory. The presentation is reminiscent of early Civilization titles, with an isometric perspective and small units. Unlike other strategy games in the space, At the Gates features an evolving map that will change with the seasons. According to the game description, it also features survival and 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.
Shafer left AAA development in 2013, following Civilization 5, to found his own studio called Conifer Games. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, At the Gates was originally scheduled for a 2014 release. Unfortunately, the project suffered multiple delays, which were attributed to health problems and, later, burnout.
Meanwhile, in late 2017, Shafer signed on with Paradox Interactive to work on an undisclosed project. The stint lasted just six months before they parted ways, citing creative differences.
“I can’t go into details for legal reasons,” Shafer told Polygon via email, “but the press release a year ago when I left noted it was due to a bad fit with culture and process, and that honestly is true. I’ve been in the games business for 14 years now, and Paradox even longer. We both have clear ways we want to work, and sometimes things don’t line up.”
Shafer, who now lives in Stockholm, Sweden, said he’s excited for fans who have stuck with him all these years to finally be able to play his game.
“I love At the Gates,” Shafer said, “and even as its designer I really enjoy playing it, but in many ways it was a prototype that just kept growing until it blossomed into a full, ‘real’ game. I have much more ambitious plans bouncing around in my head as well, can’t wait to share them once they’re more developed.”