The current influx of new strategy games shows no sign of abating, as another game in this genre has heaved into view over the horizon.
Coming from Mimimi Games is Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, and it features a cast of characters whose appearance will be familiar to anyone who has seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. Yes, the cast we get to play as are not only pirates, which is cool enough, but undead pirates at that.
I immediately sat up and took notice so come with me to a tale of pirates, zombies, zombie pirates, and a search for hidden treasure. All aboard!
The presentation of Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is our first port of call (see what I did there?) and the first thing to report is that the game looks great. It is viewed from the traditional isometric top three quarter view as a default, but the camera can be zoomed right in until all you can see is your crew. Perhaps that is not recommended, as the enemies are red hot, but it’s great that everything can be panned and moved around almost infinitely, always giving you a good view of the action. In fact, the only time the camera lets you down is if you try to go to an area that the game doesn’t want you to go to quite yet, refusing to show what is going on if you stray out of bounds.
But really, this is a game that excels visually. The same is true for the design of the pirates themselves, and the ship they ride on – The Red Marley. Everything looks excellent, whilst the enemies come along as a pretty varied bunch, with different abilities depending on their rank.
And I must say, the sound is also very good indeed, with fully voiced cutscenes present. Even if they are largely static, the voice acting is great. The vocalisations of the enemies can get a little samey after a while, but as long as you kill them before they start wittering about how they can ”smell your rotting flesh, pirate” all is golden.
All in all, I really like the way Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew comes across – it’s heading towards a decent score already!
Now, story. It is vital in a game like this, and luckily this is a very good element too.
We are Afia, a dead pirate who has a sword in her chest. But this isn’t as much of a handicap as you might imagine. Indeed, it seems easier to sheathe the sword there, as she is able to draw it and kill bad guys at a moment’s notice! As the game opens, we are a pirate in need of a ship, and luckily the ghost ship The Red Marley is docked nearby. The bad news is that the Marley has been captured by the Inquisition, and her captain Mordechai has been fully killed. While she doesn’t need a new captain, there is room for a Navigator, and so once we have freed her decks of the bad guys, we set sail into the Lost Caribbean.
From there, we have to recover the rest of the crew, find enough Black Pearls and Soul Energy to revive them all, then go on to find the treasure that Mordechai had hidden away. Oh, and to stay clear of the Inquisition and stop their evil plans. Should be easy, right? Well…
Moving onto the gameplay aspects and Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew continues the good streak.
The action on offer here is very much on the stealth end of the spectrum, as trying to go all Rambo, shanking people will quickly result in a restart. Sneaking about, hiding bodies and then slowly making your way through a level is very much the best way to go. The game allows you to control a variable number of characters per level, depending on how many you have revived, and the best thing is the variety of powers that each crew mate has. The choice of which crew members to revive is entirely up to you, so finding a character that has the skills that you need is paramount.
For instance, I revived Suleidy, the ship’s doctor first, as she has the ability to grow bushes on the spot, allowing us to hide and sneak up on enemies. I then revived Teresa, the long distance sniper unit, as taking enemies out from afar is always helpful. However, she has only one shot to kill, and then must retrieve the bolt she has fired before she can shoot again, which stops her being overpowered. From then on, the world is your oyster with a whole range of crew mates to bring back.
In a nice touch, each time you revive someone, they are given their own tutorial and challenge room, helping teach and inform you about their powers. This is a good way of training you to use the particular strengths in missions.
Those missions we undertake are a varied bunch, taking place on separate islands. These have a variety of layouts and enemies to learn and take out, and the way that you use your crew’s powers is vital.
As a default, the crew can be either controlled individually, or moved as a unit. One thing to bear in mind is that if you do decide to send someone alone, make sure the rest of the crew are hidden, as if they aren’t being directly controlled, they are exceedingly dumb and will stand still even if they have been spotted; shot to pieces. If a crew member does “die” they can be revived in a certain time frame, but if they die a lot, the time to revive reduces until eventually they are returned to the Marley.
One of the best things about Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is planning a simultaneous attack with all your crew members – simply pressing up on the D-pad allows you to select a crew member, give them an instruction, then move to the next and repeat. Then with a single press of the Y button, you get to unleash the attacks you have planned. The amount of planning and reconnaissance that is required to make sure that no one is going to see your victims fall is extremely engrossing. That makes the game a real challenge.
The save mechanism is interesting in Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew also. The Marley can capture a memory at any time, and if the worst happens, you can go back to that memory and try your attack again. It is certainly worthwhile trying to make sure that you save regularly, as seeing your entire plan unravel – and everyone die – when you haven’t saved for a while is a little galling. Make no mistake, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is a tough game, and with the higher difficulties comes even more challenge; your crew have less health and the enemies do a lot more damage. It is paramount to be circumspect and take it slowly. It does feel sometimes that there is only one correct path, and straying from it is punished harshly, but a little light exploring will usually allow you to come up with a different approach that will pay dividends.
You’ll certainly enjoy your time with the crew of The Red Marley in Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew. The challenge is real, make no mistake, but using the different crew members and finding the sweet spot in terms of powers does keep you retrying. With a host of powers to learn, and a variety of enemies to try them out on, there are a ton of possible ways to complete the missions.
If you fancy a bit of stealth in your life, you could do a lot worse than Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew.