Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew Review
I love games set in the old west. Maybe even more, I love games with a pirate theme. For one thing, the setting is not overused. For another, there aren’t any post-apocalyptic pirate games. Well, maybe there are. Finally, a good pirate game reminds me of being a kid, floating through the animatronic bayou in Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride. If you’re a fan of magical, ghostly pirates, then Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is for you. But even if you don’t give a parrot’s squawk about pirates, the game’s stealthy action will draw you in.
I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts
Developed by the same team responsible for the excellent Desperados 3, Shadow Gambit is a real-time stealth action strategy RPG set in a supernatural-filled alternative Lost Caribbean. You begin the game as Afia, a cursed pirate with a sword permanently lodged in her chest. The tutorial prologue teaches the player the basic controls for avoiding and killing enemies, stealthing around the environment, and plotting a path to the next objective. Afia is a pretty straightforward character, with the ability to kill with a lightning-fast attack.
Eventually, you reach the pirate ghost ship, Red Marley, kill the Inquisition soldiers that have taken it captive, and reconnect with the supernatural spirit of the ship. After scouring the ship for two black pearls, you use them to raise a new party member from the undead and plot your course to the next mission.
Because Shadow Gambit is a pirate game, you can probably guess that finding a legendary treasure is the goal. In this case, the treasure belongs to the fabled Captain Mordechai, but of course, you’re also trying to free the Lost Caribbean of the Curse of the Lost Souls that is turning pirates into ambulatory, sentient spirits.
Throughout the game, your supernatural crew will grow to a party of eight unique characters, each with several useful abilities in combat. Some characters, like Suleidy, can aid Afia by growing a tangle of weeds over a recently killed enemy. Gaelle has a magical cannon that’s great for blowing up groups of Inquisition soldiers, and Mr. Mercury uses supernatural powers to allow Afia to travel unseen around the environment for surprise attacks.
Position your Mercenaries
At the beginning of each mission, you select your crew, which grows from two characters to three. All of the characters are useful, depending on the assignment. Missions have a general structure of deciding on a place to land your boat, sneaking and killing towards a main or sub-objectives, and exiting via a supernatural portal.
That rather plain description ignores the heart of Shadow Gambit, which is the puzzle-like nature of nearly every mission. Inquisition guards and other, more powerful enemies have cones of sight that must be considered when planning a route to the objective. Often these overlap, necessitating some creative tactics. The environment can often be used to advantage for cover or used to kill enemies.
Shadow Gambit’s action is real-time but it really leans into allowing players to be inventive and take chances. For one thing, the action can be paused and party members’ actions cued up. An even more useful mechanic is allowing the player to create endless save points, so rewinding and retrying a failed move is relatively painless.
It’s a good thing, too, because even at the easiest difficulty, enemies are extremely vigilant and persistent, and your crew members are pretty squishy. Playing at normal or above will present a considerable challenge.
Accompanying the game’s engaging and challenging combat is a setting and characters that are very entertaining. All the environments look fantastic, with a color-drenched fantasy style that’s full of charm and detail. The characters look great, too, and I really enjoyed both the writing and voice acting. Nothing’s taken too seriously and there’s a slight nod to everything being just a bit ridiculous without any fourth wall-breaking nonsense. Audio design and the music by Filippo Beck Peccoz are both charming and well done.
On PC, I encountered a few minor technical issues, a bugged mission or two, and a few crashes. These sound like they’re headed for an early patch. Aside from that, the frame rate was solid. My biggest grip was that, using the controller on PC, the camera always felt a little untamed and hard to adjust.
Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is a challenging and extremely entertaining stealth action and tactics game. It has a charming setting and story, with characters and mechanics that encourage creative and varied approaches to combat. There aren’t nearly enough great pirate games, so I’m glad Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew sailed into port.
***PC code provided by the publisher for review***
- Great setting and characters
- Engaging action
- Lots of options in combat
- Entertaining voice acting
- Some bugs
- Camera is balky
- Very challenging on higher difficulty