Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is the result of a developer honing its craft over a number of years. Mimimi Games has taken what it learned from Shadow Tactics and Desperados III, created a new unique IP, and made what is undoubtedly its best game yet. If you’re a fan of stealth strategy titles, then, it’s safe to say that you should be pretty excited about Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew.
Being a game in which you take control of a band of pirates, treasure is unsurprisingly at the heart of its tale. Initially you’ll just be in control of Afia, a cursed pirate who’s central to the adventure. She’s dead-set on recovering the lost treasure of the legendary Captain Mordechai, but first she needs a ship – the Red Marley. And while she could try and do it alone, the help of a crew would make things much easier.
This is where Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew deviates a little from Mimimi Games’ past efforts. You see, while Shadow Tactics and Desperados III put you in control of a set cast of characters, unlocked as you progressed the story, here you have much more control of the make up of your crew. Everyone you can recruit here starts out dead, but by finding Black Pearls, you can revive them. The question is, who do you revive first?
It will depend on how you want to play. The gameplay here will be very familiar to those who have played Mimimi Games’ past titles. You’ll start each mission with a one or more objectives, and it’s up to you to lead your small squad of pirates to complete them. Stealth and strategy are key here: you need to push forward without being seen, either killing or knocking out enemies when there’s no other way to get past them.
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What makes things so entertaining and varied, however, is the range of skills available. Each and every member of your crew is unique, opening up new and exciting options within each mission. Afia, for example, is an adept killer, able to warp a short distance to pierce an enemy with her sword. She can also freeze an enemy for a short while, making them unable to see or hear anything. Pinkus, on the other hand, can essentially inhabit an enemy’s body, allowing you to take control of them to operate behind enemy lines. And then there’s Teresa, a sniper who’s deadly once given a good view of an area.
To succeed in Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, you’ll need to carefully consider the skills available to your chosen team, and apply them to the situations you find yourself in. Sometimes, you’ll even need to use the abilities of multiple characters at the same time, which is made relatively easy by the fact you can pause the action, issue commands, then simply tap a button to make them all play out.
Of course, there’s an element of trial and error involved, but Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew not only takes the frustration out of this, it also cleverly makes it a part of the game’s world. Your ship basically has the power to manipulate time, and so with one push of a button you can make a handy checkpoint that you can easily return to if things go awry. It also helps settle your mind that you’re not playing the game wrong if you mess up in a regular basis – experimenting is key here.
Outside of missions – which don’t have to be tackled in a linear manner for the most part, by the way; you’ll generally have a large number of them available at any point, allowing you to decide where you want to go next for the purposes of unlocking additional members of crew, progressing the story etc. – your ship acts as a hub where you can learn more about your crew. You can undertake tutorials and challenges with them, mastering their abilities somewhere safe before putting them to good use, and even complete Crew Tales, unravelling extra details about what makes them tick. It’s a nice touch.
Playing Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew on PS5 for review, the visuals aren’t going to blow you away, but they’re quite pretty all the same. Environments are varied, packed with detail and are generally quite colourful, while your crew is brimming with charm. Play using the game’s Performance mode, and you’ll also find that the framerate is mostly rock-solid. There’s not really much to complain about on the whole, other than loading times being perhaps a little longer than you’d expect, and the camera being a bit unwieldy at times.
If you’re a fan of stealth or strategy games, you really should consider Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew a must-play. This is Mimimi Games at its finest, building on the mechanics it finely tuned in Shadow Tactics and Desperados III while also adding more elements, more freedom and more fun. You’ll quickly come to love this band of unusual pirates, and what each of them offers when out in the field. So much so that you might even be tempted to replay missions just to approach things from a different angle.