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Aug 16, 2023

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $39.99
We Recommend: $39.99
  • Developer: Mimimi Games
  • Publisher: Mimimi Games
  • Genre: Adventure, RPG, Strategy
  • Released: Aug 17, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5
  • Reviewed: Windows

I’m a sucker for anything pirate-themed. Whether it be “Pirates of the Caribbean”, Sea of Thieves , “The Goonies”, or any of the Monkey Island games, and I’m there, but also helps that each of these are really good. Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is no different, as it offers something so intriguing and interesting from its first moments: a cursed crew, a lost ship, and a lead.… The third outing from developer Mimimi is a refinement of lessons learned and they are in top form here. They’ve coined the term “stealth strategy” for the style of games they make, and Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew shines as an instant classic.

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Mimimi Games, the studio behind Desperados III and Shadow Tactics before it, are back with another real-time tactics game with an emphasis on stealth, and it does not disappoint. You play as Afia Manicato, who comes across the soul of a ship known as the Red Marley. Together, you work to assemble a cursed crew to cleanse the Lost Caribbean of the scourge plaguing the lands, as well as the Spanish Inquisition that inhabit them. Before you start your adventure, there’s three difficulties to choose from: Explorer, Pirate, Legend, and Cursed. The game does a good job at explaining what’s in store with each selection, and playing on Pirate felt fair and balanced, if not a bit easier than I’m used to.

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew has a bit of a different structure than Mimimi’s prior games. While the main missions will be the primary attraction, there’s a lot more here such as side content and a hub area to explore. The main missions take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how stealthy you are. Then there are crew tales that further explore the backstory of each crew member, and then optional missions to take part in. There’s a total of three acts, and easily 30 hours of game to be found here, and it’s all enjoyable.

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Shadow Gambit is good at showing you the ropes and getting you acquainted to the gameplay, whether you’re a novice or veteran of their games. First and foremost, this is a game of trial and error. To accommodate that, the game encourages you to quicksave and quickload as often as you like or is needed. It’s a save-scummer’s paradise, but it a critical way to play the game. It allows you to experiment with a minimal loss of progression, in order to see what things work, and what doesn’t. And aside from death, you’re more often than not just going to have a less than ideal path through a given level. Putting so much emphasis on manual saving and reloading might seem like a lot, but it puts you in total control. And the game will stack your quick saves, so it is possible to roll back to an earlier one if you managed to save at the wrong time. What helps this is that the quicksave is built into the lore of the game, as there’s a hefty amount of magic use, the ship asks you to make memories (quicksaves) to capture the moment. It just adds so much to the experience over the prior games.

There will be times you’ll have to enter combat. If you’ve stayed stealthy, you can either kill an enemy, or simply subdue them with a non-lethal attack, and tie them up so they can’t warn any others. The game takes a bit too long to inform the player that non-lethal take downs are even an option in the game, but they do exist. Once you have multiple people in your crew, you can move them together or separately. Late game missions require a lot of micromanagement, the returning shadow mode feature lets you queue up movements and attacks to be in-sync with multiple characters for a seamless attack on the enemy. And nothing is more satisfying than pulling these off. Enemies have view cones, which you can turn enable one at a time, to learn their sight lines and movement patterns. Some missions will have a new enemy type, the custodes – these are supernatural beings that keep tears closed. Attack and subdue them, and that bond is broken, and they stun all enemies nearby. Each enemy requires a precise way to take them down, and finding everyone’s weakness is a highlight.

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There are eight characters that will occupy your crew: Afia Manicato who can blink across chasms and even kill an enemy at the other end while also pausing time for a single enemy. Suleidy is the ship’s doctor and focuses on poisons and odors, which brings her bedside manner into question. Then there’s Toya of Igna, the ship’s cook and an amalgamation of characters found in Shadow Tactics wielding distractions and teleportation. There’s many more to recruit into your crew, such as a Scottish shipwright and a French lady who knows her way around a cannon. It’s an impressive lot, that when it comes time to picking a crew for a mission, makes for some hard choices. Character has always been a strength in Mimimi’s games, but it seems they really emphasized personalities even more this time around.

This is true of the ship too, the Red Marley. It has a soul, and you’ll frequently talk to it. It’s also the hub for the entire game, a place to embark on crew tales, and select your missions. It’s a gorgeous, spacious ship that anyone would be proud of. And I always look forward to returning to it, because for as much death as there is, it’s just so full of life.

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There are several islands, all of them handcrafted in their design. They each even have their own lighting for sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight missions. It’s impressive how detailed it is, but also how much easier it is to see characters, enemies, and mission objectives without things feeling cluttered. Returning to previously visited islands never feels recycled, as the time of day differences help set it apart. Enemy placement is also different, as well.

An upgrade system exists here, through vigor. Vigor is earned by completing missions, and can be used to unlock new abilities for use during play. There’s a logbook in the game that tracks your statistics of islands, crew, and globally. This level completion lets you earn additional rewards. One of the biggest draws is the badges system, something all of Mimimi’s games have. Badges are equatable to achievements, and for completing specific goals and challenges, earn you rewards in-game.

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The game has amazing artwork, with a striking style that’s really clean. There’s also some really great atmosphere and environments, it all feels right. The way the waves splash upon the beach or the Red Marley, the ghostly glow of outposts. It’s a pirate theme that doesn’t feel cliche, it feels unique and fresh. The game supports ultrawide monitors and resolutions, and I experienced no slowdowns, glitches, bugs, or problems while playing. It looks as good as feels, screaming at the highest of framerates.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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As someone who quicksaves vigorously, having a mechanic around that, tied to the game’s lore is so smart and encouraging. They absolutely own the stealth strategy genre, and they don’t miss. Mimimi Games is at their best when they are working with an original IP, and this being totally their own, makes this their best game yet. Mimimi’s third game with Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is sheer brilliance, where little victories lead into big smiles.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes