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Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)

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Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew review

I can never get quite enough of Jack Sparrow. Or watching Pirates of the Caribbean. And so, as I dived into Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, I knew my heart would be content either way. But the latest Mimimi Games stealth-strategy game isn’t just great for tagging ninja pirates along for the ride. It’s a success story of the studio’s persistence in crafting mastery of the genre and building on what works from their previous Desperados III and Shadow Tactics series entries. I somehow knew in my deepest gut that Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew would offer a much better experience, and I just couldn’t wait to dive in. 

But expectations aside, what exactly does Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew entail? Do the visuals and level design do justice to how far Mimimi Games has come? Is the gameplay worth your time and money? Or would you be better off scratching the itch for real-time strategy elsewhere? Here’s our Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew review to help you decide whether to take the game out for a spin or leave it out to dry until a better strategy comes along.

Dead Pirates Tell Crazy Tales

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

The game follows Afia Manicato, an undead pirate whose quest is to seek out the lost treasure of the conspicuously missing Captain Mordecai. She has to complete the quest in an effort to defeat the tyrannical organization, the Inquisition, whose mission statement is to rid the world of the “walking dead.” She clearly has her work cut out for her, so she wastes no time reviving the captain’s ghost ship, the Red Marley, and sets forth to awaken more pirates from their deep sleep to help her conquer piracy and live happily ever after.

The characters are a strutting delight in appearance, personality, and elemental abilities. Afia herself looks spectral, drawing her sword through a hole in her chest. As you journey on, you’ll collect soul energies you can thrust into the hearts of the pirate crew, recruit them onto Red Marley, and embark on one last adventure together. You might expect flimsy skeletons in place of once-alive pirates, but the undead return with conspicuous flair you can’t help fawning over.

Moment-to-Moment Gameplay

You’ll need to chip away at quests sprawling all over eight alternate Caribbean islands. They usually entail a search for black pearls or soul energy relics, which you use to resurrect your shipmates. And while at it, you’ll run into members of the self-righteous Inquisition and their sadist leader while working your way up toward finding the lost treasure. 

Being a stealth game, you’ll want one person to distract guards and lure them away from their posts while the other crawls their way into restricted areas. If you get spotted, you’ll need to hide for 30 seconds until things calm down. Or, take your chances with the guards. Every character can sneak their way close enough to take down guards. After which, you need to hide the body in bushes or dimly lit places to avoid detection. 

You can click on enemies to see through their vision cones. These are either striped for partial vision, where you can crouch without detection, or filled for full sight, so you can avoid those spots. It’s also quite handy to plan your way around the maps, with the option to map out navigable areas. Plus, you can use environmental traps so that enemies will think their comrades died from work hazards. That said, stealthily crawling your way from cover to cover of the lush, detailed islands isn’t nearly as fun as the crew itself.

Ahoy, Matey

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

A total of eight shipmates spring up from the dead. Each one is uniquely designed and beautifully voice-acted. They all have a unique backstory that’s slowly chipped away aboard the Red Marley. Some even have quests of their own. You have the botanical plant pirate, Suleidy. He can distract enemies with spores or sprout a bush for your friends to hide in plain sight. 

Pinkus can possess enemies within range, allowing you to infiltrate restricted areas without suspicion. Mr. Mercury can create portals in the ground, sucking enemies through them into oblivion. Or he can fast-travel between places undetected. And my personal favorite, Gaelle. She's the cannon lady who launches allies into faraway areas, covering larger distances in short bursts of time.  

With up to three pirates you can tag along with on missions, it becomes tactfully paramount to assess each character’s skills and use them to your advantage. Yet, even as you slowly build your go-to squad team, each character has a vigor meter that fills up upon completing missions. Once filled, it can earn your character a third magical power or upgrade an existing one. So, in the case of Pinkus, while possession allows him to draw enemies away from your team, an upgrade can alter it to draw enemies toward you instead. That way, you can pick them off one by one.

Enemy Splendor

Enemies, too, have their fair share of variety and unique abilities. Putting these into perspective drastically changes your approach to quests. So, you have the Kindred, who are synced telepathically to each other. Take one out, and their counterpart will revive them. However, if you take them out simultaneously, there’ll be no one left to revive the other. 

Acolytes are the “snitches.” Once they spot you, they will ring a massive bell so loud that every enemy in the vicinity will come heeding the call. Enemies like Commissarius aren’t easily distracted. While another will stun the attacker, such that unless a team member finishes them off, it’s game over.

Trial and Error

Speaking of game over, it’s never really the case, as you have loads of chances to try and try again. All thanks to Red Marley, whose “dong” can be heard from a mile away. Ringing the bell means that the ship is committing your mission to memory. So, if, at all, things don't go down as planned, you can always call on Red Marley to restore memories, making the past the present.

It sounds more complex than it needs to be. But, ultimately, it’s the same old “save scumming” you’ve played in a myriad of other games. The only difference is that, as opposed to pulling up the menu to save and retrieve missions, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew makes it so saving your progress is infused into the plot. Thanks, Red Marley.

I did find myself squeezing every ounce of Red Marley’s bong as I could because the missions sure are tricky to complete, especially the later, more elaborate ones. Sometimes, my guys will die, and I will be tempted to use the revive feature to resuscitate them back to life. But rescue missions can take their toll on the remaining squad members. Effectively asking them to head out to a kill spot that often ends in wailing and misery.

Instead, you can just erase everything that went wrong, tweak your previous strategy, and cross your fingers, praying the second (or more consecutive) try works out fine. The game doesn’t punish you for it. Instead, it feels so rewarding to finally crack the puzzle and let out an “I knew I could do it” sigh of relief. Moreover, it pushes you to take daunting risks and enjoy more fulfilling rewards once your efforts pay off.

Plan Ahead

Alternatively, you can plan ahead and watch your ingenuity unfold on-screen with pleasure.  You do this by pausing the game and issuing commands to each character. Then, play the game and watch everyone go to work like clockwork simultaneously. When they successfully complete a mission, you feel an insane rush of joy. Yet even if they fail, it’s still fun to see it happen and find a fix for it.


Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is the game that puts Mimimi Games on a pedestal for perfectly mastering the art of stealth strategy. Every control feels fluid and responsive, with the controller experience, against all odds, outweighing the mouse and keyboard. As soon as the lore and plot catch on, it’s smooth sailing from there, especially with the game's alternate Caribbean maps oozing with intricate detail and charm. 

Kicking it off with an intriguing premise, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew takes you on a ninja piracy journey that keeps getting better and better the more missions you complete. Since each enemy requires a precise way to be taken down, you find yourself constantly tweaking strategies and testing out every possible route that yields the outcome you desire. Even after completing the story, your progress tracker highlights additional challenges and unlockables you missed, thus sending you back to enjoy fresh takes on the islands' adventures. 

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)

Walking Dead Pirates, a Ghost Ship, and a Treasure Hunt

Perhaps the only area where Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew falls short is enemy variety and placement. However, it seems insignificant compared to the amount of fun you have outwitting guards and enjoying an alternate Caribbean landscape oozing with intricate detail and overwhelming charm.

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.