Shadow Gambit: Cursed Crew: Preview


Previewed on PC

Written by: Meg Richards

Shadow Gambit: Cursed Crew is a strategy stealth game. You play as the cursed pirate crew of the Marley during the Golden Age of piracy as you hunt down clues and relics leading to the treasure of your lost captain. Each member of the crew has Dishonored style powers, which makes the gameplay fun and unique.

Afia Manicato hears that the Red Marley has been attacked by the Inquisition. She sets out to investigate it herself and discovers that the ship is sentient. She joins the ship's crew after learning that the deceased captain of the Marley, Mordechai, hid treasure using several relics and a riddle. After Afia revives a crew member with the help of the ship, the Red Marley sends Afia and her newly revived crew member to rescue Marley's crew. They then hunt down the riddle and relics in a race to find the treasure before it is found by the Inquisition. With each relic that is found, Afia can revive another crew member. 

One of the better parts of the game is the characters. Although from the demo it appears that all of the characters are one dimensional, each character hints in dialogue of being more than initially meets the eye. Even the Inquisition's lackeys appear to have some depth, with lines of dialogue showing that while some are dedicated and believe in the cause, others see it simply as a job.

The breakout star of the demo is the ship, Red Marley herself. She is convincing and quick-witted, but what she doesn't say hints at her having more motivations for finding the treasure than just wealth. Whilst she is very protective of her crew, she has little patience for their shenanigans, this is most evident in her interactions with Pinkus, the Quartermaster, and Afia. Pinkus is another character who stands out. Whilst he has the ship and crew's needs first and foremost, he can occasionally be distracted by his greed or overconfidence.

Afia is the weakest of the cast as initially she is supposed to be the audience surrogate, however, even she has her moments, such as when she tries to become the ship's captain, but Red Marley says no. Hopefully, in the full game where there are individual character missions and backstories are shown, hopefully, each character will become a deeper and more rounded character.

The game mechanics are a mixed bag. One of the better mechanics is the crews' diverse range of abilities. Each crew member feels different. The best power of those I have played are Toya's trap ability and Pinkus' possession. Each crew member feels different, and each ability is unique to them, their backstory and even in some cases their nationality. Even the Red Marley has her own ability: a quick save feature that allows her to save a moment in her memories for the player to revisit in case they fail or are spotted. This ability might be the most important, and yet also one of the only ones that it's possible to forget to use.

Throughout each mission, the crew will have an evolving set of goals they must fulfil. To fulfil these goals the player must stealthily make their way around a map knocking out or killing members of the Inquisition. Often how a player goes about doing this can be puzzling, and for me, this was part of the enjoyment of the game.

However, the controls of the game can be incredibly clunky. One such example of this is that the A, S, D, W, and G buttons control the characters' gear and powers rather than their movement as those buttons normally would in other games. Another odd control is holding the Alt button down while moving the mouse to rotate the camera. Additionally, when using an item, the player has to hold down the mouse button on the item for a few seconds to select it, which can cause a player to be caught unintentionally.

The graphics and art design of the game are visually interesting and fun to look at. The islands' designs are incredibly detailed and often hide secret passages across maps, unusual hiding spots, or ways to kill or knock out Inquisition members. I liked the character design and visuals. The art design is cartoony and visually interesting, with the character art looking reminiscent of those found in League of Legends or the TV show of the same game: Arcane.

There are two types of cutscenes in Shadow Gambit: Cursed Crew. Both types of cutscenes are concise and convey the plot in a simple manner. The non-dialogue cutscenes are very self-explanatory and use close-ups of gear and characters and camera angles to explain what's happening, such as when Afia revives a dead crew member. The other type of cutscenes are dialogue cutscenes, where no action is displayed only images of who is talking and their dialogue. This type of cutscene is reminiscent of Hades and often the dialogue alone gives the player the information required to understand what is happening, what the characters' opinions of each other are, and what they are doing.

Speaking of dialogue, the voice acting in the game is very enjoyable, as is the game's music. Each character sounds unique and has their vocal details. Additionally, the dialogue itself is concise, witty and can reveal small character details. This can even include small details such as acolytes discussing their job and why they do or do not enjoy it. My one issue is that occasionally characters in a scene will comment on a cutscene in-game after a cutscene has ended. This can detract from the gameplay, as you can miss certain lines of dialogue attempting to focus on the game.

I am quite interested in this game and look forward to its full release. As a fan of puzzle games and pirates; the plot and gameplay intrigues me. Additionally, the promise of learning characters' backstories is exciting, especially mysterious characters such as Toya, which the ship refers to as the ultimate warrior who became the ship's cook. This is despite the game's clunky controls. The quick save feature means that it's an excellent game to play on the go as it can be played in quick bursts such as during a lunch break or a commute. I look forward to the game when it gets a full release in August. 

Written by: Meg Richards