PREVIEW / Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew (PC)

Stealth in gaming is such a hit-and-miss thing for me; I love the concept but it’s very much a case of when it works it works. It’s a mechanic that’s often shoe-horned into a title it doesn’t belong in. We’ve all played those games where we’ve hit a horrible, totally out-of-place, stealth section that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense to anything else we’re doing. It’s a death sentence to any kind of genuine flow the game has built up and just serves as an annoying speed bump. Unfortunately, what this can also serve to do is put us off stealth mechanics in general and this is a crying shame when there are some awesome stealth-based games out there that are totally worthy of recommendation. In these cases sneaking about the place offing enemies in creative ways from the shadows is a joy. Now what does this have to do with anything? Well, the game we’ll be having a sneaky peek at today is Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew. It’s already one to watch and it’s not even out yet.

I’m very glad to have been given the demo of this brilliant RTS/Stealth hybrid. At the same time, I’m very sad that I’m not able to play the entire thing right away because I’m, having far too much fun and don’t want it to end. Good things to those who wait and all that but in this case, I don’t want to. I could actually finish this preview there, but “play it, it’s good” is a wee bit lazy so I suppose I should elaborate.

I don’t recall playing a stealth game that’s also a real-time strategy before. Most games in this genre want you to kill everything using tactics and guile. This is usually about clearing a map of enemies while fulfilling an objective. I know I don’t need to tell you what an RTS is but it’s important for comparison here. In this case, we’re not being asked to kill all of the enemies on the map. This is about picking the best way through a dangerous situation and completing an objective without being caught. Think Hitman but with a team of characters in an isometric setting. For me, at least, this is a really refreshing way to play. It’s a lot of fun too, which is obviously quite important.

We’re not at release yet so I can’t tell you a vast amount about the story. In Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew you’ll be taking on the role of Afia Monicato, (initially at least,) as she joins the crew of The Red Marley, a very haunted, (and scarily alive,) ghost ship. Treasure will be sought and adventure had but there’s also the matter of a bunch of pesky Inquisitors who are in your way and have a real distaste for cursed souls like yourself. The first act of this really intriguing adventure sees us freeing the ship from Inquisitorial control, and taking control of some of its crew. Here we learn the basics in terms of how the game works and start getting to grips with a really useful ability granted by the ship. Importantly this really does feel like the first act of the game. The fact that this is also the tutorial comes second as it’s very nicely masked. Obviously, you need to learn the controls and what you’re doing but too many tutorials are slow and laborious and don’t have any impact on the story. Here we get right into the action and learn as we go, which is always nice to see.

To aid you The Marley can take snap-shots of time. This means that if you screw up you can reload and choose a point from about four stored memories to jump back to. Importantly, this is an ability that you control, so you need to use your strategic brain and choose the most opportune moments to remember. If you save a bunch of memories in spaces that land you in dangerous situations or unhelpful ones, that’s entirely your doing. What this means is that you won’t have to keep going back to the start of a level each time you fluff up, assuming you’re using this ability wisely, of course.

Each of the pirates has some really awesome abilities which need to be used strategically in the same fashion as we would expect from any other RTS on the market. What’s different here is that all of these abilities offer a different approach to the stealth mechanic. Instead of the usual board clearing, baddy bashing stuff that we’ve all seen a million times we’re helping our other characters by opening up windows for stealth kills, creating new hiding spots, etc. From the perspective of someone that’s a huge fan of the genre, this all helps to create a new and really unusual way of playing.

Graphically Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, is a pretty gorgeous game. At the moment the maps are dark and eerie and perfectly fitting for the type of setting we’re playing in. There’s quite a lot of dialogue breaking up the action and the characters here are beautifully drawn out. The dialogue is also spoken and the voice acting is impressive> Look and feel wise we’re onto a winner and what I’ve played thus far doesn’t at any point feel like a work in progress. The controls are simple and effective, so that’s pretty much all the nuts and bolts boxes ticked I think. At this stage, this is really impressive because although these demos are usually polished we never expect miracles from an unfinished title.

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is a game that I’ve gone from knowing absolutely nothing about to being one that I can’t wait to play in full. I was genuinely sad when the demo ended and I really look forward to seeing what’s going to happen next. If you’re a fan of strategy games and are looking for a slightly different take on the genre then this is definitely one to watch. With a bit of luck, I’ll be back in the future with the full low down on release. For the time being though, this is absolutely a game that’s worth keeping an eye on.


This preview is based on a demo of the game provided by the publisher.