Mimimi Games got my attention in a big way when it launched Desperados 3 in 2020. It made me go back and try its previous 2016 release, Shadow Tactics, which I would wholeheartedly recommend as well. The team is making quite a name for itself developing tough, but enjoyable stealth tactics games, but where we’ve previously had ninjas and cowboys, Mimimi is now turning their attention towards pirates in Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew. I had a short time with this game and came away feeling like it’s more than just a privateer reskin. Shadow Gambit is shaping up to be a fun and exciting evolution of everything Mimimi has done so far.
A tale of treasure & the undead thieves who crave it
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Shadow Gambit right out of the gate is its premise. I mentioned prior that this one puts players in the role of pirates, but what I didn’t say is that they are undead. That’s right, ghost pirates!!! You take on the role of a navigator named Afia. You’ll quickly notice that Afia has a little bit of a full-size cutlass sword embedded her chest. That’s because it’s magic and she can use it to blink through time and space to stab her unfortunate foes. As I played through the game, I was also introduced to Suleidy, who is the crew’s half-plant, half-human doctor, capable of manifesting a single bush of vegetation wherever she pleases. This allows her to cut off guard sightlines and hide, even out in open fields. Many of the crew you’ll discover are similar in their supernatural existence and utility. Each of them brings a different offensive, defensive, or utility skillset to your roster.
Even the ship is alive in Shadow Gambit, which sits at the core of what characters like Afia are after in the first place. The Red Marley is a living ghost ship which once belonged to a dread pirate captain that captured great wealth and hid it somewhere no one has been able to find. Afia makes a deal with it because she wants to find that very treasure. After busting the ship free of its captors, we got to enjoy it as a home base for managing our party members and planning our next moves. That included a training ground where players were able to test out the abilities of new characters they collected for their crew. I wasn’t able to access all of its features, but I also saw a place to upgrade character abilities and make them stronger if you could collect some form of spiritual currency for the ship to use.
More importantly, Shadow Gambit puts some of Mimimi’s best and most refined strategy designs on display. Each mission is a grand map of objectives in which players must navigate one or more of an assembled crew through the confines of an environment and its patrolling guards. For the mission to free The Red Marley ship, Afia not only faced down soldiers with guns, but also cultists, one of which had to be killed by environmental means because they had protections against ghosts. Throughout this level, I was entreated to dodging enemy sight cones, blinking around them with Afia’s abilities, killing them stealthily and carrying their bodies to bushes, and dropping giant boulders on their fragile living bodies.
If you are fearful of making the wrong move and failing, Mimimi’s quick save mechanic returns as a narrative mechanic of the Red Marley itself, which “captures memories” and allows you to restore them at will. That translates to pressing a single button to lock in a save and another button to restore it. This makes experimenting and seeing what path makes the best avenue for your tactics and treachery a blast and I was tickled to see it worked into the very narrative of the game.
More at stake than just doubloons
My time with Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew was short, but exciting. The very premise of a ghost crew searching for a cursed treasure is a delightful one to start from, but this game is also shaping up to be one of the most refined stealth tactics games yet. It keeps the working parts of Mimimi’s previous games and augments them with supernatural abilities, a great home base, interesting choices in roster composition and character progression, and plenty of ways to experiment with your strategies. It’s still going to be a while before we get to play the full game in August, but Shadow Gambit is shaping up to be an incredible tale of ghost pirates set to Mimimi’s top-class understanding of strategy and tactics gameplay.
This preview is based on an early PC version of the game supplied by the publisher. Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew comes out on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S on August 17, 2023.