Death’s Gambit is a 2D Souls-like RPG platformer which was originally released for PlayStation and PC in 2018, developed by White Rabbit and published by Adult Swim Games. A few years later in 2021, a new version of the game titled Death’s Gambit: Afterlife was released for Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation with an Xbox version on the way. This revised version of the game includes over 10 new levels, over 30 additional weapons, 5 more bosses and further tweaks.
Set in the decrepit land of Siradon, this dark fantasy title sees you take on the role of Death’s right hand man Sorun on a quest to reap the souls of the guardians of the realm. As with most Dark Souls-inspired games, the story is very light touch here with more of a focus on gothic world building and brutal action combat. Despite this, there is some excellent voice acting, side characters and subplots which do their part in fleshing out the roughly 20-hour main quest.
After being resurrected by Death, you are presented with a choice of character classes. Each class grants a unique weapon type and varied stats that change how you’ll experience Death’s Gambit, particularly in the earlier stages. We tried out a few classes including the standard soldier who employers a slower fighting style, a wizard that granted us ranged magic attacks and the assassin who employs quick attacks but lacks in resilience. Each one felt distinct and offers some excellent replay value since every encounter will need to be approach differently.
The pixel art style here shines with immensely details sprites, animations, background and set pieces. The levels are stunning and vary between snowy mountains, dark caves and eerie forests.
The game plays much like other souls-likes, with a restorative plume which is used to regain health as well as difficult combat incorporating attacks, blocks and dodges with an endurance meter to boot. Upon defeating the large variety of bosses and enemies you are rewarded with shards which is Death’s Gambit’s version of souls. These shards can be used to level up Sorun at Death Idol statues which function in the same way bonfires do in Dark Souls, restoring defeated enemies as well as regenerating Sorun’s health and plumes. There are also vendors scattered throughout the bleak world of Siradon, who will take Shards as currency in exchange for various items.
There is also a hub area called the central sanctuary where you can interact with various NPCs, purchase items and learn abilities. Without spoiling any plot points, these relationships can develop over the course of the game leading to combat encounters and even different endings.
Not only is this game a souls-like, a platformer and an RPG, it is also a metroidvania. Upon acquiring upgrades for Sorun, new areas can be accessed throughout the world resulting in some backtracking. These abilities include sliding, jumping, gliding and a strong stomp to fracture previously impassible barriers. While this is par for the course for these kind of games, we did feel like the pacing was occasionally hampered by the backtracking, with some sections being quite confusing in terms of progression.
There are many bosses in the game, each with a creative arena in which you fight them. One boss saw us teetering on a seesaw style platform, constantly adjusting our positioning to survive. Another rained down lightning attacks from above, forcing us to rapidly dodge before getting a chance to attack. Some are better than others however, with some extremely punishing fights putting up significant roadblocks until you master their move sets. While it was always satisfying to overcome these boss battles, it is certainly not going to appeal to everyone.
One of the additional features in Afterlife is the introduction of the heroic mode. This mode essentially pits you against bosses you have previously defeated who are now even more powerful. Not for the faint hearted, heroic mode will definitely prolong the experience for more hardcore players looking to defeat the most difficult opponents.
The soundtrack of Death’s Gambit: Afterlife is excellent, with a variety of musical sequences that set the tone of each area and ramp up in boss fights to increase the already tense atmosphere.
Death’s Gambit: Afterlife takes what was an OK game and forges it into a good one. The game is a complete mash-up of ideas including platforming, RPG elements, souls-like gameplay and metroidvania exploration. It combines these inspirations in an effective manner across the beautiful and varied dark fantasy world. The story is serviceable but the plot really shines through interactions through NPCs and the multiple endings on offer. This game is difficult and at times, incredibly frustrating. Despite some pacing issues, it still feels rewarding to overcome a tough encounter and progress. With the additional modes and a large array of classes and builds, Death’s Gambit: Afterlife is an experience that offers a large amount of replayability, fun and frustration.
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