Death’s Gambit Review
A week after the phenomenal Dead Cells released, another MetroidVania has entered the scene. Can Death’s Gambit compete with the recent slew of these games, or should it be left for dead? Check out our review and find out what we thought.
Death’s Gambit Review
Death’s Gambit starts with you picking a starting class and starting item. Each one has different stats and, more importantly, begins with a different weapon. While the stats do matter, you can build any character any way you want as you play. So the real question is: do you want a slow weapon, a fast weapon, or some magic to start with? After you choose a class, you can then select one item to bring with you, much like a Souls game. These are little tools that can help you survive early or even get some quick level if you so choose. Remember that all of this is just starting equipment; there is a lot more to choose from in the main game.
After you choose a class and item, you awaken next to a pile of burning corpses and a giant lizard-man named Vrael. The bodies are your dead soldiers, and Vrael tells you to return to Vados and do your duty. You don’t even make it 10 feet before Death appears, telling you that you are now bound to him by a contract. Death will keep you alive until you complete your mission, but at what cost? He departs after you sign the contract, and your journey to Vados begins.
The path you take is fraught with danger and plenty of enemies to kill. At first, it is just dregs and knights who bother you, but as you progress the enemies become more sinister and dangerous. But even in this hellish place there is one sanctuary, a place where weary travelers gather to sell goods and skills. At first, there are only a few merchants in town, with one asking to bring the people you encounter on your journey here for safety. Saving others is optional, and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want. Protecting them has its benefits, but it also has drawbacks; it is up to you to decide their fates.
At this hub, the game opens up more as well. Before you only had one path to take, but now there are multiple areas to explore with new dangers waiting for you. The mighty Phoenix and its flames burn any who come into its path. The Tundra Lord and his savage wolf men crush any who dare enter his territory. There is also the Stalwart Bulwark who lets none past his great shield. Each blocks your path, and none intend to let you pass. On top of the enemies you face, traps are scattered about to kill you as well. The rewards are great for those who defeat them though.
Death’s Gambit takes a lot of cues from a Souls game. When you die, you are reborn, but you lose a healing item instead of your experience. Traps are unforgiving, and you will often die if you are not paying attention. Mastering the dodge and block mechanics can make a huge difference in fights. There are others, but these are the ones that come to mind quickly. This is more of a warning to those who don’t like the challenge of a Souls game. There are some frustrating deaths, challenge, and bosses in this game. One good thing about the bosses though is you earn experience by fighting them. Even if you die, you still get EXP which you can spend to help you beat the boss.
Combat in Death’s Gambit is really up to your style of play. There are big slow, high damage weapons, and there are quick, low damage weapons. Magic can be used as well, if you have the right stats. All weapons have a stat requirement before using them. If you don’t match the stat, you cannot use the weapon. Death’s Gambit also has weapon skills you can use. The skills are tied to specific weapons. For instance, the Smoldering Guillotine is linked to the Greatsword, while the Heroic Lunge is linked to the Longsword. You are given a lot of options on how you want to play, so you can change up your strategies when you meet a new enemy.
I did have a couple of issues with Death’s Gambit when it came to its frame rate, and I also had two crashes. I am playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro and, although it was rare, things would slow down as the game dropped frames. I did not test this on the standard PlayStation 4, but I did read a couple of threads online that reported issues with this. The frames never dipped during a boss fight though. Outside of these two things, I didn’t run into other bugs.
Death’s Gambit provides an interesting 2D challenge with its dark world filled with fierce enemies. While I can’t recommend it for everyone, anyone who likes challenging 2D action-adventure games will enjoy this title.