Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew Hands-on Preview – Stealthy swashbucklers

Posted on June 12, 2023

From the creators of Desperados 3, a new stealth strategy game full of ghost pirates and dangerous decisions is Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, releasing later this year. We had the chance to check out the first few hours of the game, and it’s shaping up to be a thrilling adventure.

Set during an alternate history of the Golden Age of Piracy, you’ll join a ghost ship, assemble your very own pirate crew, and you’ll have to carefully navigate stages by stealthily taking down your enemies, using a variety of unique abilities in a lush Pirates of the Caribbean style setting.

Straight away, the visual aesthetic of Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is appealing, with supernatural characters and colourful spooky vibesy. The main character, Afia, has a sword permanently lodged in her chest, and she rips it out to use it as a weapon before putting it firmly back into place through her torso. As we have seen before, pirates in supernatural settings are a good fit, and the team has fun with it here.

“…being more fantastical allows for some creative ways to tackle each stage.”

While the team’s previous stealth-strategy game was grounded in reality, this one being fantastical allows for some creative ways to tackle each stage. Essentially, each area is like a puzzle filled with patrolling enemies, and you need to figure out the best way to take them down one by one without being seen. Each character in your crew has different abilities, and you’ll need to cleverly combine these to get the best outcome.

For example, Afia has the Blink skill, which allows her to strike and attack from a distance with a quick teleport, even if the enemy would normally be out of reach. Another early character I added to my crew has access to a bird whistle to attract enemies, but they can also place down Katashiro’s to lay them as traps. Combining the two, luring an enemy into a zone, and then pulling the trigger for a ghostly slasher kill is very satisfying, and I’m curious to see what other abilities can have this kind of synergy as you get deeper into the game.

Failure is a part of the experience; when you get seen in Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, you’ll quickly take damage to the point of death, although you can quickly escape if you’re lucky and hide to avoid guards for 30 seconds. You’ll need to make use of the ability to “capture memories”; done at the press of a button, this works like a quick save that can be swiftly reloaded if you make a mistake at the push of another button. Quickly I got into a habit of using this whenever I entered a new area, which gave me the freedom to experiment and make mistakes without worrying about losing progress.

You’ll have your hub, your ghost ship the Red Marley, where you can resurrect new crewmates, gain missions, do training for new abilities, and more. The ship itself works wonderfully well as a home base, and it has the potential to expand as you progress. As you add crewmates, they’ll each have their own strengths and weaknesses to account for. Afia, for example, hates water, so an early puzzle requires you to use a crewmate to swim so that they can create a different path for her.

Shadow Mode also allows you to freeze, select one action per crewmate and then execute them at the same time, taking down multiple foes at once. Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew ticks all the boxes of this stealth strategy genre; you feel clever and accomplished with every successful move you make, and it’s satisfying to navigate through a complicated stage full of enemies, leaving corpses behind you and escaping without taking a lick of damage.

Overall, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew seems to be challenging, but in the best way. If you enjoy the genre, including the trial-and-error style that comes along with it as you tackle increasingly difficult areas, this ghostly pirate aesthetic is a brilliant setting that is jam-packed with potential.

A demo for Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew will be available as part of Steam Next Fest from June 19 to June 26, and it releases fully on August 17 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S.