Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew was released back in August and I liked it a lot! Following reviewing it, it quickly became one of my most played games of the year, spending dozens of hours inside its clever stealth and tactics sandbox. So, when the two DLCs for the game, Yuki’s Wish and Zagan’s Ritual, recently dropped, I eagerly jumped in.
These both are meaty expansions on the already generous in-length base game, adding around six hours of play each. New playable characters that you can retroactively take into previously explored levels… new maps and islands to work through… it more than delivers the goods. However, the atmosphere is different. I’m reminded that as I play the talented developer Mimimi Games are closing their doors due to personal burnout. This is the last thing I will ever play by them. It’s a hell of a send-off, but damn will they be a sorely missed studio.
Starting with Zagan’s Ritual, the pirate gang is introduced to a high-ranking member of the enemy Inquisition by the name of, you guessed it, Zagan. He’s a Prognosticar, the kind of officer you’ve already seen peppered around the maps, conducting otherworldly rituals. Only, he’s now defected from the Inquisition and seeks your help in performing a dark ritual. Though it isn’t initially clear his full intentions with this ritual and how it benefits you, it tantalisingly teases the potential of the party learning the secrets of the Inquisition’s Holy Flame.
The new map that you’re given is a single standalone island. Awaiting at its centre is an imposing, big Gothic mansion. Though, like the base game, you’re never exploring the interiors of this build and others, Mimimi Games still manages to effectively paint its majesty. Surrounding courtyards, narrow channels and cliffsides are just some of the routes you’ll be navigating and vision cone-dodging through.
Zagan is a crucial and formidable addition to the meta of Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew. Those abilities that the enemy Prognosticars could do before such as freezing opponents in place and preventing the attempted murder of a comrade? You can just do those abilities now. However, they come with a risk vs reward price. Zagan can exorcise enemies to kill them and do so with generous range, but it chips off one of his four health points. The only way to generate this piece of health back is by forcing subjects to be subjected to visions that stun them in place but this has to be in incredibly close range, is a slow action and therefore is very easy to be caught doing.
This risk vs reward type of gameplay is very good at highlighting the unpredictability of Zagan’s powers, something that is frequently referenced in the mission dialogue. It also fosters experimentation. Do you have a big enough window to let him do his thing and exorcise a guard, using another unit to simultaneously disguise as or dispatch those that have the former guard in their sights? These are questions players will regularly have to ask themselves.
Zagan is also there for you if you get sloppy. If you accidentally walk a crew member through an enemy’s vision cone, Zagan (if in range) will automatically and efficiently use their other ability to disable their vision for a brief window as a saving grace. A similar ability to that of the main character Afia, but this new character is the only one that does it automatically.
All in all, Zagan’s Ritual is a fantastic DLC expansion to the already excellent Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew. It stands alone in its own right and helps to mix up the DNA of parties you’ll bring out with you on adventures, all while peeling back the curtain on the mysterious Inquisition all that little bit more.
If Zagan’s Ritual was all about breaking the meta of Shadow Gambit down to its core, then the Yuki’s Wish DLC hones in on being a final hurrah for Mimimi Games and forming a new connective tissue to their other properties. The most obvious way it does this is by throwing Yuki and her adorable tanuki Kuma from the studio’s breakout hit Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun into the fray.
Yuki’s story has her on the hunt for an elusive island that is always on the move, needing the pirate crew’s help to complete her mission. Accompanying her is a new map that is stylised like much of the Edo Japan era iconography you’ll find in their debut game. The biome is made up of low flat lands where the ocean meets and collides with greenery, causing a flooded appearance. What this means is that rather than a dark, muddy bayou appearance, you have rich blues of the sea intertwining with vivid greens to beautiful effect. Populating the island are beach shores, cherry blossoms, temple buildings and dragon statues. Perhaps the most gorgeous map yet for Shadow Gambit.
“… a hell of a send-off.”
Yuki’s abilities are made up of using Kuma as a lure that guards will wander over to when they are first struck with one of her blowdarts. What this means is that no matter how far away from Kuma (they can go quite far!) she is, she never has to be near where the enemy ends up. This situation is perfect for when she can’t get to where you can isolate a foe, but maybe another teammate can thanks to their abilities. Another way to dispatch can be using Kuma in conjunction with Yuki’s tripwire ability, luring a foe around a corner and out of sight before being taken out.
What becomes apparent is that Yuki is a solid all-rounder, but that isn’t entirely doing her justice. She’s a master of all. Her aforementioned moves undeniably all require a lot of thought. However, her melee kill substitutes enemies with tree logs, making bodies quickly disappear in the blink of an eye, something to be utilised in the heat of the moment.
Yuki’s arc throughout her DLC feels incredibly self-aware. Yes, it’s a simple means of celebrating everything that has come prior and connecting two universes, but her hunt for an elusive, ever-moving island feels reflective of Mimimi Games’ place in the industry. Themselves, and Yuki, are always chasing an unreachable goal. They’re always looking to one-up themselves.
No game is quite like a Mimimi Games joint. With so many moving systems and parts, they’re a product of their time and couldn’t have been made to this scale as recently as a decade ago. Yes, there are earlier examples like the Desperados series (of which they quite literally revived to make the third entry), but the leaps and bounds the studio made in the past few years are incomparable. They did this, with little competition. Most admirable, they never remained complacent in this time, always striving to better their craft. Of course, this studio took a personal toll in the process. They’re one of the hardest-working companies in the industry.
The dust may have settled on Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew and Mimimi Games, but their footprint will always remain. It doesn’t take much of a glance into their work to recognise the human cost involved. The creativity and mastery at hand. They may have been working and developing for a niche but damn it, it was their niche. If you’re a lover of games at all and have yet to explore the developer’s work, I implore you to set sail and do so, sharing tales of what is now one of the late and greats.