Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew Review – The Pirate’s Life for Me (PC)

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is a deeply rewarding and mind-busting stealth tactics game from Mimimi Games. Featuring unique and memorable characters, Shadow Gambit will unleash your inner tactician as you take your undead pirate crew across the Lost Caribbean. Find out how rewarding the whole experience is in this review of Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew.

Shadow Gambit Review

It’s a tough job – being a cursed, undead pirate that is. Especially when there is a religious cult hellbent on eradicating you from existence and taking your treasure. How do you stop the zealots from sailing the seas and, more importantly, protect your treasure? In Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, that’s exactly what you’ll find out. Hop aboard the deck of The Red Marley, for the opportunities are vast, the missions are fierce, and your shipmates, at one point, lived their lives by the pirates’ code.

Mimimi Games has been making games over 10 years, and by now they’re pretty much the experts on tactical, isometric adventures. Coming off the heels of Desperados 3, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, and the standalone expansion Aiko’s Choice, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew builds and expands on their prior titles with a new, creative premise and fun, magical abilities. The Munich-based studio has really outdone themselves this time with an accessible yet challenging pirate adventure that is sure to leave players satisfied.

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S for $39.99 There’s also a demo available on Steam!

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew - Release Date Trailer

Story: Cursed to Sail the Open Seas

Cursed to a life in the Lost Caribbean isn’t as bad as it sounds. For our crew, it all begins with a ship called The Red Marley. The Red Marley isn’t like any ship though – it’s inhabited by a spirit, and the spirit personifies the ship with feelings, commands, and powers. Over time, we’ll expand the crew to include a variety of new faces and personalities.

The crew is filled with a variety of interesting characters, including a monkey!

The crew is filled with a variety of interesting characters, including a monkey!

Near the beginning, we’re introduced to Afia – a cursed pirate with a cutlass piercing her chest. This wound is nothing to a cursed pirate because, well, they don’t really need their bodies. In fact, many of crew mates are skeletons or have their bones showing. In this world, the cursed pirates get their powers from the Black Pearls (no, not that Black Pearl!) that hold their souls.

While sneaking about an island, Afia is contacted by a mysterious ship spirit called The Red Marley. After rescuing the sentient ship from a religious cult called The Inquisition of the Burning Maiden, Afia is recruited by the Marley to collect several artifacts and cause chaos among the inquisitors. With Afia as the navigator, The Red Marley sets sail to the open sea to find the islands holding the artifacts. By expanding the crew and finding the mystical artifacts, Afia and the Marley can prevent the Inquisition from destroying the world as they know it.

The Red Marley is commanded by a ship spirit.

The Red Marley is commanded by a ship spirit.

All Aboard The Red Marley

After getting your bearings, you’re free to walk around The Red Marley – it is a ship after all! Here you can talk to the crew and do what’s called Crew Tales. I’m not going to call them side quests, but they are a chance to get to know the characters you’ll be controlling. They are essentially optional dialogue cutscenes with a few interactive elements while you explore the ship. It’s a fun little exercise if anything, and it’s nice to see the crew joke and bicker amongst themselves. One of my favorites is Quentin, a skeleton with a treasure chest strapped to his back and an affinity for collecting magical loot.

Quentin is always trying to purchase belongings from the rest of the crew.

Quentin is always trying to purchase belongings from the rest of the crew.

At the beginning, it’s just Afia aboard the Marley, but other characters are unlocked very quickly. You’ll have the choice of which characters you want to revive, which is admittedly a big decision. Some characters are better at killing, while others are better at distracting guards. There are a surprising amount of factors to consider such as their melee speed, which abilities they have, and how they sync with the rest of the crew.

Overall, the story takes some twists and turns throughout the entire campaign. I enjoyed it and loved uncovering all the secrets the Marley holds. Over time, you’ll start to uncover clues and hints that there is more at stake here, and the Inquisition has much more sinister motives. There’s not a whole lot of filler here, and the pace of the story is quick and exciting. Of course, the gameplay is the meat and potatoes in a title like this, but it’s nice to see a story that isn’t full of cliches.

Gameplay: When a Plan Comes Together…

If you’ve played Shadow Tactics or Desperados 3, you’ll be familiar with how Shadow Gambit plays. The developers lovingly call it a “stealth strategy” because stealth is key to surviving each mission. In each level, you’ll lead your team of pirates to the objective while covering your tracks and taking out the guards. You can see view cones of each guard by right clicking on them, and each level is put together like a puzzle – determining where you can safely travel, learning the guard patrols, and coming up with a plan to get to your objective.

Don't waltz through the viewcones of your enemies, unless you want an alarm raised!

Don’t waltz through the viewcones of your enemies, unless you want an alarm raised!

The characters and their abilities are really the star of the show here. Each member of your crew has unique abilities and certain strengths and weaknesses. For example, Afia is great at stopping guards for a moment with her time stop skill, and then charging in to deliver a dash attack. John, the shipwright, has the ability to travel underground and suddenly pop out in a different location, taking out anyone in his way. Another character, Quentin, has a golden skull that you can use to lure guards away. Using your whole team to pull off some really slick kills is satisfying. Of course, when things things hit the fan, being able to improvise adds to the excitement.


In my 30+ hours with the game, I haven’t found a combination of characters that couldn’t be used to complete a level. Each character is so vastly different, yet they all seem to mesh together in a beautiful way. There are so many situations in Shadow Gambit where I just had to stop, survey the area, and figure out a game plan with the abilities I had. There’s always a solution, there are always different approaches, and there’s always a way through. Shadow Gambit makes you feel like a mastermind through the entire adventure by providing meaningful abilities and scenarios.

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is a fantastic real-time tactics game featuring a crew of undead pirates, creative skills, and open-ended gameplay.

Nothing feels better than eliminating a whole patrol simultaneously.

For the tough situations, you have Shadow Mode. This mode lets you plot out individual moves for each of your crew, and then commence them individually or simultaneously. It lets you plan out one move for each crewmate, which works okay if you have impeccable timing. My experience had a lot more chaos involved, and I frequently entered the Shadow Mode just to pause the game and reflect on what is happening. By plotting your moves carefully and using all of your abilities, you can pretty much get through any situation.

Even in the face of complete and utter annihilation, there’s always hope. There’s one map that is effectively a prison – there walls that you can’t scale over and guards everywhere. By the time I made it inside by sneaking up a vine-covered wall and hiding in a pile of hay, I noticed several other ways in. There are other things I could have taken advantage of too. There was a precarious boulder on a cliff, just waiting to be pushed off. If I was a little bit smarter or more observant, I could have lured guards under this rock and crushed multiple sentries while raising no alarm! It just goes to show how much replay value Shadow Gambit has and how the game is a smorgasbord of player choice.

In this level, there are canons we can use to set a trap.

In this level, there are canons we can use to set a trap.

The Crew Is Family

At first, my favorite character was the ship’s doctor, Suleidy. She’s a half-plant pirate with a couple of invaluable skills. One of her abilities lets you grow a large bush that you can hide in, which coincidentally makes her really great at sneaking up on enemies. Another character that I’ve grown to love, Pinkus von Presswald, can possess guards and freely walk around. The fact that these abilities are so “magical” works to the games advantage because, well, they are fun! You can tell the developers were having a great time coming up with these new abilities.

Pinkus can take control of acolytes and wander through enemy defenses, letting you set up the perfect ambush.

Pinkus can take control of acolytes and wander through enemy defenses, letting you set up the perfect ambush.

After you unlock a few characters, you’ll start accruing vigor points. These points will let you upgrade a character and grant them a new skill. These new skills aren’t really a game changer, but they do help in certain situations. For example, Suleidy gets a skill that draws a guard closer to where she is standing, potentially pulling them to a dark and secluded area where they can be handled safely. Vigor points are gained rather slowly at first, but by using characters that you don’t use very often, you’ll get rewarded more.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

Most of the time, you’ll be given a mission and sent to an island to find a specific item or kill a specific NPC. After fulfilling the objective, you’ll usually need to find your way off the island as well by opening a portal. While the objectives aren’t groundbreaking, the levels themselves are interesting and large. Most enemies are placed in at least groups of 2, so they have someone watching their back. Because of this, you’ll need to carefully find your approach and decide which enemies to take out and how you’re going to do it.

Most of the missions follow this template. I found that the character side missions, called Captain’s Tests, were more innovative than the story missions. In one mission, I had to travel all around a castle fortress to find clues left by the estranged father of your crewmate. In another, I had to collect different ingredients for the Marley’s cook in order to settle a rivalry. At one point, I had to cut a piece of rotting ghost meat and collect it before it hit the ground by using the crewmate’s teleport ability. These were so much more interesting than the campaign missions, even if they didn’t have the stakes behind them. If you end up playing Shadow Gambit, I highly recommend you do these side missions!

The side missions in Shadow Gambit have unique and interesting objectives, like cooking a new dish to settle an undead rivalry.

The side missions in Shadow Gambit have unique and interesting objectives, like cooking a new dish to settle an undead rivalry.

Later on, there are a few frustrating mechanics that are related to the story. While I don’t want to give too much information away, it involved being forced to replay small sections. It’s not a huge part of the game, but I really didn’t enjoy this section. Being forced to replay something is rarely fun, and in this case it’s no different. 

The Burning Maiden Army

The most common guard you’ll find is an acolyte – these are run-of-the-mill guards that can be easily distracted and disposed of with some careful timing. The other enemies you’ll find are the Iudex, a lookout with long range vision, and the Commissarius, a stronger version of acolyte that can’t be distracted. However, the toughest enemies are easily the Kindred and the Prognosticar. The Kindred come in pairs and both bodies need to be eliminated at the same time or else they’ll revive. The Prognosticars are a little different – they will immediately paralyze any crewmate that attempts to attack it, so you always need two crewmates to kill it. The hardest islands, or at least the levels that require the most thought, often have large groups with all of these enemies.

Unfortunately, there are no other enemies types in the game. It would have been nice to have more enemy types, even if they’re reskins of existing enemies. By the end of the campaign, there was a part of me wanting a little more variety. It would have been really neat to see wildlife, or even just a few more enemy types of the Inquisition.

Sneaky sneaky!

Sneaky sneaky!

Graphics/Audio: Haunted Tropics

In their previous games, Mimimi Games used a more realistic tone. In Shadow Gambit, you can see there is a more experimental, almost painterly look to the visuals. From the default camera distance, characters are easy to see and everything is quite distinctive. Animations have small but memorable details. For example, when Afia attacks with her sword, you can see her put it back into her chest. The maps are filled with a similar amount of detail, and even have many unique assets. Angler’s Reef is one such map that has a giant angler skeleton breaching the water, providing a memorable yet creepy centerpiece.

The audio is equally as impressive with memorable music, sound effects, and voice acting. The voice acting in particular is impressive, including every line of dialogue from every character. In terms of music, there’s a lot of different tracks and ambience depending on the island and situation. Music can abruptly change if your team is spotted, which does increase the intensity. 

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Mimimi Games.

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is a wild, creative, and fulfilling strategy adventure taking place in the fictional Lost Caribbean. The ragtag crew of cursed pirates aboard The Red Marley compliment each other in both gameplay and personality. The fantastical abilities of each pirate, coupled with the large and open-ended levels, give players the freedom to approach their objective from any angle. This thrilling stealth tactics adventure is captivating, addictive, and definitely worth experiencing.
  • Approach each situation any way you please
  • Each pirate has their own unique and useful abilities
  • Graphics and audio are fantastic
  • Difficult, but never unfair
  • Not much in terms of enemy variety
  • Certain objectives can be frustrating

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