Review | Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

A Bountiful Treasure

Mimimi Games, makers of the Shadow Tactics and Desperados series have just made their best title yet.  Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is a real-time strategy game featuring excellent gameplay, an intriguing story, great audio, and more.  Sadly, it’s being released right in the heart of one of the busiest game calendars of all time.  No matter when you’re reading this review though, know that this game is excellent.  As the crew of the Red Marley, you’ll face hundreds of brain-taxing scenarios which you’ll use otherworldly abilities to overcome.  Slicing, dicing, shooting, cannoning, and hitting people over the head with a magical anchor are but a few of the incredible abilities on hand as you fight to be an evil murderous pirate and beat the even more evil and murderous inquisition to the treasure, yar!

The Red Marley & It’s Crew

The game starts with you controlling one character, Afia.  She is looking to join the magical ship The Red Marley’s crew and hunt down said ship’s late captain’s treasure.  After freeing the vessel you’ll begin the long journey of reviving its crew.  In this world, there are humans and the cursed, the latter of which can be brought back to life using Black Pearls as long as their souls remain intact. Destroying said souls is the job of the evil Inquisition, led by a powerful ruler who is the main antagonist. Over 20 or so hours I fought the Inquisition, saved various cursed, and had a hell of a lot of fun. The story, writing, and voice acting do a solid job in slowly introducing you to not only the game mechanics but a narrative that I found compelling roughly a third of the way through.

One of the biggest mechanics in the game is the Red Marley’s ability to freeze and rewind time.  It’s a clever way to justify your in-game mechanics of quick saving/loading and pausing things to plan moves. This is a game built to take advantage of save scumming.  Your characters only have a few hit points early on, and failure can lead to a swift death. It’s a classic Mimimi style, with a mix of real-time and planned strategy.  With a controller, you directly move the characters, while clicking where you want them to go with a mouse and keyboard. In-between missions you’ll be able to run around and do side quests on the Marley’s main deck.  It takes a while to unlock all of the playable characters, and to revive each you’ll need a black pearl and a level of soul energy.

Once you’re ready to embark you’ll bring Afia to the ship’s map room and choose a destination.  There are a handful of islands that are reused well throughout the campaign, as early quests will rarely touch the majority of the map.  This makes it so that revisiting them feels exciting still, as you finally have a reason to see the rest of an island. Before you can head there though you’ll need to choose who to take.  Each character has a unique set of abilities and passive benefits.  Afia and others can climb vines, which makes navigating levels easier.  A few unlockable crewmembers can swim, while others hilariously cannot.  While you boat in to start you’ll need to take out specific enemies and create a portal to exit a level. Where it gets really interesting is how those abilities can be combined through real-time and pre-planned actions.

Sublime Strategic Gameplay

Shadow Gambit allows you to play it in real time or you can pause the action at any point.  Pausing allows you to get a bearing on who is where, what they can see, and what can be interacted with.  It also allows you to queue up one action per each of the up to three playable characters you are controlling.  My favorite part of the game is utilizing all three characters at once to quickly dispatch one or more enemies without causing an alarm.  An example of one of my favorite combos is having Afia use her magic dash to take out a guard, while the ship’s cook uses his teleport kill to take out the guard looking at Afia’s target.  While this is happening the ship’s cannoneer is firing a tied-up enemy into the elite enemy who was up on the watchtower looking at them both, stunning him temporarily.  The instant I tell the game to execute these actions I swap to the cook and have him dash up the tower and eliminate the stunned enemy.

You’ll pull off moves like that hundreds of times throughout the campaign, and it never stops feeling incredible.  Unlocking each crew member takes a fair bit of time. Once revived you are offered an opportunity to visit the ethereal “training deck” and learn their move set.  Finding the right mix of stealth, killing, and subterfuge is critical.  You’ll always want at least one crew member who can distract guards and lure them away from their posts.  While it is possible to get through most missions without it, you’re essentially putting the game on extremely hard mode if you try.  Each crew member also has a flintlock pistol with which you can shoot mf’ers right in the face, though it’s extremely loud and will almost certainly gain you an alarm.  Once an alarm is triggered you have to stay hidden for thirty seconds before things calm down.

Hiding means staying out of the Inquisition’s vision cones.  You can select any enemy at any time and see exactly where they’re seeing.  At night their vision is worse, and during the day you’re going to need a lot of bushes to hide in if you want to stay unnoticed.  A solid green cone means you’ll be seen no matter what, while an alternating line means you’ll only be seen if you stand up.  Thankfully your accursed crew has great thigh strength and can stay crouched forever at the press of a button. Between your fantastical abilities, the island’s abundance of bushes, and several fun-to-use environmental traps I never found the game to be overly difficult on the normal setting.

The Delightful Sites and Sounds of the Lost Caribbean

Graphically the game looks and runs great on both Xbox Series X and PC. You will mainly play in a ¾ overhead view, though you can zoom out to a straight-down camera angle or zoom in for a more front-facing one. I primarily played on PC as I had that code come in a lot earlier than Xbox, and the game’s graphics shined thanks to Windows 11’s Auto HDR. Sadly that feature didn’t kick in for me on Series X, but hopefully, it will be added at or post-launch. The game goes for a stylized art style, using a vibrant color palette. There are lots of greens, blues, pinks, and purples to be seen around the various islands. Thankfully this solid look is matched in the animations. The game is never hard to read, as long as you move the camera in the right place, and the animation department for Mimimi makes you feel like a badass as you take out zealot after zealot.

Audio-wise the game holds up as well.  The voice work, as previously noted, is damned good for a title of this scope and budget.  The actors take advantage of a well-written script and match the looks and feelings of their characters perfectly. The soundtrack is damned good, too.  Lots of jaunty sea tunes accompany you as you traverse the multiple layers of the ship, conduct excursions on islands, and watch the various in-game conversations and cutscenes that take place in an unmoving 2d art style.

On both PC and Console, I ran into zero bugs, which is refreshing.  I had no graphical issues, no crashes, no lag, nothing.  The only hitch was the occasional one when doing an auto-save that would last for roughly a second.  As an entirely single-player game, there is no need/ability to have crossplay, and sadly there is no cross-progression.  That meant I spent the majority of my 30 hours in the game on PC, but I put in as many as I could on Xbox to make sure the port was solid, and it is.

Wrapping Things Up

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew is fantastic in every way.  Excellent gameplay, nice graphics, great sound, and a ton of variety in its objectives mean this absolute gem is one you should look into no matter when you’re reading this review.

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

Played on
Steam (Main) Xbox Series X
Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew


  • + Gameplay
  • + Variety
  • + Art Style
  • + Writing
  • + Voice Acting


  • - Release Date
9.0 out of 10
XboxEra Scoring Policy

Jesse 'Doncabesa' Norris

Proud father of two, lucky to have a wife far too good for me. I write a ton of reviews, am a host on the You Had Me At Halo podcast, and help fill out anywhere I can for our site.

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  1. If you like puzzles, stealth, incredibly well-made games - Mimimi deserve your support. Day -9999.

  2. Avatar for Freed Freed says:


    Shadow Tactics was such a dream-game scenario for me when it first found out about it, as a stealth fan it scratched so many itches for me in the genre that other titles just did not. Desperados 3 was fantastic, and Shadow Gambit is another great one! It’s not really a series but I really like to think of them as part of the same unofficial trilogy!

  3. I noticed there was a 2 hour trial available for anyone interested. The games out so it should be in the store.

    Starting on launch day we’ll offer a trial version of the game on Xbox Series and PlayStation 5 that gives you two hours of playtime before you have to decide to purchase the full game. That’s plenty of time to test the waters for any up-and-coming cursed pirate!

    You’ll get to play the beginning of the game which equals to ~2-4 hours of gameplay, depending on your experience with the genre and your playstyle.

    The demo includes the game intro, various missions on two islands, and multiple visits to your ghost ship, the Red Marley, which serves as a hub between missions.

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