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Est. April 2016. III Version 2.0. III

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DEATH’S GAMBIT
Prepare to die.    

REVIEW
By JAY TEE
24/08/18

Death’s Gambit is a proudly unforgiving experience, quickly raising the stakes and presenting combat as a genuine challenge. As a side scrolling action title, it stands out among it’s peers with a striking art style and an obvious attention to detail. However, imprecise combat, endlessly respawning foes, and lop sided voice acting hold it back from greatness.

You start the game in the aftermath of a horrific battle, and quickly make a bargain with a literal manifestation of Death, before embarking on your adventure. You’ll explore varied locales, and encounter an equally diverse cast of enemies. There’s plenty to sink your teeth into, but right from the get go, the tone is heavy. This is far from a jolly romp, and the oppressively dour atmosphere can make it feel like a bit of a slog.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot here that developer White Rabbit have done well, but Death’s Gambit is definitely an acquired taste.

THE BASICS - Side scrolling action RPG, set in a dark medieval world.

PLATFORMS - PS4, and PC

PLAYERS - Offline - 1, Online - 1

CO-OP? MULTIPLAYER? - None
 
DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT - None currently announced.

TARPS? - At the bottom of all our reviews, you’ll see a series of absurd looking images (with equally stupid, in joke laden names). These are the TARP badges, which represent our ‘Totally Accurate Rating Platform’. They allow us to identify specific things, recognise positive or negative aspects of a games design, and generally indulge our consistent silliness with some visual tomfoolery.

REVIEWS KEY:

The Look - Art style, graphics, and overall presentation.

The Feel - Mechanics, controls, and learning curve.

The Sound - Music, sound effects, and dialogue.

The Experience - Anecdotes and random thoughts.

Good luck dodging this dude’s attacks…

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5

FINAL SCORE:

PIXEL STUNNER - Visually speaking, Death’s Gambit is stunning. The nuanced detail of the pixel art style, and inventive use of perspective, create a layered effect that a lot of 2D games fail to achieve. Atmospheric particles regularly appear in the foreground, but thankfully don’t distract from the action. This is certainly a looker.  

BLAND ME OUT - Unfortunately, a lot of the enemy design feels generic and uninteresting. Boss characters definitely present themselves with more flair, but after a while, it can be tough to differentiate the average grunt from the next. This gets a lot better as you progress further into the game, but early on, it’s definitely a weak point.

OH SNAP! - Character animations are snappy and feel weighted. And you can cut the grass!

Despite certain issues, Death’s Gambit is an ambitious, beautiful looking game, marred by one or two key mis-steps that prevent the overall experience from achieving greatness.

*PS4 review code provided by Adult Swim Games*

CONSISTENCY IS KING - Combat is a huge part of the experience, and it feels inconsistent. You’ll often get caught by a non shield breaking attack, with your shield raised, and still take damage. You’re left unsure of whether your positioning was off, or the hit detection is wonky. The lack of reliable feedback is very frustrating.

JUST RIGHT - You’re gradually introduced to the gameplay mechanics through a series of text tutorials spread throughout the first area of the game. Embedding these in the world is a clever touch, and much more organic than having a separate narrated tutorial. It fits the tone, and gets you into the action without delay.

TOUGH AS NAILS - Prepare to die a lot, from the start. This leans toward the ‘Dark Soul’s’ end of the difficulty spectrum.

BACK AND FORTH - Everyone except the player character is voiced, and this is an odd choice. A silent protagonist is nothing new (Half Life 2 certainly did it right), but your character is shown (through subtitles) to be responding in each conversation. It throws off the rhythm of each interaction, and proved exceptionally jarring throughout.

HANS ZIMMER - The soundtrack is gorgeous, but quite repetitive. You’ll get the same melancholic tunes even in the midst of heated combat, and it doesn’t gel with the on screen action. When you’re wandering around, exploring the world, it totally fits, but variation is the spice of life…

WHIP HIT - Weapon swings, the thud of a successful hit, and ambient sound effects are definitely standout elements.

PUZZLE MUDDLE - I found navigating the U.I, character upgrade screens, and most in game menu’s to be quite fiddly. They are given little to no attention during the text tutorial segments, and can be quite overwhelming. The lack of clarity in this area definitely frustrates, and makes you inadvertently miss important info.

INFINITE LIVES - There’s a certain amount of backtracking, as you explore previously inaccessible areas. This in itself is fine, but the respawning enemies, appearing in the exact same spots where you first encountered and eliminated them, is annoying. I’ve never liked this in games generally, and it grates here.  

NITPICK NELLY - The dodge roll chews up your stamina very quickly, leaving you in hot water as the combat is relentless.

LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ARTICLE!
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET US @JAYTEE_GA, OR E-MAIL: EDITOR@JTGA.CO.UK.

TARP BADGES:

The SHODDY CODDY badge is for a game that includes mechanics or controls that just don’t feel right.

The TEMPORAL CAUSALITY badge is for a game that requires frequent backtracking.

The ORCHESTRAL SCORE badge is for a game that deserves this specific praise: "This game has a great orchestral score".

The DISNEY PIXAR badge is for a game with a unique and / or interesting graphical style.

The OPTIONAL HUFFMAN badge is for a game with confusing settings or options.

The DEALBREAKER badge is for a game where one or two crucial mis-steps is enough to put you off.

The PHOLIAGE PHYSICS badge is  for a game with excellent foliage physics.

GOOD