Death's Gambit: Afterlife
Another 2D Indie Adventure In Death's Gambit
The original Death's Gambit was released in 2018 on both the PC and the PS4, developed by indie studio White Rabbit. Afterlife was released in September 2021 as a free update to the original adding content and major fixes based on community feedback. On that same day, Death's Gambit: Afterlife was released for the first time on the Nintendo Switch as a complete package.
At first glance based on the cover and included goodies, it's evident that inspiration drew from Castlevania despite it being a "2D Soulsbourne." Long-time readers will know how much I hate the term Soulsbourne, specifically because I feel like the term hinders any soul, no pun intended, the game would have.
'Castlevania' Bears A Strong Influence
Fortunately, its Castlevania roots take prevalence over the "Soulsbourne" comparisons. A game that can be considered a direct comparison to Death's Gambit would be Blasphemous, a game that we looked at in the past. Both titles rely on a gothic aesthetic with pixel-based graphics.
Another game that carried the same description of a "2D Soulsbourne" was Tails of Iron, favoring more of a hand-drawn art style and story-driven gameplay. The one thing that all three have in common would be their gameplay mechanics, including shrines as "checkpoints" to save a player's progress. Combat is also similar for a Soulslike, favoring quick reflexes and defensive gameplay to avoid a swift death.
Many Different Ways To Cause Carnage
What makes Death's Gambit a cut above the rest is its varying playstyles that players can choose from. There are seven classes each with its own gimmicks. The Noble, Soldier, and Sentinal classes are your slow and methodical melee classes, rewarding patience. Acolyte of Death allows players to wield a scythe and "control" their deaths should they fall in battle. Ranged specialists like Wizards are another option for those who wish to attack via long-range. Ultimately, I went with the ax-wielding Blood Knight, a class that gets stronger the longer they fight, perfect against bosses.
The gameplay features a similar "dance" with enemies, including guarding and evading enemy attacks while countering in turn. Blocking at the right time will parry the enemy and leave them vulnerable. Most of the gameplay comes from the platforming that takes place in between battles. The pacing comes to a pause during boss battles, but even the bosses have patterns that must be recognized.
'Arise' Is The Attention That Death's Gambit Deserves
While Death's Gambit gameplay is fast-paced and addicting, the world-building is what I feel is most underrated. The story tells of a soldier who is revived by Death to do a favor for him. Unaware of who they were outside of being a soldier, they carry out Death's request while defeating those who wish to stop them.
While the basic plot builds from story cutscenes, there is flavor text sprinkled within each item that tells a greater story. Players can further understand the protagonist's personality as well as the state of events through reading the description of a piece of armor. In this regard I find the comparison between Bloodbourne accurate as most of its world-building and understanding of the plot comes from reading and absorbing the world around the protagonist.
The overall pacing for Death's Gambit is quick enough, as by the time I finished with my preview I already defeated two mini-bosses. It would seem one would be a recurring boss important to the protagonist. Overall, the title is a fun Metroidvania with Dark Souls elements. With enough playstyles to cater to many types of players as well as a variable degree of difficulty, Death's Gambit is a fun experience for fans of all titles.
Death's Gambit Afterlife is available on the PC and Switch