Death’s Gambit is described as a hardcore 2D platformer that has some RPG factors mixed in with it, and it’s a term that kind of fits the game. After experiencing what Death’s Gambit has to offer I would say it isn’t the hardest of hardcore games and nor is it the most intriguing, but it is serviceable. Death’s Gambit is a game where you’ll die over and over to get better, but you might tire of it before you reach the end.
To answer the question of dying and rebirth you have to get to the basics. Much like other hardcore billed games the point is learning about the enemies and the environment of Death’s Gambit. Each region has its own enemy types, and as you open up paths you can explore the areas in your own order. Bosses can mostly be fought in whichever order barring a few, but some are much stronger than others and require you to level up the main character Sorun. You can pick different builds for Sorun, be it focussing on magic, sword and shield, or scythe. Each weapon has unique abilities to unlock such as causing bleeding on enemies or granting extra damage.
When you start out Sorun is quite weak and even the most basic of enemies can be a challenge, but quickly enough you’ll earn shards through killing which allow for stats to be upgraded, including vitality, strength, and endurance. The stronger Sorun gets the easier it is to dispatch enemies, but you’ll be treading through the same areas and fighting the same foes until you get to a level where fighting a boss is feasible. While bosses may be daunting at first you’ll quickly learn their patterns as moves are noticeably telegraphed giving time to prepare a counter or to move out of the way. That’s not to say you won’t die because you will but that’ll be down to your reactions being too slow or not having enough stamina to roll out of the way.
While the mechanics are alright Death’s Gambit seems to miss the spark that some of its contemporaries hold. The story and lore don’t really grab hold despite being about a servant of Death, and the world doesn’t inspire. In fact, it’s more likely to frustrate in some areas, especially in places where you can’t see traps. The environments are varied enough though and the design work at times is easy to appreciate. What does stand out is the score with the music matching the gameplay well, and it really does sound fantastic, managing to bring up the atmosphere somewhat.
Death’s Gambit is almost an above average 2D hardcore title, with challenging bosses and some solid environmental design. However the game lacks atmosphere and the story just doesn’t quite take hold. The world is compact enough that repetition is unavoidable, and repeating the same steps can you wear down. Death’s Gambit isn’t a bad game but it simply doesn’t have the spark that others in the genre do.
Version Tested: PS4 – also available on PC