Death’s Gambit: Afterlife (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 07.12.2021 1

Review for Death’s Gambit: Afterlife on Nintendo Switch

A somewhat frequent fusion of genres nowadays, "soulsvanias" seem to be a part of the industry that is growing slowly but steadily. It's a fusion that's basically like bread and butter, because Dark Souls is to a certain degree a metroidvania game, due to its large, labyrinthine world… just one that's much harder. One of the most popular of this mix of genres was 2018's Death's Gambit, a 2D action/adventure, which offered a large world to explore, as well as the tough and methodical swordplay expected from a soulslike. Quite rough around the edges, White Rabbit's creation could be much better. Commendable for an indie team, the developer went back to it, polished it, and even added a hefty amount of new content, making it the perfect version for newcomers to experience it - but is the game any fun?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Death Gambit has probably gone a bit too far with resembling Dark Souls as well as other games. It even jokes about the similarities at one point. It's not how it has its own version of "bonfires" where you return after death, or its own version of the Estus Flask that acts as the health potion. No. It's more how it has a kind of similar premise (undead warrior braving a bleak world), but doesn't really have… character. No, that's not correct. It has character, but it feels as if it is unsure of being its own thing, and is instead content with being a pale imitation of the title(s) that inspired it, many times copying whole scenes from it. The same can be said about its purposely obscure narration, which, while enjoyably mysterious for the most part, it can occasionally leave you questioning what is going on. Not the things that you are supposed to question. No. You'll actually forget simple details of the story - especially characters, as many (Death not included) are somewhat forgettable.

Screenshot for Death’s Gambit: Afterlife on Nintendo Switch

Concerning the story, you control Sorun, a knight who is basically tasked, after a failed expedition to obtain the source of immortality, to actually destroy it as a herald of Death. It's a simple, dark medieval fantasy story, in a typically morbid (for a soulslike) setting, that, by the way, looks really, really good, despite it - once again - feeling like a copycat, rather than a unique world. Generally, the whole thing works… but won't really stick with most for long. Having said that, it's pretty neat how the game actually uses the hero's constant respawns in the narrative. Aside from Death mocking your failure, or Sorun going back to his past after a couple of deaths, which help in adding a bit of a backstory to it all, NPCs often react to his return, with boss characters stunned by him appearing right before their eyes, a few minutes after they slayed him.

Besides all that, Death's Gambit is metroidvania 101, with a large world to explore, and abilities to unlock, which provide the means to further explore this gargantuan maze, whether that's through a double jump move, or a technique that destroys certain kinds of floors. Again, nothing here is bad, but nothing is great either. It's a bit too standard of a metroidvania, and as a result doesn't stand out from the rest. It should also be noted that, although inspired by Dark Souls, the only place that will challenge you will be boss fights. The rest of the enemies are neither challenging, and that coupled with how few you'll found while running around, will kind of bore you to death (pun intended), as there aren't many opportunities to do something other than wander around… in search of new areas to wander around on.

Screenshot for Death’s Gambit: Afterlife on Nintendo Switch

While the general "bestiary" isn't that interesting, the cast of bosses definitely is. Bar some fights with human enemies, most of these battles are definitely the highlight of the game, with each boss having unique abilities and patterns. They are tough, but never really feel unfair. A nice touch is how, upon his defeat, Sorun is given some soul points (the game's experience and currency) depending on the damage he has managed to do, in essence rewarding players for trying, even if they have failed. Another cool idea is that it's possible to find collectible grimoires, that shed some backstory on the boss of the area, with a full collection adding a nice buff of some kind. Even better? One can replay the boss fight, but in their harder form, something that can be really, really challenging - especially because the controls can occasionally give you trouble. Don't worry. Death's Gambit isn't badly made. The controls work fine. It's just that 'fine' isn't enough in such a game.

The combat feels a bit "clunkier" than usual - more an annoyance than an extra layer of challenge, to be honest, as the dodge, as well as the parry windows are fairly generous - just make sure you get very good at them. A second issue, which depending on the player might be a minor or major one, is how this lucks decent visual feedback. Especially during the more chaotic combat scenarios (and they are many), it's hard to understand whether Sorun has been hit, something that applies to the enemies as well. It's as if everyone is hitting air, and yet health bars keep on diminishing. The biggest problem with Death's Gambit, though, is that, generally speaking, it's boring… and there's nothing specific to point at, to be perfectly honest.

Screenshot for Death’s Gambit: Afterlife on Nintendo Switch

The world, the combat, the exploration bit, the story. Nothing manages to impress. All these are generally good but fail to stand out. It's a mix of a metroidvania and a soulslike, but a mix that simply offers the bare essentials of those two, but nothing more than that. Sure, it's full of neat ideas, but these are small things that don't change the experience that much, whether that's the fact that there's a variety of health items, rather one single type, or how you can temporarily "sacrifice" some of those to get a damage boost. There's a nice class variety, each one with its own ability tree, and with most having a unique gimmick, like how the assassin builds energy for his abilities by dodging, while the scythe-wielding Acolyte of Death kills to do that, but in the end, few will feel the urge to return to the very beginning and start all over. Some won't even find the incentive to reach the end.

Of course, needless to say that the one writing this truly understands that sometimes it's all just a matter of personal taste. This clearly wasn't for him, but maybe it might be great for you. After all, despite being somewhat rough around the edges, the original Death's Gambit was quite positively received by most who tried it out. In that sense, this new expanded version, Afterlife, is an easy pick, with more things to enjoy, like more areas, weapons, and bosses, some patches here and there, as well as some mechanical overhauls. If you get the chance to try out a demo, or take a look at a friend's copy, please do so, as you are looking at more than 20 hours of content here for a single play-through.

Screenshot for Death’s Gambit: Afterlife on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

In terms of content, Death's Gambit justifies a purchase, especially now with Death's Gambit: Afterlife, and the new stuff that it has added, along with some refining here and there. Having said that, this is probably a big, nicely designed, fun… ok. It's an ok blend of the exploration found in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, served along a combat philosophy, and an overall vibe that takes its cue from Dark Souls. Nothing is bad, but nothing is great either. Ok. Fans of either "genres" can find better metroidvania/soulslike cocktails nowadays.

Developer

White Rabbit

Publisher

Serenity Forge

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Reminds me in the style of Hades with the respawn narrative

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