Death's Gambit is a hardcore 2D action platformer with rich RPG elements. Master the precise combat, utilizing a wide variety of weapons and abilities to confront the horrors that lurk deep within Siradon. Explore a mysterious and unforgiving world to uncover the true price of immortality. Embrace the challenge of being an agent of Death.
-Expansive World - Travel across the beautifully rendered Obsidian Vale, Witch Woods, Sanguine City, and more. Meet quirky characters from all walks of life, and uncover their narrative threads and secrets
-Incredible Bosses - Hunt towering monsters and other creatures of legend. Each boss is a test of skill, requiring unique strategies to defeat.
-Non-Linear Exploration - Explore levels and bosses in a non-linear order, discover side areas with more secrets to unravel and enemies to purge.
OS: Windows 7 32bit
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93 GHz / AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5600+ 2.9GHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT/ AMD Radeon HD 6450
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 1 GB available space
Sound Card: Windows Compatible Sound card
OS: Windows 7 (32bit) or Higher
Processor: Intel Core i3 or higher
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia Geforce GT520 / AMD Radeon HD 6670 or higher
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 1 GB available space
Sound Card: Windows Compatible Sound card
August 13, 2018
After digging through the internet for what seemed a millennium, I uncovered the mystery of White Rabbit. After three years of hard work, two college students from USC have successfully created their magnum opus: Death’s Gambit. Alex Kubodera is responsible for the beautiful 2D pixelated art and Jean Canellas programmed the game. What started off as “a challenging side-scroller set in a fantasy world with a tinge of sci-fi” blossomed into something more tangible than just words and ideas. The game was made to be a love letter to Dark Souls and converted into a 2D-sidescrolling epic. Feeding off of the success of the Souls games, Death’s Gambit is sure to turn more than just a few heads.
Violence: Death’s Gambit is a basic RPG scenario with swords, axes, tomes, and other fantastical weapons. Enemies attack relentlessly and you will have to face them via common hack-and-slash mechanics. When enemies are slashed or defeated, pixelated blood comes out from their bodies and they fall down, moving no more. Some of the bosses’ lairs in the game are covered in blood and lifeless bodies of fools who have dared to face these savage beasts before. The game is generally gory and bloody, including some scenes of soldiers being devastated and reduced to a flying bundle of bloodied limbs. All scenes and details are in stunning 2D pixel art!
Spiritual Themes: It is no secret or spoiler that Death is a character and is heavily involved in Death’s Gambit. You begin the game as Death’s chosen warrior to accomplish…a mission. It is unknown to the main character and the player, and is only revealed as the game progresses. The player can rest, level up, and do other actions at save points called Death Shrines. These are small altars made to Death scattered across the game. Some of them are eerie and strange, previewing skulls, candles, and statues of Death himself.
There are some enemies that worship Death and are servants of him. At the start of the game, you have a choice to start as an Acolyte of Death, which describes you as a worshiper of Death. You wield Death’s weapon of choice: a scythe.
Other Themes: The game’s main mood is that of despair, despondence, and hopelessness. Most of the characters you meet have given up due to the loss of loved ones, repeated destruction of their homes, or other good reasons to be down in the dumps. But the entire time you’re playing, you won’t be able to shake the feeling that your actions will bring hope to this fictional world.
If Dark Souls did not teach you patience and perseverance, this game certainly will. I will applaud you and shower you with accolades if you manage to defeat a boss without dying at least once. Well, that is not entirely true; the first boss was decently easy. But every boss after that will send you home crying or in a body bag—if there’s anything left of you. Welcome to “Dark Souls 2D,” where you will wish you could roll more, but get struck down when you realize your stamina is gone.
You are Sorun, a fallen soldier of Vados and you have somehow survived an onslaught that only has just now occurred. A mysterious person has pulled you out of the fire and found you awake. He tells you to return to Vados and you begin to return, only to be stopped short by Death. He forces you to sign a contract, granting you immortality, but at what cost? Thus, the story begins. Who are you? How did you end up here? What does Death want? What I love most about these types of games is that they start you off knowing nothing, forcing you to figure out the story as you go, maintaining your interest in the game. It is a clever way of telling a story and one that works well in this game.
There are seven different fight styles you can choose for Sorun before you go off to die a half of a million times: soldier, assassin, blood knight, wizard, noble, sentinel, and Acolyte of Death. Since the sentinel can eventually fight with any weapon type, I chose it as Sorun’s first fight style. I quickly learned that it is a slower style and was one of the main reasons I was dying a lot. Soldier is simple, wielding a sword and blocking awards soul energy, which I will explain later. Assassin is my favorite and uses quick attacks with daggers, gaining energy through dodging. The blood knight carries a decent axe and wields that baby with all finesse and style. He regains lost health when he deals damage.
The wizard uses a tome and shoots magic projectiles out from it. Some projectiles are straight and others shoot out in tri-shot formation. The wizard gains energy from healing himself. The noble wields a magnificent halberd, which is an axe and a spear combined—a glorious weapon and one of my personal favorites. It can jab, swipe, and stab, all with noble-like esteem. The noble’s ability is special access to a merchant who sells good items. Last, but not least, is the Acolyte of Death. He holds a scythe, like his master, and can restore broken Death Shrines, basically giving him access to more rest points than the other styles. Also, he gains energy by simply killing enemies.
I love the variety of styles available at the beginning, since it caters to players who specialize—or at least think they do—in certain abilities, like dodging or parrying. You can also choose an item to start with which includes an armor piece, some items, or a mysterious locket. Your choice here depends on how you want to mold your character.
In any fighting style, there is the general attack button, which does three attacks in a row when pushed three times. You can roll to dodge, which literally dodges any attack. You can also block with your shield, but that can eventually be broken if you constantly block. Don’t worry: you get another shield instantly, because somehow, you have unlimited shields in your pocket. There are different attack variances when jumping and dodging, providing some sort of variety in moves. Use these to the best of your ability when fighting bosses, because it still will not be enough.
The difficulty in Death’s Gambit is high, and that is an understatement. I will admit that it took me more than twelve hours to defeat only four bosses. Some of you will call me a “noob” and you would not be incorrect. But I spent most of my time traversing the various landscapes in the game. The unfortunate part is that enemies respawn once you rest at a shrine. Some areas have many enemies and the fact that they return can be grueling and can mess up your rhythm when exploring. Since the feel of the game encourages more exploration (boasting an extra twenty hours in extra areas alone) the over-saturation of enemies can be annoying and unwittingly discourage any further traversal than absolutely necessary. And good luck trying to “run” through an area without fighting enemies; you’re asking for a quick death.
Sorun has three bars: A health bar, a stamina bar, and an energy bar. As you attack, you use up stamina, but you gain energy to be able to use skills. Skills are special moves you can do with your weapon that can break enemy barriers or cripple your foes. There are many skills to be learned, but are limited to the type of weapon you are using (e.g. a dive attack meant for a halberd cannot be equipped while using a simple sword). What I dislike is that every single action uses up stamina, and it uses it up fast—so fast that it is so easy to lose track of how much stamina you have left. Before you know it, you’re dead, because that roll you wanted to do could not be done because you took one too many swipes at the enemy.
There is somewhat of a skill tree, but it does not seem to help all that much, since talent points are needed and are only acquirable through boss kills. The skills are not as rewarding as they could be and are weak, barely aiding the player in areas that matter, like combat or life and stamina increase. Trust me: I don’t need to be able to shoot infinite arrows if they barely do any damage anyway.
At each rest point, the player is able to level up Sorun’s stats, which include vitality, strength, finesse, endurance, intelligence, and haste. All of these points can be raised using soul shards, dropped by enemies when defeated. If you want to be able to wield strong weapons, raise your strength and vitality. If you’re a wizard, you will want to raise intelligence, for magic potency. Finesse allows for wielding of “finesse” weapons, which are stronger and do more damage. Increase endurance for a larger stamina bar. Needless to say, endurance is my highest stat.
The art in the game is amazing and shows a lot of thought and effort went into creating neat environments using only pixel art. The various character designs are neat and every motion is smooth and calculated. What I love most is the variety and how vastly different each boss is. The variety rivals even that of Dark Souls. In terms of the music, the soundtrack is very well done. It has a somber tone in the quiet moments and adventurous, ominous music when fighting bosses. My favorite theme so far is when facing the dark knight. You can find the composer, Kyle Hnedak, and his work here.
Death’s Gambit is a great game jam-packed with weapons, skills, stats, and various other elements of a common RPG. While the skill tree is pointless, the difficulty a bit too hard, and enemies constantly respawning, the game is still a gem and has managed to astound me with how much fun I ended up having, despite me wanting to put an axe through the television. I highly recommend this game to Dark Souls enthusiasts and gamers who have “gotten gud.” If you are not “gud,” then prepare yourself for a whooping.
Review Code generously provided by Sandbox Strategies.
+ Intriguing story
+ Great soundtrack
+ Plenty of exploration
+ Variety of different fighting styles
+ Beautiful detail on characters and environments
- Pointless skill tree
- Difficulty is too high for average player
- Enemies respawn too often, disrupting exploration