Adult Swim Games has gone into the permadeath RPG bizz, and the results are pretty freaking satisfying. Death’s Gambit, is the latest from the game studio and it takes a beholden approach to the classic elements of RPG’s of yesteryear while throwing in that permadeath sub-genre that is all the rage right now.
Right from the start menu, you are introduced to your character who has been mortally wounded in battle and is being drug to a massive pyre consisting of what is assumedly your fallen comrades. Just before being tossed in you are “saved” by Death. Nice guy that he is, he offers you a chance to come back to life in order to get revenge. After the formalities of a blood contract, Death Vito Corleones you and informs you that in return, you will owe him a favor one day.
From there you enter the world of Siradon, freshly dubbed as an agent of Death, where you take on an intensely challenging, RPG experience.
The world of Siradon, is vast and dynamic. Each of the new locales is paired with an assortment of enemies that are ever-adaptive to playstyles, and have a nice mix of mini-bosses thrown into the mix to keep things interesting along the way.
I couldn’t go any further without saying Dark Souls. So here it goes. Death’s Gambit is a side-scroller that is heavily inspired by the permadeath nature of the Souls games, which in my opinion, if done right, is never a bad thing.
Character design is legit as heck in both pixelated and classically illustrated form. Each character within Death Gambit’s world is extremely cool, and have well-done voice work to match. The art is very rooted in the classic Final Fantasy and Vagrant Story realm. These detailed art representations are displayed when exchanging dialogue. Outside of that, the world takes on a vintage pixelated look, closer to what you see in Castlevania games with the controls and action to match.
From the get-go, you are able to create your own class of character, along with a specialized item type. I went with a Wizard class, that focused on ranged spell attacks. Throughout the play through, enemies are constantly dropping random items that range from armor and weapon types to consumables. The randomness of these items makes for unique play-through opportunities.
The Rashomon-rooted, non-linear story structure is where the game shines its brightest. These slowly reveal what occurred hours before your character began their quest and even does a really cool limbo thing that has you revisiting your childhood home as a special type of hell. The narrative keeps things interesting till the very end by offering up surprises neck and neck with the surreal.
From the very beginning and your initial deal with Death, you are given a blood signed contract. This allows you to be resurrected after being slaughtered by baddies. Much like fires in Dark Souls, you are respawned at the last site where you rested. From those rest stops, you can do upgrades to your abilities and stats along with reclaiming “feather plums” that you can also use to heal in battle.
Everything done with its own voice is refreshing, even if it is taking place in a familiar arena. Death’s Gambit structures itself on the Souls cornerstone, but its narrative, art design and approach to combat is rad and refreshing. The 10-12 hour play through is challenging, gorgeous and something I think, Death himself and Souls would be proud of.
Death’s Gambit is out now on Playstation 4 and PC for $19.99.