Death’s Gambit: Afterlife

Originally released by White Rabbit LLC in 2018, this 2021 update and expansion brings many long-awaited tweaks while bringing the title to Nintendo Switch for the first time. Thanks to Alex Kubodera (Co-Founder) for the review code. Find Death’s Gambit on your regional Switch eShop now.

It was clear straight away that this 2D Metroidvania title was setting up a medieval world with its own unique spin. I woke atop the piles of dead following an unseen battle and immediately signed a contract with the crow-feathered shade of Death itself. I could not wait to dive in. All screenshots are from my first playthrough, so as to avoid heavy spoilers.

A meeting with Death itself…and the contract is signed.

First Impressions

Immediately after loading up, there was plenty of rich lore and crisp pixel-art graphics keeping me busy. I didn’t expect Death to have a voice, but it quickly created an atmosphere of power and foreboding. Testing character builds through ‘Soul Visualisation’ was fun and relevant while making my character creation choices that much easier. I thoroughly enjoyed trying out each of the available seven classes before setting out.

Tutorials are spread worldwide as stone tablets, reminding me of ‘Messages’ in the Soulsborne games. As a result, my induction felt perfectly paced rather than overwhelming. I was ready to invest time into getting my adventure underway, and I spent 15 hours doing just that.

Gameplay/Controls

Describing Death’s Gambit: Afterlife as a “Hardcore 2D RPG Action Platformer“, White Rabbit has crafted a true homage to the Metroidvania and Soulsborne genres here. The Controls are simple yet versatile, the combat punishing but equally fair, and the boss fights both intimidating and rewarding. The game itself offers a very simple gameplay loop of exploration, combat, level-ups, and massive boss battles. I found this to be particularly reminiscent of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, as well as Dark Souls.

Movement is on the left stick, with the 4 face buttons set to attack, jump, abilities and dodge. The right shoulder button activates the currently equipped item (changeable with the d-pad) and there are more controls to go through once you’re in-game. I found them intuitive and it didn’t take much to become proficient at slaying monsters and traversing the world.

The Blood Knight’s progression tree

The RPG elements are deep and thought-provoking, yet deceptively simple. The progression tree for each class offers general and class-specific upgrades, with more tabs unlocked as you proceed. Players have already begun sharing and discussing character builds designed for various purposes with each other (Power, Agility, Speedrunning, etc.). So far these are all well-balanced and catered for throughout Siradon.

Sound/Music

There isn’t much to say about the music other than Sublime. Kyle Hnedak’s score was a perfect accompaniment to this already impressive game. Each area of the world had its own nuance to the music, and boss battles sounded suitably epic.

The Voice-acting in-game was an unexpected bonus, and some lines were utterly hilarious.

Replayability

The game has a huge map with many unique areas to explore. Progression is non-linear, and bosses offer a ‘Heroic’ rematch after defeating them to challenge the player further. These features (and many more) promise that whichever ending you unlock (there are several) you’ll be sure to return for the New Game Plus.

HLTB.com estimates a 16-hour playtime for completionists here. I disagree as there’s a lot to be gained from playing a new class or with different equipment and upgrades. The replayability here really does border on limitless.

Summary
This 2021 game upgrade brings a whole host of improvements without compromising on the original experience. As a metroidvania title it excels all-round, and with the deep RPG elements really weighing in to the experience, White Rabbit LLC have knocked this out of the park. It was, and will continue to be, a pleasure to experience.
Good
  • Simple Controls
  • Amazing sound design
  • Deep and rewarding RPG elements
  • Tough combat, yet still fair
  • Near-endless replayability
  • Extremely responsive development team
Bad
  • Some game-breaking bugs still present at time of writing
  • Patches and updates delayed by Nintendo
9.3
Amazing
Gameplay - 9.5
Controls - 8.5
Sound/Music - 10
Replayability - 9
Written by
Hello Spoony Bards! I’m Chris. I’ve been gaming ever since I was able to hold a controller, from blockbuster AAA experiences, to Indie one-person efforts. My favoured genres tend to be Survival-Horror and JRPGs, but I'll play anything once! Happy trails!

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