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In Which I Apologized


This isn't my pool, but I really wished it was.

Hey folks, I’ve landed safely in Los Angeles, more or less, and I’m adjusting to life in California. It’s different than Michigan, to say the least. I know I said in my last post I’d put up my review/thoughts of Death’s Gambit, and I meant it. I even had a gloriously awful pun of a title, CaSOULSvania. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. My living situation has turned out to be significantly different from what I thought it was going to be, and right now I’m not really in a place where I can play video-games for any length of time. So, I’m unlikely to have any game reviews until November, for which I apologize. For what it’s worth, believe me when I say I’m more annoyed about it than you. I certainly won’t be playing Spider-Man, Fallout 76 or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey when they come out. It’s kind of hard to play for any length of time when you have 12 roommates. Yes, you read that right. But Jason, is that legal? Probably not. California has all sorts of housing and political shenanigans going on that I really don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, I’m hoping to be in a new place by November. Anyhoo, I hate to leave a post this small, so I am going to give my initial impressions of Death’s Gambit, because I did play through the first three or so hours, and I do want to talk about it. Suffice to say, these are my initial impressions which are pretty limited, so please don’t take it as a full review.

Death’s Gambit has been touted and advertised as a 2D Soulslike platformer, and that’s a fairly accurate description. Because its 2D, it’s probably more comparable to Salt & Sanctuary than anything else. However, I haven’t played Salt & Sanctuary yet, it’s still on my backlog of games. So, I can’t really make that comparison. Stylistically it’s gorgeous, the colors are vibrant, and it evokes the best of the 16-bit era, when the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo (both excellent systems, arguably two of the best ever) battled for domination of America’s living rooms. Side note, if you want to know more about that era, check out the book Console Wars by Blake J. Harris. Death’s Gambit feels like a hybrid between platformer and RPG; like a platformer, it has puzzles to solve, platforms to jump from and traps to avoid. But like an RPG, it has a class system that allows you to play as a variant of the usual Fighter/Mage/Thief. However, you choose which abilities you level up, so despite whatever class you start as, you don’t have to play that way completely, although each class has certain abilities that do not change. If this sounds like Dark Souls, that’s because it is: you get XP when you kill enemies, when you rest at a Death Idol, all the enemies, save bosses, respawn, and souls are used for both XP and currency. However, the twist on the souls' formula here is that you don’t lose your XP when you die, you lose your feathers. Feathers are items that have two purposes, for starters they’re your main healing item, and you only have a limited number of them. They replenish at Idols, much like the Dark Souls Estus Flasks or Nioh’s Elixirs, but in addition, you can sacrifice the number of feathers you carry with you for an increase in damage. The more feathers you sacrifice, the less you can heal, but the more damage you do. It adds a unique spin on the soulsborne style of “high risk, high reward,” gameplay that’s more prevalent in Bloodborne and Nioh. You can also rechallenge bosses at a higher level for a bigger challenge and (I presume) more experience.

The Metroidvania aspects come into play more in world design than gameplay. In a traditional Metroidvania game you travel an interconnected world, unlocking new abilities as you defeat bosses that allow you to backtrack to previous locations and open up new areas. Death’s Gambit features an interconnected world with many different paths and some backtracking, but overall, it’s still closer to Soulsborne than Metroidvania.

Lastly, Death’s Gambit is difficult. REALLY difficult. You WILL die in this game, and the only way you’ll progress is learning enemy attack patterns. If you try and rush through like a traditional platformer, you won’t win. So, for you sadists who love this type of thing, like me, you’re probably going to love this.

I wish I had more to say here, I really do, and under normal circumstances I’d probably have beaten this game by now. From everything I’ve played so far, I get the feeling that this game is much closer in length to Metroid than Dark Souls. However, it does feature immense replayability. I don’t think I can really give this game a fair rating because I haven’t played for long enough or gotten far enough, but I can tell you what I think so far. I like this game, I like it a lot. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve, and gameplay wise it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, but that’s okay. What it does it does well. If you love Soulsborne or Metroidvania style games, then I think you’ll probably really enjoy Death’s Gambit, and if you’re looking for a game to scratch that Soulsborne itch until Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice comes out, you could do a lot worse.

There’s a few other things I’d like to talk about this week, if only to keep this post from being 1 ½ pages.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. The more I see of this game, the more excited I get, and that’s surprises me. I got burned out on Assassin’s Creed after III, although a friend did eventually convince me to buy Black Flag and Syndicate (I have played neither as of yet). Assassin’s Creed: Origins restored my faith in the series. The combat was the best so far, the open world seemed to borrow the best aspects from The Witcher 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn, and I personally found Bayek to be the most compelling protagonist since Ezio. I also really liked that at the core of Origins, it was a story about a marriage, that made it unique.