Death’s Gambit is a souls-like Metroidvania that initially launched back in 2018 to somewhat mixed reception. It offered an engaging gameplay loop and charming pixel art style, but many intricate aspects of its design caused its overall execution to flounder. The upcoming Death’s Gambit: Afterlife, however, is an impressive polishing effort by developer White Rabbit that addresses numerous critiques from players over the years to ultimately make this game a better, more qualitative product.
During the hands-off preview event I attended, the main focus point of Afterlife was the several changes and additions being made to the combative design to make it simultaneously more approachable and more cohesive. For instance, players will be able to test out how each weapon feels before committing to one. This simple yet effective inclusion feels undeniably necessary as it gives convenient access to the fundamental gameplay styles.
Perhaps my favorite improvement, which may seem minor, is the changes made to input buffering. Attack positions and the like can be altered at the start of an animation, which inherently changes the general approach to combat since actions are now more reactionary than ever before. The healing animation also follows this new design philosophy of making the experience more reaction-heavy, with it now being far swifter but providing less health overall. These additions show that an inestimable degree of loving labor was poured into this continually evolving game, and it doesn’t even end there.
The most significant addition made to Death’s Gambit: Afterlife is the talent tree. The changes made here are far too many to count, but you can, for example, become a hybrid of different classes alongside learning the newly added advanced talents, which play a pivotal role in new game plus onward. Adding on to these gameplay enhancements is that weapons have been updated significantly, with there now being over 30 types. Not only do these weapons contain expected stat differences and the like, but they each also encourage unique playstyles that offer increased player agency.
Ultimately, this preview of Death’s Gambit: Afterlife demonstrated how this title seeks to provide an inestimable degree of player choice and overall gameplay diversity so that each player can experience their own story told through their weapon and talent decisions.
Still, this game is also a Metroidvania, and developer White Rabbit aims to address this lacking component of the original release in fundamental ways. For example, the Double Jump opens up several windows of explorative and combative choice, and the Air Dash, which was formerly a Talent, is now a permanently unlocked upgrade earned after defeating a certain boss. Accompanying these enhanced movement options is that the world has been doubled in size and redesigned entirely, an astounding, noteworthy feat that truly exemplifies how much effort is being poured into this updated iteration.
There are other changes to the gameplay experience to make a note of. Still, at this point, it should be abundantly clear that Death’s Gambit: Afterlife is more than a budgeted overhaul and is instead a complete transformation that makes it readily more polished, appealing, and just damn inviting to play. After witnessing the laborious love spent re-crafting this game, I can’t wait to give this finalized version a shot.
Death’s Gambit: Afterlife is first releasing for Nintendo Switch on September 30, 2021, with a PC release via Steam following a month later and a PlayStation 4 release a month after that.
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