Pour one out for Mimimi Games today, readers. Despite announcing they were shutting up shop following the release of this year's fantastic Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, today marks the grand finale for their stealth strategy masterpiece in the form of a new free Treasure Hunt update, and the release of their two paid expansions. Each brings a brand-new pirate to The Red Marley's undead crew, as well as their own half-dozen story missions to play through spread across islands old and new, and once you've begun each of their respective questlines, they're readily available to play in any of the game's regular plunderings, too.
Mimimi have kept the identity of these pirates a secret until now, but after playing both DLCs for a big chunk of the last week, I'm confident in saying this is exactly the swansong Shadow Gambit deserves - with one of the expansions in particular bringing a poignant touch of coming full circle on Mimimi's work as a studio. Naturally, spoilers circle these waters like hungry sharks, but if you're resigned to such a fate, let's dive in below.
Let's start with the least spoilerific expansion: Zagan's Ritual. This renegade Prognisticar of the villainous Inquisition has turned against his former employers and fancies your magical ship The Red Marley as a handy assistant in his pursuit of ultimate knowledge. Indeed, if you've spent any length of time stalking the islands of Shadow Gambit, you'll remember the staff-wielding Progs as those nasty evil fellows with the natty hand masks that require two hits to take down. Your first strike, for example, will always leave you and your quarry in the dazed, catatonic grip of their holy lightning strike, requiring an accomplice to help finish the job while they're down.
It's with great relish, then, that you can finally turn that power to your advantage and unleash it on Zagan's former associates. He has a slight mad scientist air about him, old Zagan, but his keen appetite for self-experimentation gives him a vampiric edge in combat. For example, his 'Dark Excisions' will drain a dot of his health so he can keep his foes locked where they stand, but he can also replenish that lost energy by feeding off his enemy's religious fervour, instilling them with euphoric visions to render them as little more than babbling idiots. These rambling, tongue-tied acolytes will naturally draw the attention of nearby guards and patrols, but since they only appear to be doing their holy duty to the untrained observer, they - crucially - won't raise the alarm. If Zagan does get caught, however, his passive 'Hedron of Constriction' will cause onlookers to enter a daze on approach, letting Zagan slip by before they can call for back-up. It's a very neat trick, and his talent for keeping his foes alive rather than having to constantly dispose of them in bushes makes him a formidable ally on the battlefield.
The second expansion brings a whole different bag of tricks to the table, though, and long-time Mimimiers will no doubt be pleased to see the return of Shadow Tactics' child assassin in Yuki's Wish. Now with a (frankly quite adorable) pirate tanuki called Kuma in tow (replete with its own teeny captain's hat no less), Yuki is all about setting traps and baiting enemies to fall for them - mostly, I'll admit, by flaunting Kuma's cute looks to draw foes to their doom. Indeed, her moveset is surprisingly brutal, consisting of a tripwire trap that, when triggered, sets off a thunderstorm of blades, needles and arrows that all come crashing down on her opponent's unsuspecting torso. A gruesome death if ever I saw one, but to add insult to injury, her victims all vanish in a poof of smoke at the end of her assaults, leaving nothing but a rudimentary tree stump in their place. After all, in the (sort of) words of Yuki's master, if you're going to muller someone for everything they're worth, why not do it with flair?
Naturally, patrolling guards are easy targets for this attack, but to sweeten the deal even further, Yuki can employ the cute, puppy dog eyes of her buddy Kuma to lure stationary guards into the very same trap. You can task Kuma with scurrying to any point within range undetected, and then fire a special 'Tanuki Parade' dart at your target to make them go ga-ga for the chirruping little furball. The dart can only be fired from quite close-range, I should note, adding a frisson of tension to proceedings, but it's immensely satisfying when it all comes off without a hitch. Her regular sword stabs repeat her little tree stump trick, too, once again making her quite a powerful companion to bring ashore if you don't want to waste time shifting bodies about.
I won't steal any further into story spoiler territory - partly because I myself haven't quite finished either of these new campaigns in full just yet - but having waded through each of them to around the halfway mark, they've both been fantastic fun, as well as a joyful, if slightly sorrowfully-tinged reminder of why I fell in love with The Cursed Crew in the first place. Like the rest of the Red Marley's cursed crew, both of these characters are stuffed with personality, and their unique set of skills make them feel genuinely different and exciting among its already plentiful supply of crewmates. Indeed, the fact they've already managed to supplant some of my previous favourites is a testament to Mimimi's great writing and design. Shadow Gambit's mission select table may look increasingly crowded with their arrival, but when you've got this many great characters to pick from, it truly feels like you're spoiled for choice here.
Like the main campaign, both of these expansions will see you revisiting several of the game's existing island locations as part of their respective mission quests, but the new islands they each add to the map are very enjoyable in their own right as well. Zagan has his own mad Dracula lair that's being bombarded by his former Inquisition friends, while Yuki must undertake a series of challenges to solve the riddle of a Japanese-inspired island called Dragon's Dream. If I had to pick one, I'd say Yuki's Wish is perhaps the jollier and more adventurous expansion of the pair, but I think the nostalgic link to Mimimi's very first tactics outing is also playing its part here. Zagan's Ritual shouldn't be ignored because of this, and if you're more into the lore of Shadow Gambit and what drives the soul energy of its mysterious Maiden's Fire, his expansion is definitely the one for you.
Really, though, if you've ever enjoyed any of Mimimi's games in the past, whether you've been with them from the start with Shadow Tactics, came in with Desperados 3, or you're a Shadow Gambit newbie, you owe it to yourself to savour every last moment you can possibly rinse from this game. After all, it's doubtful whether we'll ever see their like again, and certainly not made by this particular team of developers. Both expansions have been made with as much care and attention to detail as the central story campaign, and for a pair of the undead, they sure do add a generous second life to this stealth strategy epic. It's wonderful to be back in this cursed archipelago again, and I'll be eking out every second to make my stay last as long as possible.