Sadly, the predominant games story of 2023 has been one of persistent waves of layoffs in the industry. Within this context, one of the saddest announcements was the closure of German studio Mimimi Games, just weeks after the release of their superb real-time stealth tactics game Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew. Hopefully, their talented staff – and many others who have lost their jobs in the last 12 months – will swiftly find new roles. In the meantime, Mimimi’s swansong is an excellent pair of DLC expansions.
On a timeline perhaps forced on the studio by their impending closure, both Yuki’s Wish and Zagan’s Ritual arrive together on the same day. Each of them is a worthwhile addition to Shadow Gambit, and together they represent a major upgrade.
Mimimi Games first revived the real-time stealth tactics genre with their cult favourite 2016 game Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. It resurrected the methodical, top-down, squad-based gameplay that Spanish studio Pyro pioneered with Commandos in the late 1990s. In 2020, they polished the formula with the equally great Desperados III. Shadow Gambit ushered in a new, ghostly pirate setting and represented a bold effort to move the genre forwards. It implemented risky mechanics like nonlinear character and mission progression, as well as the ability to choose which undead pirates to deploy into each operation.
Both of the new DLCs are structured identically. Each expansion offers one new playable crewmate, a linear sequence of six new missions, and an additional island to fill out the archipelago of the Timeless Shores. Mimimi have also added treasure hunts for most of the existing islands, which play out like miniature versions of Quentin’s “captain’s test” mission sequence in the main game. While the two DLCs share the same structure, the contents are different enough to make it worth addressing them in turn.
At first glance, Yuki’s Wish will be the marquee offering for established fans of the genre. The loveable teenage rogue Yuki returns in a crossover with Shadow Tactics, here in a cursed undead form using the nom de guerre of the “Twilight Corsair”. Her presence is only vaguely explained, but is more than welcome. Yuki’s abilities are quite unlike her previous incarnation. She comes equipped with a new type of trap, and a ghostly version of tanuki Kuma, also returning from Shadow Tactics and once again acting as an excellent means of luring guards out of position.
Yuki’s quest aboard the Red Marley involves awakening a quartet of dragons whose inability to speak anything but Japanese frustrates the villainous Inquisition. The new island, Dragon’s Dream, comes with Japanese buildings that will feel like home to veterans of Yuki’s past adventures. The redesign of her abilities works well, and she integrates nicely into the existing crew.
There is no surprise crossover in Zagan’s Ritual but it is every bit as engaging. Zagan is, like existing crewmate Teresa, a defector from the Inquisition. He is a former Prognosticar, one of the theocracy’s spiritual enforcers, and his magic skills make him one of the strangest characters yet made playable in this genre. Notably, he has a deadly channelled spell that can eliminate foes without line of sight – albeit at the cost of some of his own health. Like enemy Prognosticars, he can also put guards into an indefinite stasis by entering the same state himself. These tradeoffs make Zagan intriguing to play with, and another fine addition to the Red Marley’s ghostly crew.
In his mission chain, the rather pompous and self-regarding Zagan conscripts the other characters into a quest for knowledge. His own island lair plays host to half of his missions, and is one of the most interesting playing spaces in the whole of Shadow Gambit. The island’s ruined structures provide a strong element of verticality, ripe for exploitation by crewmates like Teresa, Breton cannoness Gaelle, or Zagan himself.
More Shadow Gambit is an unambiguously good thing and these DLCs integrate smartly into the main game. Both can be begun after the completion of Act One, and so they are almost more valuable to players who haven’t yet finished the story. It is a testament to Mimimi’s prodigious skill with this genre that they have found a real niche for 11 characters (counting the laboriously unlocked, not-so-secret crewmate).
However, the main drawback of Shadow Gambit is preserved here. The game’s non-linearity fatally undermines its ability to tell a story that matches Shadow Tactics or Desperados III. It means that the only character that the new ones meaningfully interact with is starting crewmate Afia. It is a real shame that Yuki and Zagan can’t banter with the other seven main characters.
It is a much larger shame, though, that Yuki’s Wish and Zagan’s Ritual are the last releases from Mimimi Games. The studio has been a fantastic presence in recent years, resuscitating a long-dormant genre and taking it to undreamed-of new heights. It is unfortunate that real-time stealth tactics games do not seem to have a large enough audience to sustain the company. What is certain is that these DLCs can only add to Mimimi’s legend, and long may all of these games be discovered and treasured by new players.