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Video Game / Death's Gambit

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Death's Gambit is a Hack and Slash Souls-Like Metroidvania game created by White Rabbit, published by [adult swim] and released in August 2018.

You play as Sorun, a knight of Vados who led King Valz' expedition to claim the source of immortality from the Caer Siorai citadel, located in Aldwynn, whose Lizard Folk inhabitants have long been immortal because of it, and would never give it up. Years ago, first his father, and then his mother, Everly, went missing in the previous expeditions. Now, his own group was wiped out without even setting foot into Aldwynn proper, since the endlessly regenerating Aldwynn's forces were led by the strange warrior named Endless, and supported by the Phoenix herself.

However, Sorun was suddenly resurrected by Death himself, and offered a contract that would see Death revive him endlessly, in the same way the source of immortality revives Aldwynn and anyone else in its orbit. This will be until he fulfills its one condition — to destroy the source of immortality outright. However, Sorun cares more about finding his mother, as well as getting revenge for his expedition on Endless.

Originally released in August of 2018, a large-scale update was announced early in the next year to include new equipment, areas, bosses, and endings. This update was given a much more in-depth breakdown in July of 2021, rechristening the game Death's Gambit: Afterlife and greatly expanding on the game world's size, exploration and platforming, and overhauling nearly every aspect of the previous game in response to player commentary. Afterlife released on Switch and PC on September 30th, with the PS4 version due out some time after that, replacing the original game and being a free update for those that already own it.

Death's Gambit features the following tropes:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: At the start of the Thalamus battle, Sorun gets crushed by a wall made out of his own dead bodies. Two of these reappear later in the battle, where they can only be stopped if Sorun manages to pick out one positive emotion like loyalty or bravery out of the many negative ones.
  • After the End: The existence of Garde Tum implies that humanity once had a highly advanced civilization, with futuristic underground cities, firearms, computers, androids, AI and the ability to open portals to other dimensions. Unfortunately, messing with the Exiled Gods and the Source of Immortality led to its destruction at the hands of Thalamus and the world's regression to medieval levels of technology. All that remains from that time are Origa, Bysurge and the ruins of their home.
  • Airborne Mook: You'll often encounter floating crystals that pulse shockwaves around themselves. Aldwynn Ascended become this when they Turn Red. Garde Tum has drones that fire actual lasers.
  • Aliens Speaking English: A strange example at Garde Tum. There are various strange symbols in the background, and one computer screen also has those... alongside much larger "REGISTRY" and "REFORM".
  • Anchors Away: Hammerheads in Y'lnoth fight with giant anchors.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Being a Souls-like, of course you drop something when you die… but instead of the souls equivalent, it's a dose of the Estus equivalent instead. And more importantly, it does not disappear forever if you die again. Furthermore, you can reclaim it at any save point with a fee of Shards.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Subverted. The civilization of Garde Tum was in Siradon's very distant past, but it was also far more scientifically advanced to the extent that they had mastered interdimensional travel, advanced Artificial Intelligence, and all manner of other breakthroughs. And once you get there, there's nothing stopping Sorun from finishing the game using a lightsaber and laser rifle.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Played with. The description for Scythe of Reaping states that much like how a farmer harvests wheat, Death harvests souls and feeds the spiritual realm, their lifeforce transcending to a new plane of existence to perpetuate life "beyond our limited understanding".
  • Artificial Stupidity: Enemies have no second thoughts about walking straight into Phoenix's flame on the ground.
  • BFS: Soldier's Aldwynn Greatsword is as tall as they are. Sentinel's Vados Longsword is even larger.
    • Aldwynn Ascended carry spear-sized swords one-handed.
  • Background Boss: Tundra Lord Kaern can retreat onto a background pillar in his second phase. From there, he'll first try to trap you with walls of ice, then drop ice boulders onto your location.
    • Thalamus is a true example, since you spend the battle on his hand.
  • Barrier Change Boss: Bysurge at Garde Tum is one. His barriers are positive and negative polarities. Downplayed in that while the barriers decide which attacks of the boss deal more or less damage, they do not provide any further form of immunity.
  • Battle Boomerang: Soul of the Phoenix can throw her scythe in this manner.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The Thalamus battle. After you go through it, there'll be a new option to ask some NPCs about: "Do you hear the voices too?"
  • Black Knight: The boss of Darkness Falls is called Dark Knight. However, he's long become a true Body Horror abomination.
  • Blackout Basement: Darkness Falls area, and the even darker Garde Tum afterwards.
  • Blood Knight: The name of one of the character classes. Their first talent is regaining recently lost health through immediate retaliation, Bloodborne-style.
  • Blood Oath: Sorun's contract with Death is signed in blood.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted; there's a limited number of arrows. However, there's a Soul Arrows talent, which allows you to keep shooting by consuming 5 soul energy per new arrow.
    • Not so with firearms from Garde Tum; they have unlimited ammo as long as you have Soul Energy. No longer the case come Afterlife, all three guns come with their ammo count now.
  • Breath Weapon: Phoenix can breathe fire as well as any dragon does.
  • But Thou Must!: In Afterlife, attempting to side with Death while your Will stat is over 100 will simply make Thalamus say "You have no choice" and make you choose again, as Sorun's willpower is too eroded to fight his influence.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Grimgauld's Brew description seems to call grapes "grapeberry" for some reason..
  • Chest Monster: There are fake Death Shrines at Journey's End and in Y'lnoth. They also show up in other places come NG+.
  • The Chosen One: Sorun becomes one for Death as soon as he signs the contract.
  • Combat Tentacles: One of the monsters in the Darkness Falls has these.
  • Creepy Crows: Crow's Plume is an item that returns Sorun to the last Death's Idol rested at. The description not only describes crows as harbingers of Death, but states that their eyes are said to be a gateway for him to observe the world. This is soon proven true, as you enter conversations with Death whenever there's a crow nearby.
  • Character Class System: You may play as a Soldier, Assassin, Blood Knight, Wizard, Noble, Sentinel, or an Acolyte of Death.
  • Corrupt Church: The religion of Aldwynn wasn't bad...until they managed to turn The Bulwark of Aldwynn immortal with the source of immortality, and then extend this to the elite Ascended warriors. This convinced them that normal ageing and death was simply the result of insufficient devotion, and moreover, this convinced the rest of the society as well, since the "proof" of devotion was right before their eyes. The normal people's religious frenzy, then despair as it failed to work for them, meant that no-one was invested in just living everyday lives and keeping the society running, so it all collapsed, and the only survivors were the Ascended, the priests, and the various normal soldiers they belatedly managed to render immortal as well. All of those were left guarding their own immortality and not much else, with Aldwynn becoming a ghost city whose population they could never refill.
  • Crosshair Aware: Skull-shaped arrows appear on the ground whenever an unseen attack from the above or below is set to land.
  • Cybernetics Will Eat Your Soul: The people of Garde Tum have ended up uploading themselves into a combined being called Bysurge. As such, their reanimated skeletons are some of the only creatures in the game that "die" without shedding a soul.
  • Death by Materialism: The description for Hastened Plume tells of how the hunters of Nas Nauj city once tried to capture the phoenix and pluck all of its feathers, rather than content themselves with whatever feathers happen to randomly drop from it. Instead, the phoenix died, and then resurrected as an inferno that burned the whole city down.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The whole contract with Death means that Sorun simply respawns at the nearest Death Shrine. Moreover, certain story moments can only be accessed through dying and witnessing either a flashback or a scene from the "afterlife". It's not all sunshine and roses, since Sorun's mind eventually begins to deteriorate from the strain of repeated death.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Ione goes from trying to kill you several times and shouting "you've ruined everything" after you finally bring down the Forgotten Gaian to staying at the Sanctuary and resignedly ("forget it, you've done enough damage already") teaching you spear skills for essence. Afterwards, she teams up with Vrael, and they storm Caer Siorai alongside you.
    • Same goes for The Bulwark of Aldwynn. You can go for a heroic rematch, or you can buy up abilities.
  • Degraded Boss: The spear-wielding Lizard Folk in the original Death's Gambit fought in the same way as Ione.
    • Owlking shows up again in the Amulvaro's Observatory, as a mere enemy.
  • Dialogue Tree: Normally absent throughout the game. An exception occurs when Thalamus asks you questions: whether you would rather save Everly or yourself; whether Ione or Vrael deserves to live the most; and whether or not you believe you'll go to heaven after dying for real. The exceptional nature of this is pointed out immediately after in "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • Though, there's soon another instance of this, when Fink traps you and Vrael inside a pit, and controls a mechanism that will crush both of you, unless you answer his questions correctly. It's subverted again, however, because if you fail to answer one correctly, Vrael will simply cut through the mechanism's wood and cut down Fink. Not that it's a loss for him, since he's also immortal.
  • Driven to Suicide: Fink will drop off the cliff near Caer Siorai after you've completed his questline. Since he's still immortal, this is more of a symbolic gesture than anything, but you don't meet him again in-game.
  • Dual Boss: In the Caer Siorai, the second battle with Soul of the Phoenix will eventually see you take on both her red flame and blue flame form at once. There is also the fight with hallucinations of Vrael and Ione just before the final boss.
  • Dual Wielding: Astromancer Amulvaro swings two sabers.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Thalamus certainly has the appearance and abilities of an eldritch monstrosity. However, it's implied that the entire battle took place inside Sorun's mind, and it literally represented his subconscious rebelling against him as an aftershock of him dying, yet getting reborn, so often. However, Afterlife reveals that Thalamus is indeed real, and extremely dangerous.
  • Escape Sequence: If you side with Thalamus, right before you fight Death there's a sequence where you have to run away from him and he instantly kills you if he reaches you.
  • Face Death with Dignity: As the ending depicts every Immortal dying, Origa is found peacefully meditating in a Lotus Position, either dying or already dead.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Less of a chandelier, and more of a straight-up bed of spikes hanging on a rope. Perhaps it was placed there so that the Lizard Folk crossbowman could drop it on you. However, that doesn't explain why his allies risk standing in that same place.
  • Final Death Mode: Mortal Mode, which is activated if Sorun cancels Death's Contract. Both the game and Death warn you that if you do so, Sorun WILL die for good the next time he bites the dust, and there will be nothing he can do to save him. If Sorun does die, "DEATH TAKES YOU" will appear in the screen, the game will kick you to the start screen, and the save file will be erased.
    "Are you sure you want to cancel Death's Contract? The next time you die your save file will be erased."
    Death: Think carefully about what you want... Once that contract is revoked, there is nothing I can do for you. Your demise will be permanent.
  • Floating Platforms: Present from the very first location.
  • Flunky Boss: The Bulwark of Aldwynn has a counter ticking down to when his reinforcements are set to appear. He comments on their arrival with "Our strength is infinite! You are only one!"
    • Bysurge The Lightning Lurker reanimates skeletons with a cry of "Energy! I need more energy!"
    • Eldritch Inquisitor invites back-up with "Come, my children. It is time to feast."
    • Heroic Forgotten Gaian periodically summons reinforcements.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: At launch, the Energy Shield did not buff Strength, Finesse, and Intelligence like it was supposed to, but still lowered those stats "back to normal" when the buff wore off, resulting in unwitting players permanently lowering their offensive stats over and over again until they were down to nothing.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • The contract with Death is a physical object in your inventory. It can be destroyed at any time, and doing so enables permadeath mode.
    • When you fight Endless outside the gate to Caer Siorai, her Boss Subtitles come with the death counter already at 1, since she's already killed you once before as part of your backstory, and 2 at the final fight with her.
  • Gender Is No Object: There are women fighting on both the Aldwynn and Vados side of the war. Sorun's own mother, Everly, was such a soldier, and there are many more we don't know of.
  • Giant Mook: The very first enemy encountered is a Hallowed Knight of stone, wielding a sword and a round shield.
    • The Obsidian Vale has the Amarog, who look like wolf-faced giants. Some of those have spears, others sabers and shields, and others wield hammers, and can slam them straight down into the ground and have spikes of obsidian emerge nearby.
    • The anchor-wielding fishmen in Y'lnoth, Corpse City.
    • Garde Tum has large undead giants who attack with laser swords, though they're not exclusive to that location.
    • The quadrupedal things found at Journey's End.
  • Glowing Eyes: Endless has glowing green eyes.
  • Golem: The Hallowed Knights, made out of stone, are the first enemies you encounter. When you defeat them, the red stone in their chest flashes and breaks apart, and a soul leaves them like it does with any other enemy.
    • Their progenitor, the Forgotten Gaian, is a truly enormous example of one.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Amulvaro, the Galaxy Mage, started going mad once his observatory revealed to him the true scale of the universe in relation to his world. He oscillates between Crazy Sane and scenery-chewing madness.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: Death has a large pair of black crow's wings. The Bulwark of Aldwynn grows yellow wings of pure light at the start of his battle. Priests of Aldwynn and Aldwynn Ascended have this ability as well.
  • Grim Reaper: Death here has a scythe and all, but isn't too grim in demeanor. It also has a pair of crow's wings, and doesn't hide its goat-skull face beneath a hood.
  • Ground Pound: Ione can jump so high up as to land only 5 seconds later, with a skull arrow showing where she's going to land, stabbing down with her spear in process. So can the other spear users later on. Even when they are underground and they essentially phase through several meters of rock to do that move.
    • Greatsword-wielding players can do a fiery one with the Smoldering Guillotine move.
    • Halberd users get Sky Crash which does much of the same.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Essentially, every human expedition sent after the source of immortality, whether from Vados or other groups like the Covenant of Flame, has this as its side effect. If Origa is to be trusted, the various endlessly regenerating Aldwynn guards you face throughout the game are practically the only ones left of their race, so taking away or destroying the source will pull the curtain on them as well. No human character ever appears to show any concern for them. Even Endless only thinks of immortality inasmuch as it will extend to the rest of humanity, with no concern for the value of Aldwynn's already immortal lives that would be lost with the source of immortality.
    • However, Origa also places the fault on the Aldwynn society itself for this state of affairs. This is because when the Bulwark of Aldwynn became immortal, and first the Ascended, and then the priests of Aldwynn began to repeat his feat, everyone else became convinced that their ageing and eventual death simply signified their lack of devotion, and so the society tore itself apart, until only the immortal troops were left standing, now owing everything to the source. Moreover, Vrael, himself a (non-immortal) Aldwynn, also believes it's time for them to pass on to the next life.
  • Hand Blast: Amarog Shamans can do one.
  • Hard Light: Energy Shield found at Garde Tum works like this. As the description says: "It's not enough to illuminate anything, but to be able to touch light and mold it...Who is to say they are not gods?"
  • Heavily Armored Mook: You encounter enemies encased in black armour really early on. However, that armor is basically useless, and they are little tougher than the regular Lizard Folk. Later on, however, you'll encounter Aldwynn Ascended, who are encased in heavy golden armour, while also carrying a shield and an enormous sword, as well as being able to sprout golden wings.
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: Fink, of all people, does this with his third question. Without counting armor, you currently have 9 Vitality points. True or false?
  • Heroic Mime: Downplayed. Sorun does speak in the conversations, but he's not voiced at all, unlike all the other characters.
  • Hive Mind: The Bysurge at Garde Tum is one.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Even in the starting area, there's a giant, elaborately decorated, yet totally unlocked chest that is left atop a pillar, and can only be accessed through climbing it. What's inside? A feather. Granted, it's the healing feather of the phoenix, but wouldn't it be better to hide such a tiny thing in a less conspicuous manner? And if it wasn't supposed to be hidden, why not place it somewhere the soldiers could use them, or just give it to them outright?
    • Other chests, however, do make more sense, as while they still contain feathers for who knows who in poorly accessible locations, they are at least locked and have to be cut down with your weapons, all while regenerating on their own.
      • One such chest at Amulvaro's Observatory teleports a few steps away every time it gets hit.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Y'lnoth, the Corpse City features many spikes with people impaled upon them. This is also Nymeria's fate if you let Bast kill her.
  • Interface Screw: Some creatures in Y'lnoth, the Corpse City take a long time to charge their magics up (and can be frequently cut down before they finish). Once they do, however, they'll essentially flip the screen, making everything look upside down.
    • Thalamus is more than happy to completely screw with both Sorun and the player in a myriad of ways: dividing the screen in five, mocking you with your own stats etc.
    • As you break down Avatar of Thalamus, cracks starts to appear on the screen.
  • Irony: Several notable examples.
    • The Bulwark of Aldwynn was meant to be an immortal, impregnable defense that would always keep Aldwynn safe. Yet, the rest of Aldwynn were so intent to match his immortality (spurred on by their priests' claims he became immortal due to his devotion alone, omitting any mention of the source), that the everyday society fell apart. No-one was invested in raising children (many sacrificed them, believing it would make them immortal), and so when Aldwynn's priests finally learned how to extend immortality to a larger number of people, there was no longer a next generation, and the only thing left was to turn all the survivors into soldiers. The Bulwark of Aldwynn still knows no purpose besides guarding the city, though, even if it's long become an empty shell of its former self.
    • Origa doesn't let you get any further after you entered Aldwynn without fighting, because she doesn't want the old graves disturbed. Yet, her battle takes place at the cemetery, where her sniper rifle attack will likely accidentally destroy at least a few old graves and monuments before you prevail.
    • Bysurge shouts during their battle "I am the future! You are a relic of the past!" This is pretty much a complete inversion of reality: while the technology of Garde Tum is incomparably more advanced than anything in the outside world, and Bysurge represents its peak, they are all that remains of their people besides Origa, and they have no way or interest in advancing beyond the bunker that became their tomb and hunting grounds. Thus, they are a relic of the past, even if their past is far more advanced than any foreseeable future of the remaining world. Equally, Sorun brings forward the future of no immortality, even if it is again much less advanced than what the Garde Tumians did.
  • An Ice Person: The Frost Bite dagger attack, which freezes any non-boss enemy for 20 seconds, unless they get hit again.
    • Amarog Shamans can first have icicles drop down from above. Then, if these fail to hit you, they'll guide these to charge at you. Tundra Lord Kaern does a similar thing, but with far more icicles. Then there's an actual ice elemental on the way to Kaern.
  • Justified Save Point: Death Idols act as these for you, since you have a contract with Death. Acolytes of Death can even restore the broken Death Idols.
  • Laser Blade: Undead giants at Garde Tum wield these.
  • Laser Sight: Used on Origa's sniper rifle, and marks her attempts to snipe you, first from the background in Aldwynn, and then during her battle. Luckily, you can hide behind the environmental objects — first the battlements on the stone wall, and then the various statues, even if they generally break apart after getting hit.
  • Last Of Her Kind: Origa is the last living person of Garde Tum, as the rest have melded themselves into the Bysurge a long time ago.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A truly out-there example occurs when you encounter Death at Garde Tum beside a still-working computer screen. When Sorun asks what it's doing, it replies: "Be quiet there, I am playing a game." In response to Sorun's bewilderment, it continues "Yes, it's actually quite fantastic. It touches on the themes of life and death. I keep trying to get a high score, but my character seems to die before I can achieve anything." Sorun responds with "It does not sound very fun." and Death sighs "Ugh, why must they all be fun. You lack vision."
  • Ley Line: The description for Gaia's Leaf says that it comes from the grove of eternal spring, which is the locus of ley lines, "the nervous system of Gaia and radiant sites of magic."
  • Lizard Folk: The people of Aldwynn. Most of these are mere Mooks you cut down in dozens without saying a word, being a soldier of the warring Vados and all. (Besides, all of these seem to revive anyway.) However, there are still some named characters of theirs, like Vrael and Bast, who are on your side.
  • Lost Technology: Everything encountered at Garde Tum. That place has computer screens, control panels, laser swords and energy rifles.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The shields used by Sorun literally deflect crossbow bolts back at their shooters. Ironically, they'll pass through any allies of the crossbowman standing in between to hurt him alone. However, they can be "broken" if they take too much damage, disabling their use for several seconds.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Endless is Everly. Also, Dark Knight is Ione's father.
  • Mana Meter: Called soul energy here. Nearly every class has a unique way of recovering it. Soldiers do so through blocking, Assassins through dodging, Sentinels through parrying, and Acolytes of Death through killing. In contrast, Wizards only recover it by healing with phoenix feathers and Nobles by using items in general.
  • Multiple Endings: There's a single main ending, but beating the NG+ as a Mortal provides an alternate post-credits scene.
    • Come Afterlife, the game now has four endings:
      • Ending A: Defeat 5 Heroic bosses and have less than 100 Will, then side with Death. You break Thalamus' nightmare.. Ione and Vrael live and go on with their lives while Endless sacrifices herself to destroy the source of immortality. True ending without New Game Plus, though you are given an item to enter NG+ if you so wish (with the disclaimer that doing so puts Sorun and others back into the thick of things).
      • Ending B: Defeat 5 Heroic bosses and have less than 100 Will, then side with Thalamus. If you have 100 and more Will, you're railroaded into this ending. You invade the Afterlife and kill Death, allowing Thalamus to seize the Nexus of Souls for himself. Your reward is a fake memory of a happy family time at the depths of Y'lnoth.
      • Ending C: Death's Gambit's original ending, simply defeat Endless and destroy the Source. You're shown a montage of immortals across Siradon perishing, as well as the NPC's from the Sanctuary gathered together (or their gravestones if they perished). Ending A reveals that none of this happened and you're still trapped in Thalamus' nightmare.
      • Non-Standard Game Over: Return to Vados at the beginning of the game. Sorun is seized and executed as a traitor to the crown. You're then booted back to the main menu.
  • Multishot: A skill you can buy from Nymeria.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted. The arrows from your bow do fly in an arc. Enemy crossbowmen, on the other hand, can easily fire their bolts in straight lines.
  • Number of the Beast: Fink charges 666 shards for an Occult Helm. Fittingly, the way it boosts Strength and Finesse by 10 is balanced by the user losing 10 health per second once it gets below 73%, as the thorns placed inside the helm will start to draw blood. It costs less on subsequent meetings, provided you didn't turn Fink hostile.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: A bit of a toss up, but besides the usual investments into Vitality (total health), Endurance (total stamina) and Haste (stamina regen rate, along with a few minor benefits to all stats), virtually *any* class ought to invest points into Strength enough to wield a shield that can reliably block a few hits. Once your character has at least enough strength to use the Moss Shield (which has a relatively low requirement and has S-rank stability, but drains stamina constantly while it's out), you don't need to invest more points unless you want to, but considering how several boss fights go, everyone needs a good shield.
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: Played straight with the H7 Lancer plasma rifle found at Garde Tum.
  • Over Penetration: Your swings will pass through the first enemy in their way and wound a second or even third until they are complete. The Piercing Light ability lets you fire an arrow of pure light that pierces through every enemy on screen.
    • The first cutscene shown after Sorun's death takes the cake: Endless cuts four mounted knights and their horses to little pieces at once with a single swing...then again, and again.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Chiefly, everything in Y'lnoth; you only get to visit it once during a playthrough and not at all if you're doing a Mortal Run.
    • Fink will become permanently hostile if you anger him at Gaian's Cradle, whether by not buying anything from him or attacking him. He'll become like Navlaan, attacking you in every encounter with him.
  • Plasma Cannon: The H7 Lancer rifle found at Garde Tum appears to be this, given how it fires streams of blue projectiles. It is obviously a ridiculous step-up in effectiveness next to any bow encountered earlier, although it and the other guns don't scale with Finesse.
  • Platform Battle: The battle with Tundra Lord Kaern takes place on a single balancing platform that tilts to one side or the other depending on where both of you are located. In the original version, falling from it would instantly kill Sorun, but Afterlife changed it so that he only takes a chunk of damage.
  • Playing with Fire: Phoenix is the most obvious example. The actual Phoenix breathes fire from above much like a dragon, while Soul of Phoenix fights you as a female humanoid figure that's constantly on fire, and turns from orange to blue flame when she ramps up her powers.
    • Sorun can gain Fire abilities like summoning the Essence of Fire orb, or Greatsword's Smoldering Guillotine.
    • Covenant's Cinder Bow sets those hit by it on fire.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Fink rapidly turns from a seemingly ordinary Traveling Salesman to this. His initial stock is useless, and while he gets more useful items later, his attempts to profit off you also become more desperate and comical at the same time. The Lumberkin also count.
  • Point Build System: Talent points are used to unlock new class-specific talents.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In the early parts of the game, both Ione and Endless shout about their plan and how Sorun should go back, and cannot be allowed to meddle with it. Rather than pause to explain it, though, Ione just starts fighting when Sorun isn't turned back so easily, whether at Endless' command or of her own volition.
    • For most of the game, Sorun cares far more about finding his mother, Everly, than actually fulfilling his contract with Death, with all its questionable implications. He again refuses to believe anyone who tells him she's probably dead, and perhaps he shouldn't go and fight ancient beings for the sake of something so uncertain. Now, if only he could just spare a moment to ask someone who knows about every single death in the world….
    • Equally, Endless could have told Sorun from the start she is Everly. Presumably, before she cut him down along with the rest of his expedition in the prologue, thus kicking off the whole game. Even after this, Ione must have told her that he's seeking his mother, in between her first fight and the Forgotten Gaian one.
  • Puzzle Boss: Thalamus, who cannot be damaged directly. Instead, Sorun must pick the one positive emotion out of a range of negative ones when they all appear at once, and before he gets crushed by the two advancing walls.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Thalamus delivers one after you answer his three questions:
    "Do you enjoy my little games? It's for your own benefit, you know. Letting you believe you have some sort of agency in this world. Isn't a sweeter lie better than the bitter truth? The truth of your insignificance. That Everly would ever care enough not to leave you behind? All that you've killed, still remains. You have truly made no progress. And the worst is yet to come… You will suffer a Fate Worse than Death. A toy in my grasp."
  • Recursive Precursors: There were several civilizations that rose and fell where Aldwynn now stands. Before Aldwynn, there was Siradon, the ancient kingdom that built Caer Siorai. And before them all was Garde Tum, a highly advanced civilization that Dug Too Deep and was destroyed by Thalamus.
  • Rise to the Challenge: During the battle with the Eldritch Inquisitor, the entire room is getting drowned in blood.
  • Sad Battle Music: Moonlit Sniper, played during the battle with Origa.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: The knights with axes and spiked shields are one of the first enemies encountered. These shields do protect them from frontal attacks, but they'll lower them once they are out of stamina.
    • Amarog Shamans also carry shields that protect them until they are too tired to keep them up. However, they mainly attack with a Hand Blast, as well as by creating icicles and casting them towards you.
    • Aldwynn Ascended are encased in the golden armor and carry a golden shield, as well wielding an enormous one-handed sword, and being able to fly around on wings, or call down lightning.
  • Shock and Awe: Even the non-magical classes can participate in this by throwing Unstable Crystals, which are full of pent-up lightning energy.
    • Owlking can create a black hole-like portal which like rain down lighting. The Bulwark of Aldwynn casts down lightning far more often. Priests and Ascended of Aldwynn can do this too.
    • Bysurge at Garde Tum is all about this, to the point it's called "The Lightning Lurker". In fact, the electricity theme goes as far as to there being positive and negative polarities you must keep track of.
  • Shockwave Stomp: Amarog Champions in the Obsidian Vale can slam their hammers straight down into the ground and have spikes of obsidian emerge nearby.
    • Tundra Lord Kaern's literal stomp causes two sickly green shockwaves to appear. The monsters of Y'lnoth, the Corpse City can do a similar thing, though with the yellow shockwaves.
    • Undead giants of Garde Tum send out red electrical sparks in both directions with a single stomp.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to its obvious inspiration:
      • Your instructions from Death when you first reach the Central Sanctuary doubles as a Take That!:
        Death: Past the city of Aldwynn lies Caer Siorai. Within its walls rests Siradon's source of immortality. You must toll the two Bells of Ascension... then find the soul vessel that will let you commune with the dead.
        Sorun: Wait, really?
        Death: [laughing] No. Just smash the source with a rock. Or your head. Either will do.
      • One class's special ability is a Bloodborne-style rally mechanic. Fittingly, it's called the Blood Knight, and starts with an axe (in Bloodborne, the Hunter Axe is not only a possible starting weapon, but it has one of the highest rally potentials in the game).
    • The snowman holding a "The End Is Nigh" sign is one to Calvin and Hobbes.
    • You can find a skeleton in a straw hat and tattered white robe with a katana lying nearby at Journey's End.
    • Sorun's house features a number of easter eggs like a portrait of a bust from Darkest Dungeon.
    • The Avatar of Thalamus opens up the fight by trying to break Sorun's mind in a background reminiscent of that of Giygas.
    • Three guesses as to whom Lenny's Broken Longsword belongs, and the first two don't count.
  • Sinister Scythe: Death obviously possesses an enormous one, and so the starting equipment of Acolyte of Death is obviously a ritualistic Scythe of Reaping.
    • Soul of the Phoenix also fights with a burning one.
  • Skull for a Head: Death has a goat-like triangular skull with horns.
    • Tundra Lord Kaern has a ram's skull with large curled horns.
  • Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: Now, the horses in Death's Gambit are clearly not quite like the normal ones, being either bright blue with white manes or jet-black with emerald-green manes. That still doesn't explain how you are able to instantly run down two or even four Aldwynn's lizard soldiers at once without even slowing down, let alone suffering any other ill effects.
    • The flashback cutscene shown after Sorun's first death takes this up to eleven, showing him trample fifteen Lizard Folk footsoldiers in a single go, the latter literally losing their heads and limbs in process.
  • The Soulless: Origa says she's one, as she lost it when her entire race underwent a mind meld that ultimately formed Bysurge.
  • Spin Attack: Some Lizard Folk and Ione can do one with their spears.
    • Soul of the Phoenix's scythe attacks are all spins of some kind, including an extended 5-second spin. That extended attack also sends out sparks in all directions during her second phase.
    • Endless has a few of these at her disposal too.
  • Spikes of Doom: Areas like the Obsidian Vale have these extending and retracting out of the ground.
  • Spread Shot: One of Owlking's attacks creates a portal that shoots out three purple projectiles.
  • Sprint Meter: Stamina Meter dictates your ability to attack, dodge, and block, but also to jump. Two stats pertain to it: Endurance simply increases your Stamina total and Haste increases its recovery.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Several.
    • Tundra Lord Kaern can jump off onto a pillar in the background and cast walls of ice to constrain your position, followed by enormous ice boulders crashing down at your last location. He's perfectly safe there, but apparently gets tired of this soon enough. On the other hand, dying in that battle doesn't permanently kill him anyway, so he can afford to take a risk.
    • Origa will occasionally jump to the background to snipe at Sorun from safety. Like Kaern, nothing is stopping her from staying as far away as possible. She can also heal herself at low health, but only does so while in the actual arena and setting herself up for being attacked.
    • In its Heroic Rematch, Bysurge's energy transference attack can activate a pair of hovering platforms. Without them though, there is no means to avoid several of Bysurge's attacks.
    • The Eldritch Inquisitor is apparently under no obligation to come down and put herself in striking distance of Sorun's weaponry after her Y'lnoth shamans are all killed off. Doing so while blood is continuing to flood the arena just gives Sorun an opportunity to kill her and escape before the blood kills him.
  • Teleport Spam: Endless is a master of following a teleport with a Spin Attack.
  • The End Is Nigh: Entering the giant seen in the background near Caer Siorai will expose you to a snowman with "The End Is Near" sign.
  • Title Drop: When you enter The Afterlife after fulfilling the requirements for Ending A, you are given two choices, one of which is "Side with Death (Death's Gambit).
  • Traveling Salesman: Fink is nearly a parody of one. The first time you meet him, he only sells four items. Two of these are the useless broken arrows and the supposedly magical but equally useless pebbles. The third item is a "shield" consisting of a dead body tied to several planks, and which poisons the user. Lastly, an Occult Helm costs 666 shards, and actually raises Strength and Finesse by 10... at the expense of the user losing 10 health per second once it gets below 73%, as the thorns placed inside the helm will start to draw blood.
    • He does get some more useful items in his subsequent appearances, however, though they are still nothing special compared to what you can loot or find from other vendors.
    • And then, Fink simply traps Sorun and Vrael together, and forces them to answer his questions. However, the trap doesn't work, and Vrael simply destroys it, then cuts him down. Of course, he gets resurrected as well.
      • Even at Amulvaro's Observatory, he reappears, asking for 1000 shards in order to pull a lever. Sorun just kills him again, then pulls the lever himself.
  • Turns Red: Soul of the Phoenix actually turns from red to blue, representing the much hotter blue flame.
  • Universal Poison: Running into the jets of poison gas colors the entire character green, and causes them to take considerable damage over time.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Like in any Dark Souls-inspired game, the player is invincible while rolling.
  • Weird Currency: Shards. Thalamus' Interface Screw calls them Souls instead.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The ending appears to essentially kill off every non-human race. We see the deaths of all Aldwynn's troops, Amarogs, and Origa. Endless stated that destroying the source of immortality kills every Immortal, and this may even involve the technological Bysurge, whose death would wipe out the remaining minds of Garde Tum's people.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The reason why Sorun embarks on the whole quest with Death.
    • Covenant of Flame is a faction that figured out infinite life without any additional powers = infinite manual labor from those too weak to resist.
    • It's implied that every sapient being who's become immortal is bound to go insane sooner or later; that what happens to Sorun with him hearing the voice of Thalamus, is what every Immortal has been going through. The only Immortal you get to talk to who is completely sane is Origa, and she wants to die anyway.
      • Having said that, you never get to talk to any of the numerous Aldwynn soldiers, priests, or Ascended who seem sane enough as they desperately defend their immortality from you, so this might color the perception you get. Death describes them as brainless husks, so it's likely they can't speak anymore to begin with.
    • A sapient snail called Alistair complains poetically about this:
      Alistair: If time were a river, we are as immovable as the bedrock beneath its current.
      Sorun: That's poetic.
      Alistair: What are you, daft? Tis' a Fate Worse than Death. Cursed to this form, by that damnable Astromancer! We are but floating eyes and a mouth! What cruel fate has befallen poor Alistair, the scholar, the prodigy, the progenitor!
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: This happens every time you kill someone, with the ghostly soul travelling straight up.
  • X-Ray Sparks: Happens to Sorun when he is hit by electrical attacks.


Video Example(s):


Death's Gambit

You play as Sorun, a knight of Vados who led King Valz' expedition to claim the source of immortality from the Caer Siorai citadel, located in Aldwynn, whose Lizard Folk inhabitants have long been immortal because of it, and would never give it up. Years ago, first his father, and then his mother, Everly, went missing in the previous expeditions. Now, his own group was wiped out without even setting foot into Aldwynn proper, since the endlessly regenerating Aldwynn's forces were led by the strange warrior named Endless, and supported by the Phoenix herself.

However, Sorun was suddenly resurrected by Death himself, and offered a contract that would see Death revive him endlessly, in the same way the source of immortality revives Aldwynn and anyone else in its orbit. This will be until he fulfills its one condition — to destroy the source of immortality outright. However, Sorun cares more about finding his mother, as well as getting revenge for his expedition on Endless.

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