Today I wanted to talk about a title that I’ve been waiting for for quite a while: Death’s Door! Step into the role of a small crow that is part of the Reaper Agency and well, your job is to reap souls. Sadly, your assigned soul is locked behind Death’s Door which is why you need some giant souls to open that up and… it’s a whole thing with several subplots but this game is so much more than just that!
Developer: Acid Nerve Publisher: Devolver Digital Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG, Indie Release Date: July 20th, 2021 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series Copy was purchased.
The story aside, Death’s Door is an Action-Adventure game with Hack and Slay mechanics, puzzles, and rather fluid movement. It’s an interesting mix of Hollow Knight (minus the platforming) and Zelda (minus the music), which makes it quite intriguing for me personally. Combat itself is best played on the keyboard and mouse. I tried getting my gamepad to work but I had some issues with it, so I stuck to the standard controls and really enjoyed the way that your attacks chain together while you dodge projectiles and enemies. Combat itself is rather simple but it works really well, which is only natural since the studio also made the satisfying Indie title “Titan Souls”! You have a normal attack, a heavy attack, and your bow/magic that needs energy to be cast. Energy’s acquired by attacking enemies. You can also roll around to dodge stuff and even perform a heavy attack on the roll (literally). There are a bunch of different weapons from fast-hitting daggers to a slow and powerful lightning-hammer. All quite basic yet rather polished and well-made!
Combat feels fluid and versatile. At times it gets rather difficult with many enemies or new enemy types coming at you, especially during “challenge rooms” that need to be beaten to get to the next area… But I found it rather rewarding once you’ve gotten down your rhythm of slashing, dodging, and slashing again. Some enemies can be kited. Others have unique gimmicks to them that you can utilize to destroy others. Some projectiles, for instance, can be deflected to hit an enemy, and similarly, the game often makes use of enemy attacks or combat spells to solve puzzles.
In a way, this game very much reminded me of the puzzles in Zelda. Similar to the Legend of Zelda games, this one features multiple “temples” or rather areas where you need to take care of souls that lived for too long. These areas feature unique mechanics and new enemy types that will demand you to stay vigilant. Sure, combat is challenging but the puzzles actually aren’t too hard really; especially if you’re familiar with the Adventure Game genre. I mean, at times, I found myself sitting there, scratching my head, not knowing where to go next but then I noticed that I didn’t explore this one room here to the side or this hallway there in the previous part and suddenly it dawned to me that there are more doors, puzzles, and enemies. And I loved it. The puzzles weren’t too tricky and made use of abilities that you unlocked or mechanics you were introduced to. Similarly, the boss fights are creative and do similar things with you having to make use of the knowledge you previously acquired to beat these huge bosses! Especially the first boss fight is wonderfully animated and depicts an enemy so full of life, despite her age,… it was graceful and I loved the fight.
Still, there are times where I wished for a map or some sort of other indicators, especially as there are many secrets. I mean, the areas aren’t too huge but if you’re in one biome, you may end up seeing a lot of similar areas multiple times, so you can get lost easily. Having a way to take notes, mark locations, or just mapping out the area could have been great here, precisely because of the adventure spirit of the game. I mean, you see a breakable wall but don’t know yet how to unlock it… And later you may find the ability to break walls but you forgot where you’ve seen the breakable wall.
And the other issue I have with the game is that the settings are quite slim overall. It’s a bit of a bummer that the game mutes when you tab out of it (especially as a streamer) with no setting to change that. Even if you’re in windowed mode… and then there’s the issue of there being no colour-blind support and no other accessibility settings including an easier difficulty. Sure, the game is supposed to be challenging but if someone who’s older wanted to play the game, their reaction times would maybe not allow them to enjoy it as much. The same goes for people that aren’t that good at games… and yeah, you may say “gid gud” and whatever here but I mean it when I say that accessibility is important to make games as enjoyable as possible for as many people as possible, which includes an easier and a harder difficulty.
But still, the game has been amazing for me. I really am enjoying it right now and am currently backtracking through some of the earlier areas, breaking walls, slaying foes, and jamming to the wonderful soundtrack. The music is fantastic in Death’s Door while the humour is on point most of the time. Meanwhile, the art style and the isometric view are really fitting for this sort of game. But I have a bit of a bone to pick in terms of clarity here as well: The game sometimes doesn’t make clear what you can interact with and whatnot. At the same time, there are parts where trees, statues, and other objects can block the sight, leading to you not being visible while the attacks are still coming in, and that’s more than annoying.
But in the end, the game is great. The soundtrack, the art style, and the execution of the combat system are wonderful. Sure, combat may be simple (especially with the “improvements” only being based on stats) but it works well and it doesn’t overcomplicate things: Hit, dodge, survive. Rinse and repeat. Just the way I like it. Some more settings would have been nice. A map as well… but overall, I don’t think that those small issues are really hurting the game. More than anything, I feel like those can get patched easily and that the developers of Death’s Door did a great job with the development of this amazing title. Hence, I’m highly recommending this one!