Developer Acid Nerve and Publisher Devolver Digital brings us Death’s Door. In this beautiful game, you play as a crow. Not just any crow. You have a particular set of skills for your job. Your job? You’re a reaper, and you collect souls. Without spoiling anything, something happens that prevents you from completing your mission in reaping a soul.
This causes you to be drawn into this world that is somehow untouched by death. Since death is not well known to this realm, the denizens have aged well beyond normal limits. You must journey in this new land to find out why the soul was stolen from you, and get it back. How will you do that? What will you use? That, young reaper, is up to you. Choose where you want to go first, and claim those souls!
The way the controls work and how they’re relayed to you isn’t in a speech window, or a “trainer” telling you how to move. The controls scroll on the ground or on walls and are both solid and tight. I never felt like my reaper wasn’t doing what I was telling him to do even if that meant I rolled right into my death, or not dodging a very large mace in time. The enemies don’t have health bars per se, but you do see the damage that they take. Seeing the damage became key in knowing when just one more hit would do it for the one I was fighting, letting me dodge and poke other enemies.
Speaking of death, make no mistake, that this game is hard. It punishes mistakes. Mistakes that you ultimately learn from. The enemies are ruthless and they do not take turns. It can get frantic, but that’s part of its fun. Don’t let this difficulty scare you away though. You do get better, and you do learn. When you learn what an enemy does and you’re able to predict it, the combat flow is very smooth and you become a trail of feathers as you carve your way through your enemies, reaping their souls.
Playing this game reminded me a lot of Hades. Unlike Hades, however, Death’s Door isn’t a roguelike. Similar to Hades, Death’s Door is an isometric action game, but the difference is that Hades has players repeat the same adventure multiple times while slowly getting stronger. In Death’s Door, when you die, you come back with what you had. You learn from your deaths and I found that I was slowly getting better at each hard fight that I encountered.
As mentioned when you kill enemies, you reap their souls. Soul energy acts as a kind of currency that you deposit in order to unlock abilities. The abilities you choose to upgrade will have different, but obvious uses in combat. Want to hit harder? Increase your crow’s strength. Need to move faster to get to enemies before they get to you? Increase your speed. You’re able to upgrade your reaper to your own playstyle. You can specialize, if you want, for ranged combat or be a melee juggernaut…provided you have enough souls to trade in for those upgrades.
The world is bleak but beautiful. It’s full of lots of secrets and characters that you can seek out. The characters are wonderful, adding humor that you don’t expect. The worlds reminded me a bit of old-school Legend of Zelda games with exploration and uncovering secrets and finding items.
The music! Mournful, but with an air of joy. The music never sounded so down that you’d dread being on the level. It has a way of drawing you in and the swells happen at the right time. No matter how many times I encountered the “DEATH” screen, the music always had a way of making you feel ready for one more go (I died…a lot).
As the game progresses, you’ll track down and defeat colossal enemies with stories of their own. You’ll get the pleasure of experiencing a darkly comedic adventure and you’ll find the truth behind the flow of souls, your role, and the origin of the Doors. I won’t say how long this game “should” take you to play through. Even with all of those deaths, I never felt like I didn’t want to come back to the game. I felt an urge to beat that enemy, get through that section, or figure out how to open a door.
The combat, story, puzzles, and world are incredible. Death’s Door makes you use your brain, and you feel elated and relieved to make it further than you previously did. The developers have given us an outstanding game. The whole package is one that shouldn’t be missed. This gem of a game is out right now. Please do yourself a solid and pick this up. I’m sure you’ll be glad that you did!
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Death’s Door for PC provided by Acid Nerve and Devolver Digital.