July 20, 2021
There’s a lot to love about Death’s Door. It has smooth combat, a fantastical world to explore, a simple yet effective upgrade system, and that all-important ‘one more go’ spirit. Being a soul-collecting crow can be tough. There’s little motivation from the employers. Wandering the metaverse can be lonely. Few inhabitants of the macabre world want to be your friend. Luckily, Acid Nerve has made it such a tight game that these worries are all but forgotten from the moment you first swing your glowing red sword.
It is your job as a Reaper to help souls move on to the afterlife. In the black and white hub area, fellow employees and characters can be spoken to to get a better grasp of the mundanity of your existence. As the story progresses and you start collecting the Giant Souls, new areas will open up, and new characters can be spoken to. It’s a brilliant concept, filled with moments of humour and poignancy. For instance, a creature with a pot for a head and his Grandma manage to build both a sweet and sorrowful backstory when you’re collecting your first Giant Soul.
Death’s Door: Gorgeous level design
If you ever played Titan Souls, you’ll understand the developer’s penchant for old-school Zelda. The environments are tied together by hidden and impassable paths. As you search for a way through, areas can be uncovered with moments of ingenuity and a bit of luck. Maybe there’s a route blocked by a stone wall, however, a nearby plant fires at you when struck. Attack the plant and move towards the wall, and bam! It crumbles before you and you can now move on. Sometimes, a bunch of enemies will need to be defeated before a ladder appears.
Inside some of the dungeons, there’re doors that require a key. Make your way through doors, defeat enemies, or solve a puzzle. Keys will appear and you can progress. The layouts have all been built with an attention to detail. Death’s Door has Metroidvania elements that keep you on your toes, always looking for a way to make it to an unexplored area. It’s a gorgeous game. Dreamlike forests; misty graveyards; industrial labyrinths; and gothic structures. The places you go are filled with wonder, but the designs within the dungeon areas are so pretty.
As the crow, you’ll encounter a wide range of foes to defeat. Some can be killed with one hit. Others require more work to defeat. They’ll pounce on you, fire bolts of lightning at you, or try to slash you with their claws. A mix of long range attacks and melee will test you wherever you are. If you pick the right moment and remain patient, they can be obliterated fairly quickly. The thing is, frustration has a way of rearing its ugly head. If you don’t utilise close-range attacks with your sword, axe, or umbrella and distant magic attacks, you’ll quite literally be on death’s door.
The combat is so tight. The crow can roll to dodge, but use its weapon straight after. In an intense fight, you’ll rely on the few attacks to take out lots of different creatures in quick succession. Along with your sword, you start with a bow. Along the way, new weapons can be acquired, but they don’t really do any extra damage. New magic attacks can be learned which not only help in combat, but also to progress through levels. For example, unlocking fire bolts can burn through cobwebs and ignite fire pits. The way you improve is by collecting soul fragments and upgrading your four base stats. They can be found everywhere, but you’ll gain a small amount from killing enemies, too. There’s an element of grinding, but it never feels like a necessity.
Death’s Door: One more go
No matter how good you are, death is a certainty. After all, it isn’t just a clever name. Along with the numerous enemies you must fight, the bosses are where Death’s Door is at its most challenging. After finding all the keys to open the main door within the dungeon, you’ll fight the big bad, be it a witch or a frog. These fights are challenging. The only way of knowing their health is low is the pink lines appearing on their bodies. Thanks to the quick load times, death only stops you temporarily. Whatever door you’ve unlocked or pathway you’ve revealed, death doesn’t reset anything.
Upon dying, all that happens is a quick reset to the last door you unlocked. If different areas have been opened up, it becomes much easier to head to where you need to go. Thankfully, Death’s Door isn’t completely punishing. Once you grasp the fundamentals, it become an addictive RPG-lite adventure where every death doesn’t mean the end. In addition, the nuances of combat begin to build on the basics and make every fight so exciting.
A wonderful nightmare
Death’s Door is a beautifully constructed isometric adventure. Combat is enjoyable. The world is gorgeous. It has a lot of heart, despite the gloomy subject matter. Acid Nerve knows how to make a fun game. Much like Titan Souls, it has a satisfying loop with that all-important need to keep playing regardless of how many times you succumb to the enemy. If you love Dark Souls, but are put off by the difficulty, this is for you. If you love Zelda, but want more of a challenge, play Death’s Door. It can be hard at times, but getting used to the controls doesn’t take long. After that, you’ll become just as enamoured as I was. In other words, just play it. You won’t be disappointed.
Gorgeous art style
Addictive gameplay loop
Difficult at times
Death's Door is a beautiful game, both in the way it looks and the way it plays. Acid Nerve has hit the sweet spot when it comes to combat and exploration.