Also On: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Acid Nerve
While isometric indie action-adventures aren?t necessarily anything new nowadays, one in which you play a soul-reaping crow locked out of his job, and thus immortality due to an assigned target being stolen, is perhaps just a smidge more unique. Death?s Door is that exact game, coming from developer Acid Nerve (of Titan Souls fame) and publisher Devolver Digital, and releasing this week on Xbox One and PC.
It?s also remarkably well made, and thanks to the smart mix of puzzles, combat, and nicely tucked away secrets, it?s a game that I would wholeheartedly recommend. The visual design is pretty fantastic, combat feels fast and fluid, and the soundtrack is extremely well done. It?s one of those games that you won?t want to put down until you see credits roll, and even then, you?ll likely come back to it in order to tie up some loose ends.
In Death?s Door you take on the role of a sword-wielding crow, reaper of souls, who finds itself in a bit of a conundrum after another wayward reaper steals away your target soul and uses it to try and open a path to, well, Death?s Door. The primary issue with that is that death and soul harvesting within Death?s Door is approached as a kind of banal, office-type job, complete with overseers, desks, paperwork, and unhappy employees. The primary perk of the job being that you get to remain immortal while employed, and only feel the effects of time and aging when visiting the real world to harvest. But since your primary target soul has been stolen, you?re now stuck in said real world unless you can figure out a way to open Death?s Door and retrieve your target.
I enjoyed the story set-up here for Death?s Door, and it helps to propel you into a sort of dark, occasionally comedic setting filled with a very eclectic cast of characters. You?ll encounter other reapers like yourself, along with a number of other NPC?s spread across the three major areas that fill the world of Death?s Door. I won?t go into specifics here, I definitely think it?s better for you to uncover the cast as you play, but I sincerely doubt you?ll find a stranger cast of side characters in a video game this year.
Your workplace in Death?s Door serves as a sort of hub area, and from there you?ll encounter doors that lead into the real world. The world is composed of three major areas, which in turn have smaller sections and dungeons within. As you advance through an area you?ll encounter additional doors to help you quickly travel back to your hub, which is where you?ll go to spend the souls you harvest from enemies to upgrade your core attributes. You have four different attributes to level up, including Strength, Dexterity, Haste, and Magic.
The upgrade system is my sole, relatively minor complaint. You can upgrade each attribute five times, with each subsequent upgrade costing more souls. Each attribute is labeled well enough to let you know what you are upgrading, but the effects feel relatively minor overall, especially considering the cost of some of those upgrades. You will absolutely tell a difference once you?ve maxed something out, but that change is so gradual that when you?re halfway there it sort of feels like there has been no change. For instance, I focused on Strength at the onset, which in turn affects overall melee power and range of strikes, but it often felt that it still took the same number of hits to kill an enemy as it did before a prior upgrade, and the strike distance range was minor at best. With no stats or damage numbers present, it was a bit hard to see how exactly I was improving with each upgrade.
On the other side of that, combat is fun and challenging enough that incremental upgrades in power and speed weren?t all that distracting. In Death?s Door your crow comes equipped with a standard sword, but thorough exploration can yield additional weapons that you can equip, which will have their own unique attack strings, power ratings, speed and so on. On top of that, as you advance through each area you?ll gain 4 different abilities, useful not only in combat, but in exploration as well. This is where the Legend of Zelda comparison comes into play that I?ve seen others mention, in that there will be plenty of spots within an area that are essentially blocked off until you find the appropriate ability to advance past an obstacle. And it?s worth going back and re-exploring older areas as it will often yield additional souls, upgrades for your core abilities, weapons, and shiny object collectibles. There are even a number of secrets that I still haven?t uncovered, some of which only become available post-game.
I was extremely impressed with Death?s Door from start to finish, and would absolutely implore you to check it out when it launches this week. Again, it?s just one of those games that was extremely hard to put down in order to write this review, and I?m already looking forward to going back and trying to suss out the additional secrets and puzzles I have yet to solve.
Note: Devolver Digital provided us with a Death’s Door Xbox One code for review purposes.