Say Farewell To All Your Bills
HIGH Fantastic art design.
LOW The grinding sequence before the final boss.
WTF Is it ever explained why crows can’t fly?
Death’s Door is a new title from developer Acid Nerve. Their previous game, Titan Souls, was an interesting top-down boss rush, but I could never get around the high difficulty needed to progress. Apparently the devs learned some lessons from that effort since they’ve reimagined their overall gameplay style for this new adventure.
Starring as unnamed, immortal crow assigned to reap the souls of the living, their latest target soul has been stolen. The player must find out who is responsible, and why.
Despite the grim subject matter, Death’s Door is somber (yet still comic) in tone, with many quirky NPCs to meet. The realtime gameplay is seen from an isometric angle that cannot be altered, and the adventure will take the crow through various locales like mountains and swamps as it disposes of enemies and solves simple puzzles while finding keys and gaining new powers.
The art design is absolutely stunning, from the dreary and grim black-and-white crows’ offices, to the lush jungles filled with dangerous plants and gothic castles. The visuals are uniformly strong from beginning to end, and each biome fits perfectly into the overall world. I also appreciated some incredibly realistic animations on the crow, which turns its lovely little head like a real one would.
The meat of play is combat — it’s all about finding the right openings to attack while staying back. Our crow will start out in a basic, mostly powerless state with only a sword and the ability to dodge, but will get stronger as we progress by collecting magical attacks and using souls from defeated enemies to improve its stats. There are four special attacks in Death’s Door — the starting bow and arrow, a bomb, fire, and a grappling hook. This last one is mostly used to traverse precipices, but can also be used to get closer to the enemy and strike them.
Despite their work on Titan Souls, I wouldn’t call Death’s Door unfairly difficult. I found it to be rightfully challenging for its (roughly) ten hour campaign as long as one improves the crow’s stats enough to keep pace. The puzzles mostly involve using the various special attacks to unlock doors or gain keys, which in turn will unlock places in the overworld that the player previously couldn’t access. Along these same lines, there’s definitely a lot of post-game content to be enjoyed, should one want to.
For me, Death’s Door was at its best in the second biome, the domain of a pots-and-pans obsessed witch. Her area is a solid split between the two flavors of gameplay, in equal amounts — rooms which have only puzzles, and others with enemies to dispatch. This chunk was definitely the most enjoyable and I was looking forward to more of the same in the next zones. Unfortunately, combat became the main dish for the rest of the campaign and the puzzles that broke up the repetition took a backseat, leading to some combat fatigue later on.
Another disappointment was that the end section of Death’s Door is basically an endurance run of obstacles and repeated boss fights, with no way to replenish health nor any checkpoints to aid in progress. It felt a bit unbalanced, and out of my 10 hour playtime, at least 30 minutes were dedicated to that section alone. It’s not impossible to get through, but some players may be tempted to throw their controllers at the TV. A related side note — there are crystal shards to be found that will unlock extra health and magic that might help with this run, but they’re too well-hidden and I couldn’t manage to earn enough for a single upgrade.
Death’s Door is a strong offering featuring challenging combat and amazing art design. The amount of love and care Acid Nerve put into this quirky afterlife can easily be seen in every little animation or dialogue. Granted, the combat may be a bit overwhelming at times (especially when the puzzles become infrequent) but for lovers of the genre and those who won’t mind a bit of swordfighting and dodging, Death’s Door might be one of the best titles to come out in 2021.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Acid Nerve and published by Devolver Digital. It is currently available on Xbox and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: this game is rated T for Teen by the ESRB, it contains Blood, Use of Tobacco and Violence. While there is nothing particularly violent or bloody, given the overall themes of death and the challenging gameplay I would recommend it to a teen audience as well.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game does not feature spoken dialogue, everything is subtitled. Text is not resizeable. The game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The game’s controls are remappable.
Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple.
He's a sucker for great stories in gaming, he loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs.
Damiano's been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).