Death’s Door is Xbox’s new exclusive title that resembles classic Zelda-style combat mixed in with a seemingly Dark Souls inspired rolling mechanic and topped off with awesome combat sequences and boss battles. Playing as a crow, otherwise known as a Reaper, the player’s role is to gather souls for the Reaping Commission, an organisation used as the player’s hub world to retreat to when they need a breather. The Reaping Commission’s main travel system are Doors in which Reapers can enter in order to find and retrieve their assigned souls. The game itself is chock-full of humour that caught me off guard a few times and a cast of unusual characters to meet along the way.
Developed by Acid Nerve and published by Devolver Digital, Death’s Door is a gorgeous game that uses stunning, cartoon-like visuals that look fantastic running on the Xbox Series S. The player encounters different settings and locations, such as woodlands, cemeteries, piers, dungeons, etc. Visiting each location for the first time introduces the player to an assortment of enemies who feel like they belong to the environment in which they are encountered. Wild, carnivorous plants occupy the woods, zombie-like foes roam the graveyards and the occasional creepy-crawly roams the underground depths.
Death’s Door‘s very own boss battles are unique but easy to master, with each boss being the sole owner of the regions that the Reaper travels. In terms of combat, Death’s Door allows players to use various weapon types, including a starting sword and, funnily enough, an umbrella, a weapon that I feel like would only be used for achievement purposes. The Reaper also gains access to a variety of spells, including a magical bow and arrow to hit enemies from afar. More spells are unlocked and can be upgraded whilst progressing the story, handy for later battles when fighting multiple enemy mobs at once if your sword doesn’t swing wide enough. The main currency of Death’s Door is souls absorbed from defeated enemies or found in floating orbs throughout the map, allocating 100 souls per pickup. These souls are used to upgrade the player’s base speed, weapon damage and range, spell damage and more, useful for later sections in the game when tougher enemies are introduced. Combat is fairly basic as the Reaper will mostly perform slashes from left to right with most weapons, the only difference being a sort of ground pound motion with blunt weapons when performing heavy attacks. The Crow/Reaper can also attack from above using a drop attack, but the damage output isn’t worth the cool animation.
The world of Death’s Door is full of some weird and wonderful characters, including a giant, talking frog king and a person cursed with a pot of soup to replace their head. The Reaper is able to speak to most characters by interacting with them directly using the assigned button on the controller, and in doing so, the player can deduce what type of personality the character has. For example, the game’s well-written dialogue contains no voice acting, but the way text is shown on-screen and the particular words that are used for each character allow you to imagine the character’s personality. Some may use enhanced vocabulary to come across as intelligent, while others may curse at the player and speak in a derogatory way, portraying them to be hostile and aggressive. Also, some characters have unique animations, such as pupil dilation or dance moves to further enhance their personalities. Characters also have unique designs, which are far from being bland or uninspired.
Death’s Door is full of collectibles, known as Shiny Things, that offer little gameplay benefits but contain unique lore surrounding them. Some can be found with little effort, but others must be obtained through backtracking once the player has acquired a specific spell. For example, one of the first spells players obtain is the fire spell, which can be used to burn cobwebs in the game that hide important items or areas, such as soul energy and Shiny Things, a great feature for players who want to explore everything the game has to offer. Players can also use doors as a sort of fast travel system. For instance, if players need to backtrack to a different region, they can return to the hub world using the last door they entered and then head to a different door assigned to the location they must return to instead of walking all the way back from their original spot.
When you first boot up Death’s Door, you might find it difficult to leave the main menu after hearing the beginning of what would become a phenomenal soundtrack. Death’s Door wants you to know that your first playthrough will be an epic adventure that will be sure to give you goosebumps by the end. Composer David Fenn provides an awesome compilation of music that’ll make combat feel ten times better. Certain scripted sequences are accompanied by epic instrumentals to liven up the battleground, and in later stages of the game, music heard from earlier levels is remixed to accommodate heavier atmospheres. The amazing soundtrack is available to listen to on YouTube, uploaded by David Fenn himself, or through purchase on Steam.
Death’s Door is one of those games that I believe is an essential buy, and at just under £20 and a decent runtime, it is a perfect example of what an indie developer can achieve when they put their heart and soul into their game’s development.
Developer: Acid Nerve
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: 20th July 2021