After an announcement a couple of months ago, Death’s Door has made its way to current PlayStation consoles and Nintendo Switch. Originally released on Xbox and PC in July, Death’s Door received very positive reviews and immediately generated buzz for “Game of the Year.” But what’s it all about?
You play as an unnamed crow who acts as a reaper of souls for the Reaping Commission Headquarters. Seemingly exciting, the Reaping Commission is actually a boring and typical office setting with accountants and neverending filing. Ultimately, you and your co-workers (better yet, crow-workers) are merely slaves to higher powers and nothing more than a cog in the machine. Soon enough though, the mysterious leader of the Reaping Commission, and an older crow start to reveal themselves.
Yet the story isn’t what makes Death’s Door shine; the gameplay does. With almost perfect mechanics and controls, the game feels great from start to finish. Players will start off with a bow and arrow as well as a basic sword. As the game progresses, several melee and ranged weapons will be acquired that allow for more varied gameplay. There is also an area where basic traits (melee damage, ranged damage, speed, etc.) can be upgraded. Additionally, you can increase overall health and ranged ammo at the many shrines scattered throughout the game. The end result is the perfect balance of character progression.
The game design and visuals are equally impressive. Utilizing a Legend of Zelda-esque system, players will work their way through dungeons, solve some puzzles, and eventually unlock an item that allows further progression. These items will also open up previously blocked off areas, rewarding exploration and backtracking, similar to Metroid games. The items are simple (fire, bomb, and a hookshot), but the game gets the most out of them with creative uses.
Operating from a 3D isometric view, Death’s Door doesn’t have the typical vantage point from other games in the genre or even developer Acid Nerve’s previous title. This ends up giving it an edge though, because it immediately separates itself from the competition. Another thing that makes it stand out is great character design. Each boss has a unique style and flair that make them stand out and memorable. This is helped by the cool and funny title cards at the start of battle (a “DEATH” title card also appears every time the player dies).
There aren’t any major issues in Death’s Door, but there are a couple of annoyances. The hookshot doesn’t control or aim as well as the other ranged weapons, leading to many falls off of ledges. And the game is a little easy and too forgiving upon death. Additionally, there is no punishment of losing currency or substantial progress. This makes death feel very underwhelming for a game with death as its central theme.
In the end though, Death’s Door is a fantastic game. Great visuals, controls, mechanics, and music make it a treat all the way around. With no filler or bloated content, Death’s Door perfectly paces along in its 10 or so hour journey. Theres even more to do and a secret ending for those wanting to extend gameplay.
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