Game Review: Death’s Door

Release date: 2021
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2021

Released in mid 2021, Death’s Door is a top down/isometric action adventure game by Melbourne-based Acid Nerve. Controlling a young Crow, working for the Reaping Commission — think of them like Monsters Inc., but as reapers — players are tasked with obtaining the souls of three mysterious, primal or supernatural beings in order to open the titular Death’s Door. A small selection of varied weapons and special abilities can be mixed and matched to defeat enemies en route to the boss,

+ the gameplay is a loving mix of Zelda-esque dungeon crawls and puzzles, and semi-Souls-like boss battles revolving around hit-and-run dodging. A handful of weapons are available, if you can find them, and each have their uses in certain situations (except for one weapon, which to me had no downside at all)
+ the cast of characters are gorgeously designed and all unique, in a similar vein to those found in a Studio Ghibli film. It’s hard to list specifics for fear of spoilers, but the character of Pothead has such a charm about him, and the way he bows to meet you but spills the soup inside, that it’s hard not to immediately fall in love with these characters
+ I wasn’t sold on the story at first, but once the bigger pieces had fallen into place it was the smaller moments that began to draw me in. Yes, it is relatively predictable, but the story is good enough that this won’t ruin anything. That said, there was one story beat I absolutely did not expect, and it added that little something extra to really elevate this story
+ the entire soundtrack is just phenomenal, especially in the handful of skill test challenges which appears to be taken at least in part from the developer’s previous game, Titan Souls. One late game boss, unnamed and not linked to for fear of spoilers, is one of the most emotional, soul crushing tracks I’ve heard in some time when taken in context – it’s track 42 on the soundtrack for those that have finished the game already
+ every area, characters and aspect of the game is just dripping with love. The animation of the Crow as he eats a bowl of seafood, or the way that the elevators in the game all sort of look like a bird cage really show just how much effort was put into every part of this game

– the difficulty feels wildly inconsistent, as there are no different difficulty levels. Enemies all do the same amount of damage – that is, one chunk of your health – no matter their attack, which can make some combat encounters incredibly frustrating after an hour or two of no issues whatsoever. Even more bothersome is the fact that it’s not often the bosses themselves which are the hardest battles

> the demo for Tunic, another Zelda-inspired, isometric adventure game was released recently, and it plays very similarly. I’m all aboard the train of new and difficult, Zelda-like games

Should you play this game: I was interested in this just for the art style, but once I got into the groove of gaming I can now recommend this as a must play for the year. The characters, story and soundtrack will stick with you long after you finish – but don’t think that the game ends with the final boss.

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