Don’t Fear the Reaper! Unless it’s a crow with a hand combat weapon.
Do you ever glance at a game and think that it’s a cool concept, so you might consider playing it, but it’s not on the system you normally would play on, so you forget about it? Well, this happened to me recently. For my birthday in August, one of my siblings gifted me a steam copy of Death’s Door, published by Devolver Digital, and developed by Acid Nerve. Normally I would play on console, so I wasn’t sure how well I would enjoy the control scheme on the keyboard, luckily, I decided to make use of the Xbox One controller I had received for free at Microsoft’s E3 back in 2016. This made the whole experience quite satisfying from start to finish. So, lets break down my thoughts on this lovable Indie title.
So, what is Death’s Door? Its an action adventure game, with RPG element upgrades, that follows a sword wielding crow on a journey to collect the souls of the deceased. It starts off with the protagonist exiting a bus just outside of the Reaping Commission, they pass through security to head up to the offices of various crows, and within a short time the seemingly head crow tasks me with retrieving a soul. A door appears and I’m whisked off to my first location.
The color palette changes from a dark and dreary grayscale besides the red sword you wield to a more colorful earthy green and brown. Here you are tasked with minor puzzles to advanced your character through a maze to take on a plant-like boss. After defeating it and retrieving its soul, you head back to the headquarters. Here you can trade in your soul-like currency for upgrades in four areas.
1. – Strength: Affects the reaper’s damage and reach with melee weapons.
2. – Dexterity: Affects the reaper’s weapon speed and charging rates.
3. – Haste: Affects the reaper’s movement speed and cooldown between dodges.
4. – Magic: Affects the reaper’s damage when using magic or ranged abilities.
As you continue through the levels and purchase upgrades you will also encounter new abilities that allow you to progress further to other areas and secrets, almost like a metroidvania style game. Fighting hidden mini bosses will upgrade certain abilities, which then gives you incentive to find out what these upgrades can do for your game play experience. You can also find statues that give you gems, and if you collect 4 of the same color you gain another health bar, or acquire a special ability usage meter. Along the way you will acquire various weapons to utilize that are both practical and wacky. I had a great time discovering them, and seeing how they can affect your playthrough. There are various swords, a powerful hammer, and even a mundane parasol offered to the player to get the job done.
The characters you encounter in the game are interesting, and they make the areas all feel different. You’ll end up meeting a creepy witch grandma, with a pothead for a grandson, literally he has a pot for a head, a crow who needs your assistance to help him open deaths door to further his journey, a stout frog jammed inside what looks to be Thor’s armor, and even a lord of literal doors. Plus plenty more creative characters for the player to come across. With these characters woven into everything else already in the game, this makes the story stand out that much more.
The first thing I noticed was the soundtrack, so we need to discuss the amazing music within the world of Death’s Door. It meshes so well with the area you are exploring. I found myself stopping and listening to the score when I entered a new area, because it was so immersive and pleasant to experience. David Fenn, the sound designer at Acid Nerve, has created an experience that on its own accord would hold up as its own entity. Just listen for yourself!
The boss battles are fun and memorable, each time I played one, I looked forward to seeing how unique and difficult each one played out as, I don’t think I was ever disappointed or overwhelmed by any of the fights. Though it took some tweaking and gathering of souls to upgrade attributes, but it always remained fun. The other notable fights were when you obtained your items, which were the bow and arrow, fireball, bomb, and hook shot. To obtain them you were swallowed by a mimic chest and placed in something called the Avarice where you need to defeat a few waves of enemies to progress. It was quite satisfying to receive a new item upon clearing the room.
It’s been a while since I played a game that has engaged me in a way that felt like I was just born, pushed out of the nest, and ended up fully embracing the method and enjoyed it. It felt natural in how I progressed, like I knew what to do, and where I was to go, but was given much surprise along the way that kept me both amazed and curious. The formula is near perfect so a score of 4.5 /5 is what I would rate this experience. I hardly have anything bad to say about it, besides the word “Death” that pops up every time you die with a little death jiggle to accompany it. I would have hoped for some variety here, or maybe the problem was that I just lacked skill and died too often in certain spots. I also wish that the developer would have given a bit more backstory to the crows to flesh out more of why and how they came to be. Aside from these petty issues that won’t distract form the meat of this game, I highly recommend picking this title up and playing it.
Shane Kelley is a Staff writer for Boss Rush Network, as well as a writer for Another Zelda Podcast. His favorite game is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. You can find him on Twitter to talk video games, Marvel, and axe throwing.
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