Reap What You Sow
Our preview build showcased the game’s first three hours. You play as a tiny, immortal, blade-wielding crow who harvests souls for the mysterious Reaping Commission. In fact, reaping souls also prevents you from aging or dying. Your first mission is reaping the soul of a giant plant monster. The mission is a success, but things go sideways when a bigger crow swoops in to steal your bounty. Not only do you fail the mission, but you also begin to age. To reclaim the stolen soul (and your immortality), you must venture beyond the titular Death’s Door. To do that, you must find and defeat three powerful monsters.
Combat mechanics are fast, fluid, and intuitive. Using your red sword, you fight with a combination of light and heavy attacks. Instead of blocking, you evade hits by dodging. Dodging is well implemented into the combat, as you can initiate it even during the middle of a combo. This is especially useful during epic boss fights that pit you against enemies that fill the screen. Besides the main sword, your bow and arrows let you pick baddies apart from a distance. You can replenish your arrow supply by defeating opponents or destroying items, such as boxes or vases. Overall, combat is extremely satisfying.
The Hall of Mirrors (where the Reaping Commission resides) is the game’s hub world. This black-and-white land contains doors that transport you to different levels. It’s also where you purchase upgrades. The upgrades include attributes, such as strength, agility, and magic. There aren’t any branching skill trees here. Instead, each attribute exists separate from the others, and follows a single branch. This keeps things nice and simple.
Death’s Door combat
Death Isn’t the End
While not as unforgiving as Dark Souls, Death’s Door shares a similar design structure to FromSoftware’s infamous series. For example, you’ll discover paths that connect different map areas and simplify traversal. There are also bonfire-like doors that are useful for entering the hub world to replenish your health or purchasing upgrades with souls collected from slain foes. Plant pots scattered across maps act as respawn points, provided you’ve planted a collected seed in said pot. Death’s Door is no “soulslike,” but shares minor similarities with that subgenre.
Death’s Door is an action-RPG headed to PC and Xbox from independent developer Acid Nerve. Published by Devolver Digital, the $19.99 Death’s Door transports you to a strange, Tim Burton-esque world where crows reap the souls of the dead. Borrowing elements from popular franchises, such as Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda, this charming, hack-‘n-slash PC game has the potential to become one of 2021’s standout indie titles.
Reaching your targets means wading through a dangerous land that’s filled with traps, puzzles, and monsters. If you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, then you’ll know what to expect. Taking full advantage of the isometric viewpoint, the game conceals many secrets in plain sight. Venturing behind a building’s hidden corner may reveal treasure or shortcuts to previously explored areas. The limited viewing angle also tantalizes you with what may or may not lie beyond the edges of the screen.
Death’s Door character entering room with moody lighting
Decidedly Dark and Moody
Death’s Door features an art style reminiscent of Tim Burton’s films, with monochromatic worlds filled with deep shadows. Character designs are minimalist, giving faint hints at what creatures could be. Though the worlds are decidedly dark and moody, the game’s visuals aren’t oppressive or dour. The creepy worlds abound with charm and personality. This may not be a graphical showcase like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, but its presentation is easy on the eyes.
The game doesn’t have waypoints or quest logs. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to discern your next objective. This won’t be an issue if you devote your complete attention to the game, but if any of real life’s distractions happen, you may have no clue where to go next. Hopefully, the finished game remedies this.
Death’s Door game design
Can Your PC Run Death’s Door?
To play Death’s Door on your gaming rig, your PC needs at least an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, an Nvidia GeForce MX 150 (2048 MB) GPU, 8GB of RAM, 5GB of storage, and the Windows 10 operating system. On my gaming PC, with its Intel i7-4790 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, frame rates remained locked at a smooth 60 frames per second. The sparse graphics and video options let you enable or disable anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion, depth of field, and reflections.
A Feast for Crows
Death’s Door utilizes familiar gameplay tropes to deliver a simple and enjoyable experience. The game has engaging combat, and its imaginative environments teem with secrets. Boss battles are a highlight, as is the otherworldly, inviting art style. Plus, in a gaming landscape clogged with 100-hour behemoths, Death’s Door’s small scale is a welcome palate cleanser. We look forward to playing the full game when it arrives on PC and Xbox on July 20.