Developer – Acid Nerve
Publisher – Devolver Digital
Platform(s) – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date – July 20, 2021 (Xbox & PC), November 23, 2021 (PlayStation & Nintendo Switch)
Disclaimer: Review Copy was Kindly Provided for this Review
Death’s Door is one of those games that I originally had no intention of ever playing. I had seen the game a couple of times but nothing I saw had captured my interest enough to sit down and play it, that is until the game came out. Death’s Door was released earlier this year exclusively on Xbox & PC and all I heard about this game was universal praise, so much so that it convinced me to play it at some point this year.
Then a few weeks ago during a recent PlayStation State of Play showcase, Death’s Door was confirmed for a PlayStation & Nintendo Switch release in November. At the time of this review, the only other game that’s taking up most of my playtime is Halo Infinite so Death’s Door release on additional platforms couldn’t have been better timed for me.
As I said, I saw a couple of trailers for Death’s Door here and there but other than that I knew nothing coming into this title. So, I went into this game relatively blind and I feel that made my experience all the better. Death’s Door has been heralded as an excellent title and one of the best indie games of the year and after my 10+ hour playthrough, I have to agree with those sentiments.
You play as a small crow who takes upon the role of the “reaper” whose job is to collect souls for their headquarters in the afterlife. A regular mission turns into a dilemma where the crow is now forced to go on a voyage to collect giant souls. Death’s Door doesn’t have a deep narrative but neither does a classic Zelda game which is what this game takes some inspiration from. The concept itself is clever and I’m glad it doesn’t take itself too seriously, plus the narrative isn’t what stands out to me, the quirky personalities and designs of the characters do.
Speaking of design, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent art direction of Death’s Door. Art direction has been a staple in so many games this year such as The Artful Escape, Psychonauts 2, & Kena: Bridge of Spirits. Death’s Door has environments that are simple but still pop due to the nature of the design method in place.
Environments are distinct yet so so alike at the same time. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve actually played the game. From lone cemeteries to large mansions to a fortress surrounded by water, every area is a joy to explore because of how often the game rewards you for doing so. After game completion, I found myself going back in to unlock new areas that I couldn’t previously access due to my limited ability set at the time. I rarely do this unless a game has enthralled me enough to further explore everything it has to offer, plus there’s also the added incentive of attaining the platinum trophy.
One thing I did not know was how difficult Death’s Door can be at times. It’s not on the level of certain games like Sekiro or Dark Souls but it still has its challenging moments. At times in certain games, you’ll feel like you’re failing because a specific game mechanic feels unfair or enemies have illogical attack patterns. This can’t be applied to Death’s Door.
I got frustrated a couple of times throughout the game but it was never because I felt cheated by the game mechanics. 99% of the time I died was because I got too greedy and attempted to strike when I should have dodged or got the timing off on attacks. Combat will be a lot more frustrating if you attempt to run through areas quickly, I learned that quickly. Death’s Door will be frustrating at times for most but it will be only be enraging if you allow it.
The gameplay department is a completely satisfying and fulfilling experience. Death’s Door has a gameplay style that always has you on your toes such as a game like Returnal. It feels smooth to play and I find this being a staple in many indie games I’ve played recently.
I’m a firm believer that gameplay should be the number one priority for a video game. Aspects such as narrative, level design, & music are important but I personally can’t fully enjoy a game if the core gameplay doesn’t feel captivating.
Death’s Door doesn’t do anything new in the gameplay department but I reiterate often that that’s not what I look for in a game. I only care if the game itself succeeds with what it sets out to do with its mechanics. While reinventing in some form is always nice to see, it’s not a necessity for me.
I went from not being interested in playing Death’s Door to it being one of my favorite games of the year. Indie experiences usually are the ones that tend to be unexpected surprises for most and the trend just keeps on continuing. From the Music, Level Design, Art Direction, and especially the gameplay, there’s nothing this game does poorly. The only negatives I can give you are minor nitpicks and that’s usually the sign of a masterfully crafted experience.
Along with titles such as Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Psychonauts 2, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Returnal, & Guardians of the Galaxy, Death’s Door will surely have a place in my favorite games at the end of 2021.
Rating - 9/10