- - 9.5/109.5/10
The frantic gameplay always leaves you wanting to clear one more room to see what’s next and that feeling never faded for me throughout my playthrough.
Developer: Acid Nerve
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Terms like ‘Metroidvania’ and ‘Soulslike’ have become pretty commonplace for describing games in recent years, but many fail to truly live up to these claims. Death’s Door from developer Acid Nerve manages to take both these genres, seamlessly merge them, and then sprinkle in even more bits of greatness that elevate the experience to the next level.
In Death’s Door, you take control of a Crow who works as a reaper who’s job is to retrieve souls and bring them back to your employer. With a variety of attacks and movement options at your disposal, it quickly becomes apparent that taking on the many enemies of the world requires some quick thinking and clever tricks. You start with the ability to roll, use a sword, and have a bow that uses your magic meter which refills upon successful hits on enemies or objects in the overworld. Upon defeating enemies, you receive souls that can be redeemed for upgrades like faster movement/dodging or higher attack power. Unlike Souls games, these aren’t lost upon death, so there’s no need to struggle to try and retrieve them before dying again. This could come in handy if you find yourself struggling and need to farm some souls before taking on a new challenge. I never found the need to do so, but the choice is there and that’s something the game handles very well, choices.
There is no difficulty setting in Death’s Door, it’s set by how much you wish to explore and upgrade yourself. If you wanted to, you could even pick up an umbrella and use it as a weapon for peak challenge if you felt you were up to it. (There’s even an achievement for finishing the entire game using only the umbrella!). Different weapons are scattered around the world to find, and new abilities that are acquired throughout the game help you to uncover even more secrets. At first you only have a bow as an ability, but you eventually get magic spells, bombs and even a grapple. These can be upgraded through secret challenge bosses that test your skills. Your health and magic meter can also be upgraded by finding hidden shrines throughout the world. In these ways, the game is very reminiscent of the Zelda and Metroid franchises. Acquiring new abilities and then realizing that you can open up a path you couldn’t have earlier on in the game is a rewarding and fun experience that I always enjoy in games like this. It helps to bring up replayability and makes you more enticed to upgrade yourself throughout your adventure.
The game is paced very well, teaching you new mechanics and throwing new enemies at you left and right, always forcing you to think one step ahead and strategize every move. One moment you will be facing a wave of enemies and the next you may be tasked with solving some puzzles or even doing some light platforming, sometimes all at once. The frantic gameplay always leaves you wanting to clear one more room to see what’s next and that feeling never faded for me throughout my playthrough. Each area has a distinct theme and charm to it that’s accompanied by some great characters, enemies, and music. The somber tone of the music matches the atmosphere of the game but it also has some upbeat tracks that really get you in the mode to slay some enemies. No spoilers here but certain encounters combined with the music tracks had me smiling as I was attacked by hordes of enemies. My only gripe with the game was that there was no map. For a game that has so much Metroidvania ties, the ability to see where you are and to avoid getting lost would help. It’s not a major issue but would still be neat to see implemented.
While the game is on the shorter side, I appreciated that. With free time becoming increasingly harder to get, a streamlined experience is what I crave these days. I finished the main game in about 10 or so hours which included looking for a few secrets. 100%’ing the game will likely take a bit longer and I look forward to going back and finding what I missed on my playthrough. It’s such an enjoyable experience that you’ll find the time fly by while playing. It’s one of the few titles I’ve played in recent years that I felt compelled to finish in a single sitting, an impressive feat as I’ve found it harder to actually finish my massive growing backlog of games. Death’s Door is definitely one that you’ll want to open up and experience for yourself.