You Reap What You Can't Sow
Imagine this. You're an upstart crow working at a big named soul harvesting company. Before you even set foot off the bus much less brew a cup of coffee, you're tasked to take on a large soul way out of your paygrade. You're able to do so, but right before you reap the benefits a random crow smacks you on the head, steals your kill, and runs off into the nether. Your superiors won't even entertain that excuse so you chase after the crow into uncharted territory where all kinds of vile monsters exist. You don't get paid enough for any of this. Thus, the beginning of Death's Door.
Developed by Acid Nerve, the streak continues where amazing indie titles are developed by a handful of developers. Earlier we looked at One Step From Eden, a Mega Man Battle Network roguelike developed by a single person. Acid Nerve bumps that number by two, developed by Mark Foster and David Fenn. The two also worked on designing, composing, writing, and just about everything else involving Death's Door. The magnitude of the aesthetic and gameplay is impressive yet simplistic. Despite the amount of work that surely had to come from two people, Death's Door is a beautiful work of art.
Death's Door - The Source Of All Crows
The controls for Death's Door are fairly simple, taking elements from not only The Legend of Zelda but I'd even include Hades as well. It's an isometric game, allowing the player to experience the aesthetic as a whole. Art designs including the stage designs are easy to traverse. Planes that are inaccessible give players hints that there is more to the level than what meets the eye. A broken bridge may simply mean that the switch to lower it is not far off. Cracked walls may hint to players that paths will open as the player progresses and earn new weapons.
Combat is also as simple as a Zelda game, from swinging the sword in short and quick combos to a stronger heavy attack. The protagonist also comes equipped with a bow and arrow that replenishes ammo after each melee attack. On brand for Soulslike games, the protagonist has a dodge roll button that had come in clutch during the boss fights. Anyone who has played a game in the past three decades will instantly catch on and this adds to Death's Door charm. The game doesn't hold your hand as far as progression is concerned.
Death's Door Hammers In The Adventure Genre
To my knowledge, from playing the game, there is no resemblance to a map in-game. From the moment the player steps foot in the first area, they are left to their own devices. The goal is to find the crow who claimed your soul for themselves and that will require a lot of climbing, fighting, and dead ends along the way. Fortunately, there are trademarks within the cemetery that lets players know they are heading towards the right path. The previously mentioned walled-off areas serve as indicators that it's not where the player is supposed to go right now.
Open areas are usually greeted by waves of enemies that must be taken care of before progressing through the general path. A positive thing about the enemies in this game, aside from the design, is that they can commit to friendly fire. There was an enemy that rolled everywhere, only stopping when hitting a wall or its fellow comrades. I made it my duty to let the rolling frenemy collide with its allies, killing them off one by one, and finishing the job myself. Would it had been faster if I took him out of his misery? Of course! But was it amusing? Of course!
Death's Door's Fights Are Epic And Winnable
This may seem like a weird thing to say, but considering how many Soulslike games exist, it's refreshing to play a game that I feel like I'm actually winning. The bosses in Death's Door may seem imposing, the first official boss being a giant tower guarding "Death's Door." This tiny crow has a punch that's bigger than its size however, as visible damage can be seen from the boss the more punishment it takes. Having four health points may seem little, but Death's Door does make the player feel just as powerful as they are fragile.
After the boss's defeat, the player finally comes across the stupid crow that knocked them out in the beginning. Turns out it was an act of desperation as the soul that was stolen from us seemed like enough to open Death's Door. Death's Door is the source of power for the crows and so long as it remains closed, death for the crows is imminent. Unfortunately, this goes doubly for the protagonist as their life slowly dwindles away due to the larger crow's meddling. Now suddenly the protagonist has to be the one to defeat three large sources of souls in hopes that it'd be enough to open the door. What a workday, huh?
You're Not Sorry, Crow.
My playtime stopped as I was approaching the witch's mansion to claim her soul and so far the game is a surprise. For as much effort that two talented developers put in the game shows that a clear vision is enough to see through to the end. Apparently, the early stages of COVID-19 barely put a dent in its development as it was only two people who worked on it. Regardless, Death's Door is another sleeper indie title hit that fans of gaming should try and it'll be something we'll come back to.
Death's Door is available on all major consoles and PC.