Death’s Door game review (2021)

Although shorter than expected, Death’s Door is a more forgiving Dark Souls-type game mixed with The Legend of Zelda elements, delivering a beautiful world to explore, entertaining and challenging dungeons, and some of the best boss designs and battles I’ve seen and played in years.

Death’s Door is definitely one of those indie games that flew under the radar in 2021. At first, I wasn’t very interested, but then, I started watching gameplay and following all the buzz behind it. I decided to give it a try and sure enough, the hype is very much deserving. Once I started playing, I couldn’t put it down. Granted, the game isn’t an outrageously long game, but it took me close to 12 hours to beat it, which includes me playing through the entire main story and doing a handful of the side stuff along the way. For a game that’s only $20 and for the kind of game it is, I say it’s extremely well worth the experience I had with it.

In Death’s Door, you play as a crow whose job title is a “reaper.” Reapers work for the Reaping Commission Headquarters, which is basically a business-like office in the afterlife. After being sent on a job to collect a soul from a reluctant monster, an older, much larger crow steals the soul from you. The older crow begins to explain a conspiracy about other crows who have gone missing, stating you must collect three “Giant Souls” from three different monsters in three different dungeons in order to open Death’s Door. The journey begins here as you traverse through different areas, encountering different monsters, both big and small and easy and difficult, along the way as you try to finally enter Death’s Door to see if the what the older crow claims is true.

The story is pretty simple to follow, if I’m being honest. What attracted me the most about it is how each character plays a specific role in it and, little by little, the pieces start to come together in order to make everything make sense. The game is mainly focused on telling this one, big story as well. You can’t simply go into new areas and do side missions and quests. Yes, the world is pretty big in size and you’re able to travel and explore, encountering the new places to see and monsters to fight. However, the task at hand, which is locating the three dungeons and defeating the monsters there in order to get the “Giant Souls,” is always the main thing you’re playing towards. There’s no getting distracted with another mission.

In a sense, I enjoyed that aspect, but I feel, at times, it’s a missed opportunity since the world can feel a bit bland when there’s not much else to do other than kill monsters and open up shortcuts to get around quicker. I mean, you can find shrines to pray at, which give you boosts to upgrade your attributes, as well as seeds to plant on pots so you can heal whenever you pass by them, and you activate doors, which acts as checkpoints, at times, and portals to go back to the headquarters. At the headquarters, you can use orbs you collect to upgrade skills as well, such as strength and magic. For what it’s worth, even though it’s the only thing you’re progressing to, the story was a lot of fun and interesting, especially when things begin to unravel.

The characters and NPC’s you encounter make the experience even more enjoyable and entertaining. Some are incredibly witty and are definitely inspired by things you’ve seen before, whether it’s pop culture or meme culture. Once you play through it and see some of the phrases and words they use in conversation, you’ll understand. Some of these characters, you interact with simply to conversate, while others you actually engage in battle with, which leads me to the big boss fights.

These boss fights are some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time in any video game. Every boss, even the mini bosses, are impressively designed and each are very different than the other. They each have a different move-set you have to familiarize yourself with in order to beat them. You can’t really approach each fight the same way since some of the bosses move different and use all kinds of different attacks. It’s definitely a trial and error method, because you will die and you’ll have to regroup and try to figure out what you did wrong the last time. Once you finally beat these bosses, it’s an incredibly rewarding feeling of accomplishment.

The same can even be said about the standard creatures you encounter as you’re traveling in the world. There all kinds of creatures you’ll run into that’ll test your patience. It’s not that they’re all necessarily difficult to deal with, but they can definitely be annoying. It can be increasingly challenging since, in some areas, you’re trapped in a horde-like situation and you have to take out multiple enemies at the same time. Sometimes, it’s four of the same type of monsters and they all come at you at once, so you have to strategize accordingly or you’ll have to restart again and again.

In terms of gameplay, it’s pretty simple to pick up on. You have a main weapon, which can be a sword, a hammer, some daggers, and so on. You collect different kinds of weapons as you continue the playthrough. They aren’t every different in how they’re used, but they do look different and each have their own stats. For example, you can swing the sword three times before you have to reset. As for the daggers, you can swing four times, so it’s a bit faster. Some of the weapons are stronger than the other, but the way I see it, it’s all according to your playstyle. You have unique magic abilities as well, such as a bow and arrow, a bomb you can throw at enemies and environments to open new paths, a fire ability to shoot at enemies and light up vases to solve puzzles, and a hookshot. You collect these as you continue playing also. The most important gameplay mechanic, in my opinion, is the ability to roll. Rolling/dodging is absolutely crucial, especially when fighting the big time monsters. One mistake and you’re toast. There isn’t anything that one-shot kills you, but in those boss fights, you don’t get the opportunity to heal and with only four ticks on the life bar, every tick matters. So, the gameplay is pretty straight forward and easy to pick up on. I wish it was a bit more varied in terms of melee attacks, but it works fairly well for the most part.

Speaking of puzzles, I get plenty of vibes from my favorite video game series of all time, The Legend of Zelda. The way you interact with the NPC’s, the world you travel in, the dungeons, the monster design, and the puzzles. This game is heavily inspired by the Zelda series in more ways than one, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Another series you can compare it to is the Dark Souls series. It’s just as challenging, but not as unforgiving as Dark Souls is. The learning curve is much more gracious than Dark Souls has ever been. It’s definitely not as difficult either. I don’t have much patience to deal with any of the Souls games (Bloodborne being the exception), but I found myself coming back for more every time I died in Death’s Door.

The gripes I have with Death’s Door are insanely minor. The world could’ve used a bit more activity with side quests, which would’ve made it a bit longer, and I do wish the combat system was a bit more versatile. But, all in all, the game works so well when you put everything together. There are definitely incentives to exploring this game’s world once you unlock everything. You’ll find yourself revisiting old and familiar areas to see if you can access them with the new equipment you’ve acquired and you’ll be searching to see what else you can find. The monster design is absolutely top-notch and some of the best and most creative I’ve ever seen in any game, period. Lastly, completing the story makes the entire journey worth it. It’s one of the best games of 2021 and at its price, you should’ve bought this game yesterday.

Score: A

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