Death’s Door Review – Murder of One
Developed by Acid Nerve
Published by Devolver Digital
Available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
It’s a sad fact of life that, eventually, you will die. It happens to everyone. Hopefully knowing that death is handled by a group of adorable crow warriors in Death’s Door will bring some small comfort to you. If not, well, maybe the game itself will. You go on a quest to recover a lost soul before your own mortality catches up with you. Is this a reason to enter Death’s Door or should you just stay at home? Read our review to find out!
Death’s Door opens with you as a new crow (who I am going to super helpfully refer to as Crow from now on) getting assigned with killing a demon and bringing its soul back. This seems easy enough, but after slaying the demon an older crow ambushes Crow, knocks him out, and steals the soul. You then go on a quest to recover this soul, lest you fail to return it and stay mortal. However, things quickly become more complicated, with Crow needing to collect three major souls from a witch, a king, and a beast to open a massive door and get the demon’s soul back.
However, that’s just the text. Death’s Door is more about the subtext. You’re in a world where death is only common if you’re not part of the elite class. People who have well outlived their ability to perform in a role are refusing to make way for a new generation. You learn the story of those who created the doors, and how their inability to step aside for a newer generation to take over and reform has created a corrupted system. Characters will put their lives into working for the elite, and eventually realize that they’re never going to pull themselves up from their bootstraps, all while the elite openly admits they’re exploiting a system, and insisting they’re not the real problem they’re just playing on the broken system.
Thankfully, you do at least have the ability to fight back. Crow starts the game armed with a sword and a bow, which he can use to fight the oppressors and grab some souls along the way. Before long he’ll also get a few magic powers, with the ability to throw fireballs, bombs, and a hookshot added to the arsenal. Additionally, you can find a few optional weapons around the map, such as a pair of daggers that let you attack rapidly in longer combos for less damage. Using these tools, you’ll participate in some rather fast-paced combat that isn’t too different from what you’d see in the classic Legend of Zelda games. Just much faster-paced.
If you want to use any of your ranged skills, such as the aforementioned bow or fireball, you need to spend magic to do it. If you want to earn magic, you have to perform a melee hit on enemies. This creates a tight loop where you’ll never be able to sit back and pick off enemies, needing to jump into combat to engage directly. It helps that this is extremely fun. There’s a variety of enemies that will slowly appear throughout the game’s run time, giving you new and exciting challenges to try out. It’s never so easy as to be a cakewalk, but at the same time, I never found Death’s Door to be unfairly difficult. It’s a shockingly well-done blend, and I was always impressed that Acid Nerve managed to pull it off.
As the developers behind the rather well-liked Titan Souls, you can also expect some fantastic boss fights. The game opens with a simple one, a spinning flower monster that slams thorns on the ground and attempts to smack you with them. As you advance, you’ll encounter some other unique challenges. A living castle shoots lasers and missiles out of its various windows, a witch creates urns that she throws bombs out of, and a giant frog tilts the arena in an attempt to eat you whole. Each boss fight is a creative endeavor that I enjoyed, and every time a new boss came up I was thrilled to fight it.
Outside of combat, Death’s Door contains all the important Zelda-esque items and secret hunting that I needed. There are all sorts of hidden puzzles, passageways, items, weapons, and health shards that you can find. One particular hidden thing I enjoyed was seeds and pots. You can find seeds around the world that you can then plant in pots. When you do so a healing plant grows, which you can consume. The plants will regrow over time, but it’s a neat way to interact with the world and its themes, not having you just take life but also create a new one.
In fact, after the credits roll, the game isn’t even over. There’s a hunt for a new batch of hidden items that you can use to unlock even more content. There are more little quests and story moments after the final boss has been slain, and if you really put enough work into it then you’ll even be able to find more boss fights and a true ending. It took me six hours to roll credits on Death’s Door, but there was enough extra content that I’m pretty sure getting 100% will take another six.
I genuinely loved my time with Death’s Door and I am so excited that I got a chance to play the game. A lovely little trip through death that contains both a powerful message and some extremely fun combat and exploration, this is a genuine fantastic surprise and easily shoots its way up to one of my favorite games of the year. If you’re looking for something to fill in a classic Zelda niche in your life that doesn’t get enough attention, this is it. If you’re looking for a deeper than expected story, this is also it. Fast-paced combat? Wonderful boss fights? Exploration? Death’s Door has you covered. Also, I deeply want to pet Crow he’s a good boy.