My little crow.
I almost didn’t buy Death’s Door. I had pre-ordered the game after seeing its E3 trailer but I got cold feet as the release date got closer. The reason I had second thoughts was that it was looking increasingly likely that Death’s Door was going to be another indie game that embraced the difficulty of Dark Souls. I want to assure Dark Souls fans that I’m not against those games, I’m just saying that I personally don’t have the patience for them (but I might one day if you know what I mean). Thus, I was getting anxious about Death’s Door as I really wasn’t looking for a challenging and difficult game. Luckily for me, I kept my pre-order for Death’s Door and I had a wonderful time with it.
I don’t usually do this but I absolutely burned through Death’s Door. My modus operandi with games is to play one for a few hours, get distracted, and then jump into another game. Not so with Death’s Door. I plopped myself down in front of the TV every single night and booted this game up until I was done with it. Therefore, I was glad that the game wasn’t too long because it was becoming a problem.
You play as an unnamed crow in Death’s Door. That’s right, a crow. Your little crow is a member of the reaping commission which, whenever a person’s time is up, is responsible for harvesting their soul to power interdimensional doors. Did you get all that? Ok, good, we can move on.
As I was saying, the crows are responsible for sending people on to the next world. The catch is that if, for whatever reason, a crow’s assigned soul escapes, then that crow will age until the soul it was assigned to is brought in. Coincidentally, this is exactly what happens to our little crow.
You see, immediately after defeating a particularly strong soul, our crow is conked on the dead and his assigned soul is stolen. The perpetrator, an old grey crow, explains that he did what he did because he is searching for a soul which escaped his grasp many years before. He then implores us to help him find more powerful souls so he can open a certain eponymous door to find the soul he lost all those years ago. And so, with literally zero questions asked, our crow sets out to do just that.
I must say that the world of Death’s Door is quite pretty and is nice to look at. I know no one else will be as impressed with this as I am but I’m going to mention it anyways. I really like the way the smoke and wind effects look on the landscape. I mean, just look at it. Isn’t that something? No? See, I knew no one else was going to be impressed. Well, how about them reflections in the water? I assume that’s what ray tracing gets you. Is that ray tracing? Who can say? I know I can’t.
One of the first things I noticed about Death’s Door which had me a little worried was that there is no map. Let me repeat that: there is no map to be found anywhere in the game. This was such a large departure from modern games that I didn’t know what to do with myself in the opening few hours. I thought I was going to be lost constantly but that didn’t turn out to be the case. This was both because of the signposts in the game (side note: these can be chopped in half which causes them to become unintelligible) and because I found it to be easy to remember where everything was. Sure, I did get turned around a few times but I always found my way back to where I wanted to go.
The lack of a map also allowed the developers to hide secrets in literally every part of the game. Seriously, there are secrets everywhere. Not only are there collectibles and health upgrades to be found but there are a few secret bosses hanging around too. There are even a few tasks to be completed once you beat the final boss. This is a small detail to mention but I loved how you can move the camera around a little to get a better view of an area. It helped immensely whenever I was trying to discover a secret that was slightly off-camera.
Another reason why I didn’t get turned around so much in Death’s Door is because there are shortcuts everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Arrive in a new area, kill some enemies, and guess what? You can probably drop a ladder or open a door to reveal a shortcut to the beginning of that same area. I loved these shortcuts since they cut down on the time it took for me to return to a specific place. Especially after I died.
You will die a lot (or not if you’re just a badass) in Death’s Door. As such, you will get many an opportunity to glimpse the death screen. This screen made me laugh every time I saw it on account of how in your face it is. The difficulty is not at the level of Dark Souls but it still presents a certain level of challenge. You have to really pay attention so you don’t die because, like the aforementioned Dark Souls, all of the enemies will respawn when you do shuffle off this mortal coil.
In a departure from Dark Souls, however, you don’t really lose anything when you die. The only thing you lose is the progress up until your death. You only have to restart the area you were in from the last interdimensional door (remember those?) you exited from. My only advice in this regard is to always enter one of those doors when you see one just to save your progress. Hey, there’s a door, what should you do? That’s right, go through that dang thing!
The combat is what really drew me in. It is exceedingly simple and will seem overly familiar to anyone who has played video games for any amount of time. You have both a strong attack and a light attack and that’s about it. Oh, you are granted the ability to shoot arrows and a few other magical attacks that I won’t spoil for you here but just know that I played using the strong attack and light attack mostly. Actually, scratch that. I really only used the light attack. I would strike an enemy while they were vulnerable a few times with my light attack and then dodge out of range to plan my next attack. Multiply this by a thousand and you’ll get my experience with Death’s Door. You may think that sounds boring but let me assure you that it is not.
That’s right, I loved my time shredding foes in this game. The way you can duck and dodge attacks while waves of enemies spawn really got my blood pumping especially if my health was getting low. It also helped when the music kicked in as well but I’ll talk about that more later. The enemy variety contributed to this feeling as well since Death’s Door also introduces new ones on a regular basis. The combat really boils down to memorizing enemy attack patterns and exploiting them to the max. Enemies which give you trouble early on become trivial after you’ve fought them a few times.
My favorite parts of the game were when I was faced with different enemy types who were all working together to end my life. It was truly a work of art watching that little crow dip, dodge, and weave through a plethora of incoming attacks just to come out on top in the end. Which always made it all the more heart aching to watch him die whenever I didn’t dodge an attack in time.
Although the normal enemies are a hoot, the bosses are the real stars of the show. These enemies were a lot of fun to go up against even if I died a bunch of times while fighting them. Learning their attack patterns, dodging their attacks, and ultimately taking them down was immensely satisfying.
I forgot to mention this earlier but whenever you kill an enemy, you gain a copious amount of souls. Souls can be spent in the Hall of Doors to improve your crow. You can improve the amount of damage you can deal, how fast you dodge, and you can even upgrade your magical abilities. My only complaint about the upgrades is that they don’t seem to do much. Sure, if you upgrade the damage you do, it does in fact do exactly that but it is only by a miniscule amount. That goes for every upgrade in Death’s Door. The upgrades make your abilities better but not by much. Also, our little crow’s walking speed isn’t very fast which led to me rolling everywhere. I don’t know if it made him any faster but it made it feel like he was which is why I did it constantly.
The writing is admittedly few and far between in Death’s Door but what is there is fantastic. There’s an undercurrent of dark humor to every bit of dialogue in the game which I can appreciate. All of the characters, including the bosses, are full of personality and humor which are big pluses in my personal opinion. I would like to take this opportunity to give an example of the kind of writing in Death’s Door right here, right now. There’s a character called, and I shit you not, Pothead. And, in case you’re wondering, that’s exactly the kind of writing I can get behind.
All of what I have said so far (the art style, the combat, the bosses, the writing, etc.) are enough to make this game great but there’s one other element that puts it over the top. People who’ve read a Pretend Gamer review should know what’s coming. I’m of course talking about the soundtrack. It is, in short, fucking fantastic. In fact, I may be so bold as to say it’s my favorite soundtrack of all time but I’m not ready to commit to that just yet. Let me just say that I’m glad I didn’t play Death’s Door and Persona 5 Royal in the same year cause it would be a legitimately difficult decision to decide which game’s soundtrack is better.
The composer is David Fenn and he was kind enough to put the whole OST up on YouTube for free. Even if you don’t think this is the game for you, do yourself a favor and listen to the soundtrack. I have spent countless hours listening to these tracks both in my car and in my apartment. Even if many of the pieces are melancholic, it never fails to put a smile on my face.
I am glad that I didn’t cancel my preorder for Death’s Door. It was fantastic all the way from beginning to end. The visuals, combat, bosses, characters, humor, and the soundtrack are all excellent. As a side note, the game has only been available on both Xbox and PC but Switch and PS4/PS5 owners will soon be able to buy Death’s Door and play it themselves. How soon, you ask? Well, you can buy the game as soon as today in fact. So, I implore you all to get out there and buy it ASAP since it is a very good game in both my personal and professional opinion.
- Beautiful visual design
- Fast, frenetic combat
- Boss battles
- Soundtrack (the real winner)
- Upgrades purchased in the Hall of Doors don’t provide too much of a bump
Thanks for reading!