Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
While the early bird apparently gets the worm you were in no such luck. Seeming like times are hard, you show up to work to find out that as a reaper you have a new contract for something big that could set you up for a little while in these tough times. Heading out to reap this soul though you soon find yourself in a predicament as while the door to reap souls is open, you are set to age and become mortal. This wouldn’t be so bad but someone stole that soul and time? Is now ticking.
Death’s Door is an interesting experience as it feels like multiple different genres without quite being any of them. After several hours though, the true nature of it all starts to come through as you run around what you eventually realize isn’t a giant world but a rather small one intricately sewn together in an action adventure style that’ll make you think roguelike, Metroidvania and Soulslike without being any of the three.
Death, a big theme both in theory and in practice, is inevitable as you work your way through this world in order to reap the three souls needed in order to open Death’s Door which will allow you to find the one that was stolen from you and get things back to normal. Exploring high and low though, it almost seemed at times like a harder top down version of a The Legend of Zelda adventure were you could see where you needed to go but couldn’t make it there with the tools you had on hand.
Broken down into three zones for the three souls that you need to reap, this is about where things change it up for something a little different. Unlike a lot of other adventures that would add in another three to four zones, each of these zones contain multiple areas keeping you there for a bit longer as you work your way to the big bad’s lair. Solidifying this concept is that the first round though any of these zones will provide you with access to a tool to either move further in or explore a bit more of the surrounding world in order to get a taste of what comes next.
What I enjoyed about this concept is that it allows you to decide what you want to do. Do you want to go further in? Do you want to go back to the overworld and potentially unlock a few of its secrets? Or do you want to go to the next zone in order to potentially grab a few new secrets and an extra tool that could be used in your current predicament? Even if you do go out of your way for the extra tools though, some may never find the upgrades while some like me will just stumble upon them and then realize they are the best things ever as they increase the potency and range of what they can do.
From this point it’s really exploring everywhere that can be explored and defeating enemies in order to become more powerful by using this world’s currency in order to increase your attack, speed of your attack, your base speed, and how powerful your magic and tools are. Built in a manner to send you to an early grave, Death’s Door isn’t an easy one so being able to increase your combat prowess should be a priority.
This is the area that I had a bit of a disconnect with Death’s Door, the difficulty. I’m really not a stranger to hard games nor am I a stranger to difficulty heightened challenges but I felt like the scaling was often off as enemies could easily hit you but you would need to swing and hit them a fair amount of times before they fell. It does get easier as you upgrade your stats and find other weapons that might better suit your play style, but the scaling felt rough.
A bit in that vein but well done however were the boss fights. There were no “do this three times and then score a hit”. There were no health bars. Instead, the bosses would start to crack as you hit the shells keeping their souls in this plane instead of being moved over to the great beyond. And I loved it. Not knowing when it was going to end, not knowing when the boss was going to start pulling out new tricks, this kept me engaged more than worrying about a health bar and how far down I had been getting it. So that you for that as a lot of others could learn from this design choices for this style.
Well paced though at about ten hours with most of the upgrades acquired and several shrines left for health and mana, Death’s Door will provide a good challenge for those who seek it but I wonder if it may not be too hard for those looking for a more standard adventure. That said, I loved a good deal about how this all came together even if I would have liked a map of some sort to help me plan out my next moves as the way that the world is sewn together, it’s not exactly a 1-1 from the door you seem to walk into and the door that you walk out of.