Now I am Become Death
A sentient crow, wielding weapons and magic in order to reap the souls of those unwilling to let go of this mortal coil. Tell me that doesn’t sound at the very least interesting and I’ll show you a liar of the highest order.
On today’s menu is Death’s Door, a welcome surprise that displayed a fantastic amount of passion, care and polish. And from a two person team on top of it all. I found myself impressed by this title at every turn and revelation. It’s an isometric game, with challenging fast-paced combat, excellent music, and witty writing.
Death’s Door has you play as a crow with a 9-to-5. However, it’s not your average job. No, old Corvus (The name I gave to the protagonist) spends their Monday mornings collecting the souls of the soon to be dead. It’s honest and hard work. Thankless at times, but vital for the natural order of existence it seems. The story begins when a routine soul reaping is interrupted by a thief. Without their assigned soul, Corvus remains mortal until they can retrieve the soul and close the door to their world. This takes them on a journey to collect the souls of mortals who refuse to be mortal.
Now, maybe that synopsis came off as a bit dark. You’re essentially one of many grim reapers, who all living beings fear one way or another. However, Death’s Door still manages to find humour and levity in the macabre world it’s set in. It’s witty and lighthearted dialogue works in harmony with the darker elements. There are also some pretty interesting side characters. My favourite, without spoiling too much, is a man going through a Weekend at Bernie’s situation.
One Badass Bird
The combat is simple but highly effective. It’s fast-paced nature makes for engaging encounters that left me wanting more. I’d actively seek enemies, even when they weren’t in my way. While you may not find any complex combos or mechanics, you will find a refined system that works almost perfectly.
Firstly there’s melee combat that has you utilize a range of weapons such as a slow but powerful thunder hammer, or a pair of lightning quick daggers. You can even fight with an umbrella if that’s what floats your boat. Melee is straightforward, you have your attacks that can be chained to a certain number depending on weapons or stats. As well as a rolling attack for those moments when you need to get a hit in on an enemy, but don’t want to risk getting smacked in return.
Then there’s ranged attacks, you start off with simple arrows that allow you to remain a threat when not face to face with an enemy. However, as you clear areas and defeat bosses you gain access to some really useful magic attacks that often serve a purpose outside of combat. Such as the bomb that can break down brittle blocks of stone in your way. Or the hook shot that allows you to cross gaps or close the distance from an enemy. Magic quickly became my best friend. Partly, because I always try to use magic if possible in a game. But also because of the breathing room it provided.
However, you can’t just spam magic at enemies. You only have a set amount of shots that can only be replenished by landing blows on enemies or destructible items. This mechanic, along with the fact that enemies will be running to beat the snot out of you keeps the pace of fights up at all times. You may feel safe behind your spells and arrows, but it won’t last forever. Eventually you’ll need to get in there and knock some heads together.
Love Your Enemies
Combat isn’t a complicated system, yet it’s always engaging and fun. What really helps this is the enemy variety. It was pretty much perfect in that regard. There were dudes with giant stone faces strapped to their backs that would curl into a ball and roll toward you, making it hard to deal damage. You’d have to wait for an attack and when they hit a hard enough surface that they’d flop on their back, rendering them vulnerable. There were also creatures hiding in vases that would spit seeking orbs, which you could smack with your melee weapon, possibly right back at them.
In order to be as effective as possible you’d have to keep a rough idea of what each enemy’s attacks were, so you can act accordingly. Whether the plan was baiting attacks and wailing on the poor souls. Running away and hitting them with magic at a distance. Or taking the initiative and defeating them before they let a ranged attack loose. Death’s Door would also make a habit of grouping these enemies together. In these situations you’d need to prioritize who to take out first, or what spells may be the most effective. This once again kept the pacing up at breakneck speeds. And oh boy, was it fun. From the very beginning, until the final boss.
That being said, boss fights were really good for the most part. I can’t think of any that I disliked. However, if I were forced to choose a weak link. I would say the one I enjoyed least was the Frog King. This was a more restrictive fight. It was structured in a way that you could only damage the boss on certain areas of his body and later only in certain moments. You’d otherwise have to run around like a headless chicken avoiding his attacks until your next opportunity presented itself.
And yet, even then I genuinely enjoyed the fight. Which just displays the quality of the boss fights in general. From their designs, to personalities, and move-sets. They’re all different enough from one another that you’ll seldom approach an encounter in the same way.
Great Sounds, Good Sights
The artstyle is fairly straightforward, it doesn’t exactly leave you particularly impressed all the time. However there are moments of spectacle such as when you first approach Castle Lockstone. It’s a towering castle that’s pretty intimidating in an awesome way. The kind of intimidating, that doesn’t scare you off but leaves you curious to see what’s inside. The environments range from the luxury decor of a mansion, to the frigid cold of a mountain with sheer cliffs and biting winds. While nothing too special, it’s still a great looking game with occasionally impressive sights.
Death’s Door also boasts some really solid music. Literally every track was an earworm. I could hardly help but whistle along as I went about dungeon crawling. I especially loved the use of the pan flute in certain sections, such as the overgrown ruins on the way to the Frog King’s lair. The best way I can describe the soundtrack is as a mix of wistful and dreamy. That’s a common theme throughout it all. Save for boss fights which are naturally a bit more exciting. Each area’s music is truly a pleasure to listen to. One of my favourite moments was in an underground factory/furnace area. The movement of platforms in the form of pistons was in time with the music. Their rhythmic industrial sounds became a part of the music itself. All praise to David Fenn the composer, for some phenomenal work.
So if it wasn’t already abundantly obvious, I loved Death’s Door. It is a certified banger of a game that I can very easily recommend to almost anyone. From the gameplay down to the soundtrack, you’re seriously in for a treat if you decide to pick up this game.