Death's Door

Think about the most complete food, album, movie, or game you ever consumed. Maybe you had a slice of pizza where you could taste the pepperoni, cheese, and sauce evenly. Is there an album you’ve listened to where every single track was awesome? Or a movie you watched that didn’t have any throwaway scenes? What about a game where all the different moving parts just worked impressively well together?

Death’s Door is one of the most complete games I’ve ever played. That’s to say that everything it does feels deliberate and meaningful.

The Acid Nerve-developed, Devolver Digital-published Death’s Door is kind of an old school Zelda-like, but it’s also much more than just that. Sure, the game might remind you of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening or A Link to the Past, but it carves its own path. What you get here is an action-adventure game that does an excellent job of honoring its forebears while remaining truly wholesome in its own right.

The setup for Death’s Door is equal parts curious and quirky. You play as a Crow, a feathered reaper type whose job is to collect souls. It’s all a part of your 9-to-5 job, and you’re tasked with going around and collecting the souls of folks you’ve been assigned to. I don’t know if this was intentional, but the game’s premise really does bring new meaning to the phrase “soul-sucking 9-to-5 day job.”

Death's Door

Things go awry when the soul you’re meant to collect is stolen. This leads to quite the delightful adventure. Well, for you, the player. Our bird friend? Probably not so much. Throughout the course of Death’s Door, you’ll journey to some mystifying lands that are pretty gorgeous despite the heinous dangers they house.

Combat in Death’s Door is easy to grasp, but the game isn’t necessarily a cakewalk. At the start, basic enemies can be tough to deal with because your attacks are fairly weak. Collecting soul energy allows you to upgrade your attack power, attack speed, movement speed, and more. You’ll want to visit the office from time to time and upgrade these stats in order to deal with enemies both pesky and daunting.

Smaller enemies roam the various locales you visit. At times, though, you’ll be tasked with taking on waves of bad guys. These are often a mix of grunt types and mini-bosses and are among the most challenging sections of Death’s Door. On their own, both mini-bosses and main bosses aren’t too difficult to deal with if you know what you’re doing. You might die and retry a few times, but things never get frustrating. You’ll want to tread lightly and carefully in order to successfully defeat the game’s big bads.

Death's Door

Aside from hacking and slashing your way to victory, you also have arrows and magic attacks, as well as charged strikes. None of the moves in your arsenal is especially difficult to pull off, which makes it easy to stay focused on the combat without trying to juggle any crazy abilities. The action in Death’s Door works very well, and because enemies walk a fine line between punishing and fair, it’s easy to just embrace the combat.

The world and exploration mechanics work wonderfully and together make up the best parts of the game. Just moving through the different areas is cool, but the game’s puzzles are all pretty solid, too. I never found myself bewildered or confused by any of the puzzles. For some, specifically those who enjoy really tough brain teasers, this could potentially be a problem. But if you appreciate a good journey, the simple-yet-still-engaging nature of the environmental puzzles in Death’s Door is easy to appreciate.

Simply running through gardens, castles, and ruins is an absolute joy thanks to all of the gorgeous scenery. The game’s interior and exterior architecture are great, with areas that at times feel like they were pulled out of a fairytale and other times are more in line with a grim fable. There were a few moments while playing where I felt like the designs of the game’s dungeons would be right at home in a Zelda game.

Death's Door

Then there’s the music, which is also worthy of high praise. There’s just so much to love about the score in Death’s Door. There’s a deep melancholia to the sound of the music that helps build the game’s mood. It’s all a little somber most of the time, but it also gives way to more dramatic, fast-paced themes when you’re in combat.

Aside from being a really well-made game in terms of both mechanics and presentation, Death’s Door is also respectful of the player’s time. A playthough will likely take you no more than 10 hours, but even then, this is the kind of game that’s just begging to be revisited at some point down the road after you’ve beaten it the first time. It’s a lovely game that’s fun from start to finish, and you’ll think about it for a long time after it’s over.

Death's Door

Personally, Death’s Door does for me what I’d hoped a lot of games would’ve done in recent years — it intrigued me with its concept and art, but it hooked me with its rich, plentiful gameplay and world. Recently, Blue Fire almost gave me that, but then the gameplay sort of fell short for me — and I still want to give that game one more chance because I feel that it sort of deserves that much. Even Acid Nerve’s own Titan Souls, which had an awesome world of its own, just missed the mark for me.

Death’s Door, however, is the complete package. It’s a wondrous little game with so much heart and soul that it’s impossible not to fall in love with everything it does.

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