Death's Door is the next title from developers Acid Nerve after the success of Titan Souls. While it was only announced earlier this year we're also within a month of its release. While Titan Souls mixes difficult combat and unique mechanics with a Boss Rush style of gameplay, Death's Door keeps the idea of a challenging spin on a genre and applies it to the RPG formula. Set in a unique and mysterious world and boasting mechanics similar to popular RPG franchises like The Legend of Zelda how successful is Acid Nerve in making this genre their own?
In Death's Door, you play as a Reaper, who in this world are all crows, and it's your first day on the job. You arrive on the train with your sword strapped to your back, go through processing, and receive your first job at the Hall of Doors. In this world, unless a Reaper shows up a person or creature will not die, it's your job to head out into the world and collect the soul of the Demonic Forest Spirit. Unfortunately, a series of events transpire that have you lose the soul, and now you need to gather more giant souls in order to get the soul of your target back. The story progresses from a 'one-and-done' job that had me expecting the game to be a series of missions I'd be sent out after, into a much grander plot that will result in the raven making their way through Death's Door.
You'll meet a number of interesting characters along the way such as Darwin the Vault Keeper who you purchase upgrades from, Steadhone the Gravedigger who wants the raven to become strong enough to be able to kill him, and Pothead, a being who was cursed to have a pot for a head. Those who had stories that were shared in this preview were fun and compelling, and those that didn't get explored, like Steadhone and his desire for death, have me increasingly intrigued to find out more. There's a lot of good work with story threads being seeded early that an inquisitive player won't be able to put down.
Combat in Death's Door is simple enough but challenging. You begin with a basic sword slash attack and can use your MP bar to fire spiritual arrows. You only have four health and no access to potions or other regenerative items in battle so you'll be spending time learning enemy patterns and getting a few quick attacks in and dodge rolling to safety. The MP is quite unique in Death's Door in that you have four charges of MP and after spending them the only way to regain them is to hit enemies. When a boss is doing some kind of unmissable attack you can dash away and take potshots, but you're extremely limited until you can get back into the fray. It's a way of encouraging melee fighting, while not leaving the player with downtime as an enemy spins like a top around the arena. Through story progression, you'll also obtain new MP attacks like shooting fireballs, it does act the same as an arrow so don't expect it to be a game-changing upgrade, at least for combat.
Combat is tough but fair. If you get hit, you'll know what you did wrong and with each repeated encounter you'll find enemies falling as you optimize your strategy. Death is an eventuality, but you don't lose any progress or items when you die, just respawn at the last door you accessed. Through creative level design and a lot of looping back to places you earlier were these doors are normally placed in central and easy to get back to locations. You might spend 15 minutes wading through a dungeon and end up at a higher platform in the starting area able to open a gate or drop a ladder giving you access to the door. In a game where death can be so frequent it's really important that resetting upon death is a quick process, no one wants to feel like they keep wasting 30 minutes at a time because of a mistimed dodge roll...
One of the best parts of Death's Door is the world itself. Some of the lands that were available in this preview were the Grove of Spirits, the Lost Cemetery, and the Ceramic Manor. It's clear to see in the building of the world where the Zelda-like inspiration comes from. Mechanics wise the world is filled with secrets, puzzles to solve, and a variety of interesting enemies. After spending at least 40 minutes walking through a park setting I noticed a small gap in some hedges that led to treasure, this immediately led me to backtrack to find more secrets. Some I was rewarded with, and some alluded to abilities and tools that I still had yet to acquire. Every new discovery felt rewarding.
From the moment I began Death's Door, to the signpost that told me I couldn't go any further in the demo I was enthralled. The combat is tough and rewarding, the world is interesting, and most importantly filled with characters that I want to learn more about. From what I was able to glean from future abilities and items it looks like they'll add a bit more variety to the gameplay as well. If you're a fan of action-adventure titles like the Legend of Zelda then you'll want to keep an eye on Death's Door.
TechRaptor previewed Death's Door on PC. It will also release on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.