In my preview of Death’s Door, I praised it for many reasons. The combat was engaging, the story was interesting, and discovered secrets were well-earned. Acid Nerve evolved the concept of Titan Souls to fit a larger scale. After not only playing the game to completion but exhausting every last corner of the world, did Acid Nerve manage to maintain that level of quality through the whole game?
Death’s Door takes place in a world where crows are the grim reapers. The process of death has gotten transformed from a natural stage of life to a mundane and bureaucratic process. Your time was up, the job got passed to a crow, the crow takes you out and files their paperwork at the end. Instead of spending your time traveling out to the "real world" you instead end up in the forgotten lands that time has forgotten.
You play as a new member of the reaper team. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or as bright as a crow can be) you set out on your first mission. Everything goes sideways when your target's soul gets stolen, taken to the forgotten lands, and sacrificed to try opening Death’s Door. You're now unable to complete your job until you find enough Giant Souls to open the door and reclaim your actual target.
The hook is textbook hero's journey. A call to action, an elderly mentor that gives you direction, and a grand adventure. Along the way, Crow gets pitted against all kinds of challenges to return to the natural order. Any fans of The Legend of Zelda or other popular top-down Adventure RPGs will find familiarity in the path of the game.
As a 2D Zelda fan who hasn’t had that itch scratched in way too long, I immediately fell in love with the story. The idea of the underdog starting out with only a sword on his back, turning not only into the crow that saves the day but part of a “chosen one” style prophecy is an enjoyable concept. Through your adventure, you get to grow and experience the world for the first with the Crow. Each new enemy you face and overcome together.
The story of Death's Door also casts parallels with some real-life issues too. There’s an underlying theme of the denizens of the world not moving on from positions of power and using that power to leverage retaining that position. You'll begin to notice this theme as early as stepping into the Urn Witch's domain, the first major boss. The matriarch of her family refusing to let herself, or any of her descendants die no matter what the cost.
It’s your job of the new guy to kick those out of power that refuses to move on of their own accord. It's a dark reflection of our world, but also offers some sense of catharsis as you can at least set things right in the world of Death's Door.
The world of Death’s Door is unique, with remnants of large buildings and civilization, lush forests, and deep tombs filled with history. Each location seems draped with a grey/muted filter—what could have been beautiful lands have fallen to dismay. Each area matches the theme of Death’s Door while hitting all the greatest hits of Adventure titles. You've got your watery level, a graveyard, and they even have an ice world with slippery floors. It's because of this that the world manages to be simultaneously familiar but also exudes its own style.
Where the game deviates hard from The Legend of Zelda parallels that I’ve been bringing up is in the difficulty. It’s not a game that I’m going to describe as “The Dark Souls of Zelda” but with 4 chunks of health, no dropped recovery items, and limited checkpoints, you’ll spend a fair bit of time dying and repeating sections. At no point does the difficulty feel unfair, or like you just got tricked into a cheap death. If you stayed within range risking an extra swing and you lost a chunk of health because of it, there’s no one to blame but yourself.
With each new enemy along the path, you'll learn new patterns, and find optimal ways to kill them. Much like learning about the world itself, you learn about its inhabitants as the Crow does as well. Sections of the game that you crept through initially you’ll destroy your way through enemies when you return to further explore.
Each boss fight has its own unique twist on combat. While one might highlight shmup style dodging of projectiles, others force you to be watching the arena for changes. Each boss has a few patterns and varieties, but just like any enemy, once you understand the timing of their attacks they aren't too difficult to deal with. Bosses are much like normal enemies in that way, but it also takes away some of the gravity of a "boss fight" if the real difference is that they're larger.
This realization helps to highlight that the true challenge in Death's Door isn't in the large one-on-one battles, but when you're outnumbered. Combat challenges like the mini-arenas with waves of enemies you'll run into in the world are the best example of combat in Death's Door. You'll end up facing a variety of enemies with different attack windows, ranges, and behaviors that will put pressure on you. Of course, the flip side of this is the satisfaction of surviving waves of enemies on only four chunks of health.
Abilities earned through the story can also shape the way you approach combat. The bow might only mean you can attack from afar but powers like the bomb can alter the way you approach combat. Now you no longer want to try singling enemies out, instead, you can bait them to group together.
Each power can also get upgraded. Your bomb can get an upgrade to no longer damage yourself if you're too close (something that happened more often than I want to admit). This upgrade shifted bomb use from throwing it at a distance, to kamikaze bombing groups of enemies. The Hookshot's versatility in movement and secret hunting gets almost outdone by its usefulness in combat.
After you're done with the engaging story and the boss has been defeated, Death's Door further surprises by hiding a new set of secrets in its post-game content. I'm already one that falls for finding fun collectibles and that quick dopamine hit after solving a puzzle, so a secret set of collectibles was a fantastic way to keep me hooked.
Death's Door's post-game content is something like Mario Odyssey's Darkest Side of the Moon. It takes concepts you were already looking out for and dials them up to 11 as you're completing puzzles and fighting tougher gauntlets to gather all the Ancient Tablets of Knowledge. Acid Nerve didn't just manage to nail the plot and gameplay of the main story, but also shows an understanding of what someone who already got this far might be looking for. This aspect of the game left me absolutely satisfied from start to long after the credits rolled.
Acid Nerve has managed to pull off an incredible feat with Death’s Door. It’s a love letter to classic top-down adventure RPG games, pulling in familiar aspects of common worlds and items, but is so unique in its tone and presentation that it carves out a spot of its own. For what’s already a fantastic adventure that will take you 8 hours or more to complete, it is also impossible not to note that Death’s Door is only $20. If the trailer made you raise an eyebrow, or anything in this review even slightly got you interested in playing Death’s Door, I couldn’t recommend it higher.
TechRaptor reviewed Death's Door on PC. It will also release on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
- Engaging Story
- Fun and Fast Combat
- Rewarding World Exploration
- A Delight to Play
- Boss Battles Lagging