Developed by Acid Nerve (creators of Titan Souls) and published by Devolver Digital, Death’s Door is an isometric indie Metroidvania featuring a soul-gathering Crow doing his job. The game will be arriving on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows PC via Steam in less than a month, on July 20th.
I had an opportunity to spend a few hours in this melancholic but charming world created with painstaking care and obvious love for small details. Spread your wings – this is our Death’s Door Steam preview.
The game starts slow and welcoming to new players, both in terms of its story and difficulty. You play as a Crow whose work consists of reaping the souls of the dead. After getting scolded for being late, you receive an assignment to retrieve the soul of a relatively simple boss featured in the trailer above.
The Big Boss Crow warns you that the failure to fulfill your contract will not be tolerated and the Death’s Door will not allow you to return. His words, of course, were prophetic as the boss’ soul gets stolen right from under you.
Now it is up to Crow to pursue the thief to a realm “untouched by death” and filled with creatures that will attack you on sight.
As you continue moving through the story, more and more details about the world are revealed in a variety of ways, such as encounters with a set of interesting characters. The game feels bleak and mysterious, but with certain fairytale-like elements that prevent it from feeling monotonous.
Gameplay-wise you can break Death’s Door into exploration and combat. When you start venturing through the world, the first thing you might note is that the game does not feature any kind of map.
This puts exploration to the forefront as it becomes impossible to plot your way through to your target, instead having players carefully venture forth in search of a path. You never know what you might run into: open-world puzzles? Some kind of secret? A life seed that allows you to restore your hit points? A key that will allow you to open a door you saw a few minutes earlier? Yes, yes, yes and yes, all of those are quite possible and are encountered frequently enough to prompt you to explore further.
Or you might run into one of the arena battles: combat sequence that has a variety of monsters spawn from portals in great piles to attack our Crow. Sometimes it is just a pile of “trash mobs”, other times there will be a tougher elite mini-boss popping up to prevent you from venturing ahead.
Even the fights that feature easily vanquished monsters can prove to be a challenge when enough mobs spawn – after all, you have only four life bars and taking a random hit can send you way back to the respawn location.
Combat starts off slow and welcoming to players unused to the genre. At the beginning of the game, as a fledgling Crow, you only have the basic attack with your trusty sword (left mouse button by default), bow shot (right mouse button), evasion (spacebar), and the usual WASD controls. Moving the cursor changes the way your attacks hit.
The battles are simple but far from easy, especially as you go deeper and the number of enemies and the difficulty of encounters increase. The combat is fluid and reactive – if you are okay with dying and restarting from time to time.
As you progress, your Crow gets access to new abilities, such as a charged attack as well as a few magical spells – but beware, much like hit points, the amount of spell slots is limited so slinging magic around willy-nilly is not an option.
Destroying the monsters grants you a meager amount of in-game currency that can be used to upgrade your equipment. The harder the enemy you vanquish, the more currency they provide.
Altogether, the few hours spent in Death’s Door’s demo have been smooth and entertaining. The game took a sneak peek at a variety of games across various genres, noted their successes and implemented various mechanics in a very specific cocktail. You might find the overall gameplay canvas of Titan Soul or Hades, with the atmosphere of Dark Souls, the world exploration and puzzles of Zelda, and more. Altogether, the resulting mix ended up being quite different from the mentioned games and unique in its own right.
That said, the game features a slower, more measured pace and a lot of deaths if you are not careful. If you are okay with that, you’ll find a lot of enjoyment in the world of Death’s Door.
The genre is not for everyone, however. If you find yourself easily frustrated at the thought of frequent deaths and having to start over again, you might want to skip it.
- Note: the Steam beta key was provided for the purposes of this preview.
- Similar to: Hades, Titan Souls, Link’s Awakening