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Death's Door review: A Dark Souls-lite adventure brimming with charm

Posted: 1:58 PM, Sep 21, 2021
Updated: 2021-09-21 17:18:15-04
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9/10

Death’s Door stuck its talons in me from the start menu and wouldn’t let go until the final boss - and I loved every second. This top-down adventure possesses a magical gameplay formula that takes Dark Souls combat and Legend of Zelda exploration and infuses it with a bleak yet gorgeous world filled with endearing characters and story moments, making it one of my favorite gaming experiences of 2021.

In Death’s Door, you play as a small crow who’s a soul-collecting reaper that takes down bosses who’re unwilling to leave life. After the inciting events unfold, you’re tasked with collecting three large boss souls in order to open the titular death’s door, leading to an epic encounter with the game’s big baddie. Developer Acid Nerve does a phenomenal job at making you care about the game’s plot and its characters, while never venturing into chatty territory. The excellent script is delivered in text form by a quirky cast of NPCs that standout in their otherwise gloomy surroundings.

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The combat in this game is something special. As someone who just came off playing through all of the “souls-borne” titles, Death’s Door seamlessly brings that challenging combat style to the isometric point-of-view, albeit in an easier to master manner. Like those games, fighting involves tons of rolling, precision, and memorizing an opponents move set. You’re armed with five distinct weapons, along with projectiles to knock down a health bar from a safe distance. I prefered wielding the thunder hammer most of the game, while tossing out fire balls when stronger enemies swarmed in, but your preference may vary depending on play style.

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Boss battles are where this game shines the brightest. From a presentation standpoint, each one is introduced with a giant title on-screen that’s straight out of a Tarantino flick. Their names deserve the big font too. They include: The Witch of Urns, The Lord of Doors, The grave Digger, Betty, and more. Some end up being pushovers, while others made me want to throw my controller out the window. Once you conquer the challenge though, victory is oh so sweet.

Perhaps the most controversial decision the developers made was to not include a world map. Some may find this to be a reason for jumping off of Death’s Door entirely, but I ended up appreciating the extra challenge. Doubling back to areas you’ve already explored is bound to happen, but this led me to discover far more secrets than I would have if I already knew I explored a particular area. Also, the various sections in this world are small enough in size that memorization eventually comes naturally. Put me down for more games without maps!

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From the moment I saw the trailer for Death’s Door, my expectations were sky high, but the final product managed to exceed them in every way. The game’s combat is satisfying, its characters are charming, and its sense of intrigue and exploration is a hoot. The game feels ripe for a sequel, or at the very least a DLC or two (fingers crossed!). Don’t miss out on one of the best games this year!

Review code provided by publisher

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