Much like taxes and whatever random third thing you can think of that fits a metaphor, death is an inevitability. It’s sudden, existentially terrifying, and escape from it has been a popular story premise for as long as humans could tell stories. But what if death was an adorable crow who was essentially a civil servant? That’s the starting point of Death’s Door, a Zelda-inspired dungeon crawler that dropped last week and I wanted to talk about the first third of it I’ve played so far.
Death’s Door is the story of an unnamed crow who, as mentioned above, works as part of the Department of Reaping to collect the Souls of the recently deceased to have them be properly processed in the afterlife. But things go wrong on a routine assignment when one of the Souls you’re assigned gets snatched. From there, you learn from the soul thief that in the realm untouched by death that you follow them into, there are three souls so long-lived and overwhelmed with greed that they can serve as compensation for the soul you lost. From there you embark on a quest to attain these souls while doing your best to ensure you don’t die yourself because you become mortal during these assignments.
Even though I’ve only played until the end of the first third, I can tell you that the story is probably the strongest part of the whole experience. It manages to have this deeply somber tone to the whole thing while also having an endearing sense of humor to keep things from getting too bleak (death as civil service is one of my favorite takes on the afterlife). I’ve met a host of characters that are all super charming. Like the one knight that I encountered that has a literal soup pot for a head that offers people soup. He’s the best.
Death’s Door plays like a mix of Zelda and Dark Souls, which feels redundant when I say it out loud because one spawned the other; it’s got the general structure and gameplay of the former and the world design of the latter. It’s got an overworld filled with secrets you can look for and shortcuts to unlock in dungeons that make it easier to get around. It also has a very involved combat system. You start off with a sword and a magic bow, both of which have chargeable attacks. You eventually get multiple weapons that all have different attack timing and fighting styles that suit the player, but so far, all I found was an umbrella that makes the cute crow look cuter. You also get magic which you attain from finding goddamn Mimics that swallow you and you have to fight your way out of and this is why I have trust issues in games. The only spell I have so far is a fire spell and it’s pretty neat.
These add up to make a combat experience that is fast passed without being hectic. It’s also more forgiving than I expected because I was expecting the whole “lose all your souls when you die” mechanic, but nope. You keep those things after death. It’s a nice touch. And it’s the first in a long line of nice touches that go a long way to making the game more accessible from a difficulty standpoint, my favorite among them being set amounts of souls for each level of a stat’s upgrade.
All in all, what I’ve played of Death’s Door has been promising and wanting me to go back and do a full write-up in it once I finish it. That alone has me excited to see where it goes.