To say Death’s Door is adorable is a bit of an understatement. Underneath its cute exterior is a brilliant Souls-like game similar to Hyperlight Drifter and the genre’s namesake, Dark Souls. Thanks to our friends at Devolver Digital, we were able to get a hands-on preview of the first few hours of the game.
Death’s Door has you take control of a young crow whose job is to reap the souls of those who are living far beyond their scheduled expiration date. Rolling up to your job at the Reaping Commission Headquarters, you’re quickly assigned a contract to take down a giant soul. After a successful job, the creature’s soul is promptly stolen from you. Leaving you mortal, aging and unable to turn in your contract. And so the game begins.
As previously mentioned, Death’s Door takes clear inspirations from previous Souls-like greats. A Souls-like game is generally one that sits between a rogue-like and a classic hack ‘n’ slash. You have a seemingly difficult task set before you and if you die, you lose a decent chunk of progress and have to start a section all over again with all of the enemies previously slain, alive again. (As opposed to a rogue-like, where you would have to start over from the beginning of the game). Death’s Door takes the classic Dark Souls bonfire mechanic (their version of a checkpoint/ health station) and makes it their own. Throughout the game you’ll find plant pots scattered throughout the levels and while you’re exploring you’ll find a limited amount of blossom seeds. You can plant one of these seeds into a pot and a flower will bloom that you can consume to refill your health. This adds a nice dilemma throughout each level. Do you use one of your few seeds on the pots early on, making the start of any level risk free? Or do you carry them deeper into the level where you can stay nice and healthy for the inevitable boss fight?
Speaking of, I love the designs of the few bosses I’ve been able to fight in the game. Similar to Titan Souls, the bosses are always giant and foreboding. Creating these awesome little David vs. Goliath moments. Each boss (of the ones I have been able to preview) has their own unique design and fighting style that always keeps you on your toes.
During the preview, I was able to pick up a couple of different weapons, meaning I could change up combat to fit my play-style. Each weapon you pick up can be swung a number of times before your crow tires. The standard sword can be swung 3 times, while the daggers you eventually pick up can be swung 6 times, albeit they do less damage per hit. Each of the melee weapons has your typical standard attack, heavy attack and charge attack. Mix in a classic dodge roll and you’ve got a combat system that feels really nice to play. There were only one or two instances where I felt I got buggered by the game during combat. This is due Death’s Door fixed camera angle. Sometimes it’s hard to judge whether an enemy swinging down on you is going to hit you or not. Fortunately, when you do die, it never feels too punishing. The ‘health’ flowers that you have previously planted (and maybe used) stick around and re-bloom, and you’ll respawn at the last door you opened.
As you might have guessed, the game does have something to do with doors, and quite a few of them appear throughout, (who remembers Monsters Inc?) During a level you’ll find doors that will take you back to the main hub world where you can spend your hard earned souls on character upgrades, similar to Firelink Shrine in Dark Souls. A small selection of (equally adorable) characters also hang out here too, and by chatting to them you can slowly start to piece the world of the reaping crows together. The story and the characters within the world is truly what makes this game stand on its own two feet. The story can be dark at times, as stories about death often are, but there is always a charming character just around the corner looking to shed some light on the situation.
I feel like I could keep gushing about how much I enjoyed this game, even though I only played just over 2 hours. There is a little bit of a worry in the back of my mind that I might be able to power through the full version of this game over the course of a couple of days. I hope I’m wrong. The preview did have many secrets tucked away and plenty of areas I couldn’t access just yet. There were also plenty of hidden items and abilities too that remained locked during this play-through.
Overall, Death’s Door is a delightful top-down, hack’n’slash that certainly sits up with the other big dogs of this genre. I would go as far to say that it’s the Hollow Knight of 2021. I’m so looking forward to the full release which drops on 20th July.