Six years after the excellent debut with Titan Souls, which struck us favorably in the review, the development studio Acid Nerve returns with Death’s Door, a very inspired action RPG, set in what we could define a world suspended between that of the living and the dead. Here, in the Hall of Doors, reaping crows live and work whose use, as the name suggests, is to recover the souls that are assigned to them. Beyond the symbolic choice, why is it up to them to carry out a task that would belong to Death? This is just one of the mysteries that punctuate our journey as a little crow, who is assigned the task of recovering a soul different from the others – a so-called Giant Soul. Starting from this premise, an adventure that does not take itself seriously, macabre, full of oxymorons, tragedies and really funny moments will open before us: it does not last long, less than ten hours, but they were all very enjoyable in their apparent simplicity. Let’s find out about Death’s Door in our review of the PC version.
Reaper of Souls
At first sight, Death’s Door looks like a modest title. After being accompanied, via bus, to the workplace, we are assigned the aforementioned task of recovering a soul a little different from the usual: one of those powerful enough to even guarantee us bonuses. It doesn’t happen every day to be able to recover such a precious one, so without wasting any more time we start looking for it. In reality we have no choice, our task is to bring back exactly the soul that has been entrusted to us, not just any one, not even it should be more powerful than expected. Everything goes very well until, at the time of collecting, we are stunned and the soul is stolen from us. We have no choice but to chase the thief, arriving in an unknown world where the game begins to explain itself better in its not excessive complexity. For reasons that we will not reveal to you, our goal will no longer be to obtain the lost soul but to recover those of three creatures who have lived far beyond expectations. Deceiving death, however, also means transforming oneself into the shadow of who one was when living was still a right: the three tyrants with whom we will have to confront all have a reason behind their actions but death comes for everyone. He has to do it.
There is no compromise on this and the difficult task is up to us. Where Titan Souls was flawed in presenting any plot, Death’s Door focuses a little more on this aspect by touching on themes such as the search for immortality, the inevitability of a destiny already written and the fear of dying, alternating seriousness and black humor for a story that is even touching at times. It is not the point of excellence of the game but it is there and can be followed, building itself both through the linear narrative of the adventure and thanks to the collectibles scattered here and there, whose descriptions offer more details on the context and on some characters.
The style of the Raven
Despite the presence of a story, it is once again the gameplay that reigns supreme. Although defined as action RPG, the progression of Death’s Door is reduced to the bone but this is not a bad thing, on the contrary: for what it does and for how it is structured, we would not have wanted anything more. Few elements in the right place is always better than excess mechanics that would end up being forgotten: too much is good, as they say, and the game makes this lesson its own by presenting itself as dry enough. Each power has its own purpose and is put to work from when it is obtained until the end, the variety of weapons is limited and satisfies all palates a little, although the difference between them is barely perceptible; finally, the progression of the character does not pass through the levels but by a constant increase of his basic statistics (attack, dexterity, speed and magic) by investing the necessary number of souls. That’s all. As we said, simple yet functional. Nothing else is needed to have fun with Death’s Door.
The combat system is in turn immediate, a weapon of your choice is used based on those available, as well as personal preferences (we have tried them all but we are banal nostalgics and we have almost always relied on the sword). To accompany the melee, in which there is no parry but only dodging by rolling away from the enemy, there is magic: by default we have a bow that shoots enchanted arrows, progressing in the game we will unlock other three skills for a total of four (one for each button on the D-pad), and all have usefulness both on an offensive level and when it comes to exploring the game world. Whether it is to blow up a wall, or to reach inaccessible points thanks to the hook, for every problem there is a solution: it may not be immediate, which implies backtracking, but the beauty of the game is also this, to return on their own steps and do it moved by the curiosity to know what potential secret we have left behind. The four spells can in fact be improved by facing special challenges, after which we will get a specific enhancement that will facilitate our efforts on the field: for example, by improving the bomb we will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we will no longer receive damage from the explosion, going to damage only enemies.
Despite its simplicity, fighting in Death’s Door requires some commitment. If single encounters, or at most with three or four enemies of the same type, may seem simple, the situation becomes complicated when the game begins to put different, more or less powerful and reinforced creatures on the field, as well as any environmental discomfort such as slippery floor or traps that are activated just as we are fighting. Although it is very affordable for those used to this genre of video games, it does not mean that it should be taken lightly: dying, fortunately, has no particular consequences beyond having to start over from the last checkpoint, which just like in Titan Souls are quite distant. between them. Being in a world governed by the Gates, we must find and activate the entrance relative to the portion of the world we are exploring to be sure to start from there in case of departure – we will also be emissaries of death but it does not mean that we are immortal.
Beyond this, let’s not worry about losing souls, or having to recover our belongings once back in the game: in this sense, Death’s Door does not rage and lets us return to action loaded as before. The need not to lose concentration during the clashes is also due to the fact that the possibilities of healing are very limited: no magic, that is kept all for the offensive, instead you have to look for seeds and plant them in specific pots to grow a flower able to heal all our wounds. Once used, it will wilt and become available again only upon exiting and re-entering the area. Doing it, always through the doors that we will have to unlock, will restore all our health and from a certain point of view it could be used as a trick to restore us, but returning to the main hub means a respawn enemies in the area we were exploring. It must be said that fighting is not always mandatory, you can very well zigzag between enemies trying to get to the other side without a shot being hurt. It’s not the best of ideas but when you are in a hurry, or have died too many times to want to redo the same piece over and over again, the game is not opposed. In some cases, however, it is mandatory to stop and go through small survival tests to get what we are looking for – be it a key or a specific soul to rest.
In combat, Death’s Door alternatesexploration and solving of puzzles to continue: from finding a key, to pulling a lever, to overcoming challenges of ingenuity and coordination, we must say that the game is committed to varying what, in the general picture, is a somewhat redundant scheme. To access the boss area (be careful, not the boss itself), you need to unlock a door by finding and giving peace to the souls needed to open it: reaching these souls requires you to explore and solve puzzles, while to interact with them you must first face one. or more fights. The diversity of the settings and the excellent level design do not make you feel the weight of this repetitiveness, so much so that we made an almost unique pull until the end without getting bored, rather taking the time to look for some secrets.
Where Death’s Door flaws is in the absence of one map: not so much to find the main road, but for the backtracking necessary to fully upgrade our crow. Remembering exactly where we needed a specific spell is difficult, and we often find ourselves spinning in circles hoping to be on the right track. While not overly complex, the different areas are still full of passages and it is impossible to keep everything in mind. Having an idea of where you are would have been very useful so as not to waste time unnecessarily. On the other hand, it is also true that upgrading lives, magic charges or magic itself is not necessary to finish the game: we managed to finish it with only one enhancement to spells and one to slots, so the progression of the character in this sense is a whim – unlike improving stats, vital for streamlining battles.
Although the artistic style of Death’s Door is not unique in its kind, nor particularly striking, the developers must recognize an incredible attention to detail: all the areas are very refined, so as to breathe a life of their own, and this goes to balance a not very sophisticated aesthetic. On the other hand, we have a perfectly fitting soundtrack, capable of conveying the right atmosphere depending on the area in which we are moving, then increasing in intensity both during the clashes with the bosses and in the case of fights a little more demanding than normal. Finally, from a technical point of view, we did not encounter any problems: during the seven and a half hours necessary to finish it (with a completion percentage of approximately 81%) there was no drop in frame rate, bug or freeze. . The returned experience was great from start to finish.