Death's Door Review

Richard Walker

In 2009, Demon's Souls was (blood)born, and so was an entirely new genre label – the ubiquitous 'soulslike'. It's since become a convenient pigeonhole in which to file away a variety of games, the most recent of which is developer Acid Nerve's Death's Door, which, in truth, doesn’t really belong there. First of all, you play as a Crow, a diminutive black-feathered reaper whose job it is to return the souls of the recently departed to the Soul Vault, and about the only similarity is the presence of a dodge roll and the accumulation of souls. Death's Door is very much its own thing, and it's superlative stuff worth crowing about.

Try as you might, you can't kill him.

When the soul you're assigned to bring in is stolen, your plucky cawing protagonist sets off on a mission to track it down, soon discovering that he's trapped in limbo until he can discover a way to unlock the eponymous exit. What lays ahead is a gauntlet of hacking, slashing, and dodge rolling against a legion of hostile foes and hefty bosses, harvesting souls, and feeling your way through a series of labyrinthine environments. Combat in Death's Door is remarkably simple, with one button to swipe at foes, another to evade, and R2 used for a charged attack. With L2 and circle held, you can line up a magical projectile, ideal for keeping certain enemies at wing's length, and for solving a variety of puzzles.

What's particularly striking about Death's Door is the deftness with which the Titan Souls developer presents its narrative and game mechanics. Introducing new weapons or tools to unlock previously inaccessible areas at just the right time to keep things fresh, Death's Door brilliantly marries metroidvania exploration to rewarding combat, and it never feels unfair or egregious – until the final boss encounter (more on that later). Crucially, Death's Door is structured in a wonderfully compelling way, its Hall of Doors providing a hub to the various realms that lay behind each ornate doorway. Said doors crop up at regular junctures, so you're seldom forced to traipse long distances to get from place to place, and you're always provided with a handy checkpoint in a useful location.

Between showdowns with the game's three central bosses, whose giant souls are required to crack open Death's door itself, you'll be swallowed up by a mimic chest, where a four-phase challenge unlocks a new ability. Your little avian reaper starts out with a bow and arrow spell, but later on you'll be able to conjure a fireball, charge up a sphere of explosive energy, and zip between anchor points using your hookshot. By the time you reach the game's later regions, you'll be able to go anywhere to unearth the myriad secrets scattered across Death's Door's world, blasting away barriers, and lighting torches to open new rooms and passageways. Track down lost shrines, and you'll be gifted with crystal shards, four of which permanently raise your health and magic threshold; whereas soul energy from vanquished foes can be exchanged at the Soul Vault for stat upgrades, enhancing your strength, speed, agility, and magic power. Exploration is always worthwhile.

There are collectibles, puzzles, and other little hidden places to discover, too, as well as a menagerie of delightfully odd characters, like fisherman and cook Jefferson, a man with a giant squid tied to his back, who relishes cooking you a vile-looking seafood soup while he's dishing out hints. Or how about the Frog King, a boss who likes to periodically taunt you by unexpectedly squeezing his head through random outlets. Best of all, though, is Pothead, so called because he has an earthenware pot for a head, filled with a creamy broth. Acid Nerve certainly knows how to imbue a game with character, as well as humorous dialogue, complemented by a pleasing, bold art style.

Scampering around the fantastical world of Death's Door is never anything less than a pleasure, aided by a great deal of leniency when you inevitably die. No real penalty is incurred upon dying - loudly announced by the word 'DEATH' filling the screen, in case there's any confusion - beyond a few respawned enemies, and you don't lose the soul energy you've painstakingly accumulated. Failure during a boss encounter throws you back to the beginning of the battle, which is only ever a minor setback, unlike the game's final boss. Death's Door's final boss goes light on checkpoints and heavy on punishment, the entire gauntlet brimming with ways to be squashed, dropped from a great height, or blasted to ash – it feels slightly incongruous next to the game's other bosses, which are more self-contained and far more even-handed. You can't help but feel a bit hard done by after the umpteenth time being clobbered, then unceremoniously sent back to the very beginning of the lengthy, multi-phase fight. It's the only time that Death's Door feels truly harsh, after going hell for feather - a murdering of Crows, if you will.

Welcome to the Hall of Doors.

Given how fantastic the rest of Death's Door is, it'd be churlish to count its final boss as a black mark against the game. Acid Nerve has crafted something that's at once both familiar and strangely unique (given the sum of its parts), boasting a distinctive feel and atmosphere. It might end in frustration, but it's more than worth sticking with for the rest of the journey, which succeeds in being relentlessly engaging, ludicrously fun, brilliantly intricate, and beautifully composed. Even if you're normally reticent to delve into an isometric dungeon crawler seasoned with the tiniest sprinkling of Dark Souls and metroidvania, make the exception for Death's Door: you won't regret it.

Death's Door

A lovingly crafted dungeon crawler brimming with personality, Death's Door combines robust, rewarding combat with equally gratifying metroidvania exploration, and a story packed with oddball characters. An assured, sophomore effort from developer Acid Nerve, Death's Door is caw-fully good.

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Music during the quieter, more atmospheric moments is subtle and lilting, while the soundtrack ramps up for the game's epic boss battles. Dialogue, meanwhile, is restricted to text boxes, with no chatter whatsoever. It works.


Simple, but incredibly effective, Death's Door is colourful (except when you're visiting the monochrome Hall of Doors), with a grand sense of scale and a diverse set of locations. Characters are appealing, too, including the game's Crow protagonist, with his white eyes and jet black plumage.


Straightforward, uncomplicated, yet nuanced and responsive, the game's combat mechanics are immensely satisfying and immediate. The more you progress, the more options you gain access to, broadening your arsenal, which can be upgraded by defeating optional mini-bosses. Death's Door plays like a dream, and only gets better the more time you invest.


Generous in scale and scope, Death's Door might be a relatively small indie title, but there's a good 8+ hours of gameplay in here – more if you plan on completing everything to achieve the elusive 'True Ending'.


And you'll need to attain the True Ending for a couple of trophies on the list here. There are a couple of missable trophies you should be wary of ('Hot Pot' and 'Meal For a King' being the easiest to miss), but otherwise, this is a really solid, varied list.

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