All's a standard 9-5 job for a crow tasked with reaping the souls of the dead but everything changes when their assigned soul is stolen. Death's Door is a topdown action adventure game with tough-as-nails combat, featuring a black-feathered crow who has a fondness for shiny things. In this beautifully melancholic world, this crow must obtain the three giant souls by defeating them and uncover the mystery that lies beneath the monotony of the beaurocratic system that is death.
Death's Door's combat is impecable. It's difficult, that's for sure, but it never felt like the game had cheated me; each time I died, I took a deep breath, went back to the drawing board and focussed on my enemies' patterns. The crow's abilities aren't overly complex but rather, it relies on its smooth gameplay. You have your melee weapon, with four additional weapons to collect (well, three if you don't count the umbrella), each with their own unique attributes and four spells (which should be more aptly referred to as skills). You'll begin with the bow but you'll then unlock other spells that can be used strategically in combat as well as allowing you to reach new areas in dungeons and the overworld.
This game has no map - and that's a good thing. At first, this befuddled me and I found myself growing frustrated as I thought I was (and going to get) lost but that's the funny thing, I didn't. Death's Door is laid out so ingeniously that it doesn't need a map; so much of the world is meticulously intertwined and when you unlock more spells which allow you to reach new sections, you'll uncover hidden challenges buried deep within environments. Fans of epic adventure games (especially of the open world variety) will know what I mean when I say that a lot of games have you simply following waypoints, robotically proceeding from point A to point B, but Death's Door puts trust in its players and has created a world that allows for it.
For a game called Death's Door with a plot that focusses on the beurocratic corruption within the business of guiding souls past the final door, I didn't expect to laugh as much as I did. These moments do not come at the cost of betraying its core themes but rather, it does so in a cheeky fashion. Whether it's the immortal witch's grandson cursed to be a pothead (a man with a literal pot for a head) or The Lord of Doors' fake appreciation of his subordinate's efforts as he sips from his coffee mug which reads in bold letters "WORLD'S BEST LORD", Death's Door knows when to be serious and when to have a chuckle. If I had to compare its nonsensically fantastical motif with another form of storytelling, it would be with that of Alice in Wonderland; it's so bizarre and I love it!
- Difficult yet fair combat
- No map
- Perfect balance of melancholy and cheek
My only nitpick with Death's Door is that the checkpoints can, at times, be inconveniently placed. Checkpoints are marked by activating Death Doors which bring you back to the Hub World, allowing you to easily go back to upgrade your skills or travel to a previously traversed area. Despite knowing this and activating each door that I came across, I sometimes found that upon dying, I would need to traverse a long way to get back to where I was (which can also be frustrating when losing to a boss/mini boss). This is also where the lack of map is a detriment (despite my overall praise for it).
- The occasional checkpoint misstep
Final Score: 10/10
And there it is, Switchaboo's third ever perfect score, providing company to both Hollow Knight and Monster Hunter Rise. Death's Door is a masterpiece, through-and-through. Despite any personal nitpick that can be concocted if I squint my eyes and think pessimistically enough, this game's stellar top-down combat, awe-inspiring presentation and melancholic plot that isn't afraid to have a cheeky laugh will stick with me forever. Death's Door will become a standard that I'll forever hold future topdown action adventure games to.
Thank you for checking out our Death's Door Switch review, thank you to Devolver Digital (via Powerup PR) for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: