Death’s Door Preview – A morbid mashup of Monsters, Inc. meets Dark Souls

Posted on June 30, 2021

Death’s Door throws you into the day-to-day bureaucracy of assigned life-taking. Playing as a young Reaper, your journey starts in the Reaping Commission Headquarters where Reapers file paperwork, collect assignments, and go through portals into other realms to harvest the souls of those whose time is up. When one soul evades your capture, the young Reaper will go on a journey through a realm long untouched by Reaperkind where they find powerful creatures who have aged long past their expiry.

Death’s Door is a morbid mashup of Monsters, Inc. meets Dark Souls. The game is releasing soon from publisher Devolver Digital and Titan Souls development studio Acid Nerve. I was lucky enough to check out a pretty generous preview that has left me nothing but exciting for this game’s full release.

A comically administrative hub-world offers door-shaped portals into other realms where you’ll venture out in the hunt of your assigned soul. You’ll often return to this hub as you unlock new portals that link the world together, allowing safe haven, the ability to spend souls to increase in power, and quick travel back to other locations.

“…the simple yet detailed environment becomes a playground for your combat prowess.”

Our little crow protagonist will go out with his bow and sword and take down foes in an interconnected world. The game plays from an isometric view where the simple yet detailed environment becomes a playground for your combat prowess. Weaving attacks between dodges will be paramount and every successful swing of the sword will increase your energy pool that facilitates the use of your bow (and later other powers). You’ll constantly be unlocking shortcuts as you carve your way around the environment, accumulating souls as you go. Large bosses will grant you more souls and deaths will result in a foreboding game over screen that will take you back to the last portal.

Whilst the similarities to Dark Souls are clear, especially in its interconnected world, Death’s Door thankfully offers a much more forgiving experience. This game isn’t aggressively difficult and you won’t lose your souls or huge amounts of progress upon death. Yet the game still offers a good challenge with heaps of progress to build towards and a lot of exploration is rewarded.

What’s most astounding about Death’s Door so far is its style. Every aesthetic choice is absolutely superb. The graphical style is easily readable and engaging, often jumping between quite bleak and at points noir vibes to colourful and luscious landscapes. The characters and foes you’ll meet and the small animations within their movements convey so much personality. Even the game over screen is super stylish and totally iconic. I genuinely love the game over screen.

Better yet, Death’s Door showcases what phenomenal sound design can achieve in games. From the creeks and cracks of enemy movement to the thumps and whispers that build ambience. The piano and flute soundtrack creates moments of joyous exploration and wonder whilst also managing to make melancholic tunes when the time is right. One particular moment of the demo had the character firing up furnaces and kickstarting machinery that banged and clanged into motion. This particular moment also built towards the climax of the area with those mechanical, in-world bangs hitting rhythmically in tune to the rest of the music. It was like the world around you was alive and providing percussion to a soundtrack only the player could hear. It was marvellous. If there are more moments like this in the game’s full release then I can absolutely see Death’s Door as a game of the year contender.

With a gamepad plugged into my PC, the game also controlled really well and was fun to play. Enemy attacks are well telegraphed and so your success feels as though it rides on your ability to understand attack patterns and respond appropriately. Some fights could turn into a flurry of projectiles and foes and it was always fun to test your mettle in battle arenas. I like the drip-feeding of new weaponry and skills throughout too, although I do hope to see more of this faster in the game’s full release. Admittedly, after spending over 2 hours playing through the preview build, I’m still using the sword you start with simply because the two other weapons I found didn’t seem to be as good.

I have to commend the game on having secrets to uncover and good rewards for exploration. The experience doesn’t hold your hand too much but does give hints about how to progress and where to go. Characters found within the game are so fun and silly and it means the whole experience is able to be lighthearted and jovial. It mixes the morbidity with the flippancy so well, and that’s a real fine art. I’m honestly very excited to see more of Death’s Door when it releases across PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on July 20th.