There are some immediate gameplay similarities to be had given I recently reviewed TUNIC, but Death’s Door was not initially on my radar. As you know, indie games often get less marketing, and the only reason I knew of this game’s existence was Game Pass. Well, thanks to said service and after a good experience with TUNIC, I figured why not find out what sets Death’s Door apart in this classic isometric camera, action-adventure genre.
…it all works well…
You read it right, it’s an action-adventure game. The influence from classic Zelda is quite bit clearer here: the combat is tight, fast, and simple. And while it lacks any defensive maneuvers, your crow has no stamina to worry about, just attacking and dodging until your opponents drop. Exploration is also rather simple: navigate the maze (though low ledges being insurmountable can be a bit frustrating). This evolves a bit as you get more equipment reminiscent of said classic Zelda: yes, I threw a bomb into King Dodong-errr… King Frog’s mouth; and yes there IS a hookshot. The thing is, I have no complaints: it all works well. If there is one thing that might give you a bit to gripe about, it’s the crow soul collectathon doors, a formula I have a statement on later in the content arena. So you fight (and get a variety of weapons if you so choose, though I found that the sword and great sword were the only two worth using), you explore, and you conquer different biomes and their bosses. It’s all pretty standard fare, and that might just be the underlying thing: it is pretty standard fare. No particularly creative ideas spring forth, and so the summary is that the gameplay is good. Just good: it can’t quite be considered “great” because it lacks that unique identifier to achieve it.
…it’s a healthy adventure for such a budget game.
Since everything works so well, it doesn’t wear out its welcome in its 10-hour adventure assuming you smell some roses like I do. Seeing the credits roll came at just the right time, and it’s a healthy adventure for such a budget game. Between upgrading yourself, getting weapons, and some shiny collectibles, it all moves along at a good pace. Heck, after beating the game, I found there was still an endgame. But sadly, it gave me exactly a reason to skip it: it became clear it was a scavenger hunt, a collectathon that I’d prefer to avoid. I later looked it up, and apparently it leads to a secret ending, so if you’re so inclined, I wouldn’t dare stop you!
…simple, yet effective.
Like most indie games, this game also prides itself on using artstyle in lieu of pushing graphics technology. And that’s exactly what it does to good effect. With such a distant and isometric camera, fine details aren’t needed, and the game looks exactly like what it intends to be: simple, yet effective. Of course, this means the closeups don’t quite cut it, but I don’t count that against this game at all knowing full well why that’s the case. Unfortunately, there is some bad news, here: micro-stutter. For some reason, there is this micro-stuttering that really can’t be explained. This game, as aforementioned, is clearly not pushing the hardware. It could just be a Unity engine problem as Unity’s always been more CPU-bound and the consoles don’t exactly have the beefiest CPUs. And yet the game redeems itself compared to both classic Zelda and even TUNIC: the world lore and story is entirely fleshed out. While I don’t want to spoil it, the answers to everything are there, and I was never at any point left confused or wondering. In fact, the story execution is rather excellent, weaving a deeper and relatable meaning to it all. I do love a good story, I really do.
…things are looking far from dead.
Color me both impressed and surprised. The game admittedly doesn’t break any new ground in the creativity arena, but it executes Zelda ideas well and everything just works. It’s also a healthy length of an adventure and knows when to quit when it’s on top. Though, its endgame can potentially turn some off because it becomes a collectathon: the very thing it manages to mostly avoid for its runtime. But then it yet impresses again in the presentation area only marred by micro stutter: its art style is as clean and well-executed as its story. All told, if this is the general quality of where indie games are headed, then things are looking far from dead.