Update (January 2022): Death's Door is now available on Xbox Game Pass, so if you're keen to understand what all the fuss is about, we've republished our 10/10 ("outstanding") review from July 2021 below. Enjoy!
Original review (July 2021): What do you get if you throw Zelda, Dark Souls and Hollow Knight into a cooking pot? The answer: Death's Door. The latest release from publisher Devolver Digital and developer Acid Nerve is a love letter to the adventure game genre, mixing in the magic, beautiful worlds and mystery featured in the aforementioned titles. As an Xbox console exclusive, Death's Door is here to fill a void missing from the brand's library, and not only does it succeed, it makes a case for being one of the best Xbox games to play right now.
Explaining the premise of Death's Door is an odd one. You play as a crow working in a 'Monsters Inc.' type setup where your job is to go through doors and claim souls of the deceased. Unfortunately, one job goes horribly wrong, as the soul escapes and goes beyond something known as Death's Door. What transpires is a quest to venture into the unknown realm by claiming the souls of various inhabitants, each residing in their own corner of the world.
As mentioned, Death's Door is a game that has many inspirations, with Dark Souls resting casually on its sleeve. But perhaps the most notable resemblance stems from the call-backs to Zelda - specifically A Link to the Past. With one giant overworld to explore, packed with secrets and lore to uncover, you'll venture off into distinct zones, each complete with their own bosses to defeat and dungeons to navigate. It not only embodies that classic Zelda formula, but replicates it near-perfectly in regards to its world design.
These dungeons are lengthy as well. Each has a pre-area with nooks and crannies to explore, but once inside for the main event, it really pushes on those influences. You'll go through room after room solving puzzles, finding keys and unlocking new pathways to venture further within. It all ends in a huge boss battle, which pack some of the more visceral moments of Death's Door. You'll learn new abilities within each one, too, such as being able to wield a fire spell, and these will be instrumental in your success at exploiting hidden weaknesses on the end boss. The length of these always ensures you get enough time to play with the new toys you've unlocked, slowly drip feeding more and more as you continue on.
There are also elements of Hollow Knight and Dark Souls in there as well. There's a central mystery around everything, begging no explanation unless you want to delve further. Characters talk in riddles, shortcuts can be found and you can increase your abilities by using souls as currency or finding health and magic shrines hidden throughout the world. The majority of Death's Door's most compelling and challenging moments hide in plain sight, and it's up to you to explore and find them.
It feels perfectly balanced in its combat and has a fantastic pace in terms of exploration and battles. Just when you start to feel the weight of its combat bogging you down, it will quickly switch to some classic Zelda-esque dungeon exploration, complete with keys, secrets and puzzles to solve. It moves forward with such confidence that it's hard not to be wrapped up in its world.
While the game pushes back, it's not outright blood boilingly tough. Combat in particular is where the brunt of it all comes from, quickly forcing you into some challenging scenarios. The first monster you face is a boss, which quickly challenges you to see whether you're up to the test. Despite that, it always feels fair. Enemies have unique attack patterns you can learn and exploit, and the combat itself remains basic enough to never overwhelm you. You can spend souls to upgrade your attack power and more, ensuring you're always one step ahead of the competition.
It's also demanding in what it asks from you. Your character has both a melee and ranged attack, and you can swap between the two instantly. As you progress, you'll unlock more interesting combinations to pull off, but it still remains relatively simple in the best way. Hitting with your sword provides a wonderful amount of feedback, while ranged attacks feel powerful enough to be useful. You don't have an unlimited amount of uses though, and you're quickly taught to get up close and personal, as hitting enemies and other objects around the world recharges your ranged attack. It's subtle, but it encourages you to engage in much more complex encounters through such a simple mechanic.
These tough scenarios are seen no better than in side areas. While you could easily stay on the main path, venturing off is where most of the fun happens. There are optional puzzles, collectibles to find and powerful bosses to face. Much like Hollow Knight, the optional situations you find yourself in often lead to being the most memorable, offering the best rewards in the long run. On the surface it may seem small in scale, but the world's labyrinth design packs a lot into it, with every corner hiding something new to find.
One of the ways Death's Door sets it self apart, however, is through its use of humour. Since you play as a crow in a world where you have to collect souls, it's not exactly the most straight-faced premise. Acid Nerve understands this and instead has created a fairy tale-like world, with inhabitants that carefully judge dark humour with a few dad jokes thrown in there. When you meet a character with a pot for a head and his name happens to be Pothead, you'll understand what we mean.
While Death's Door borrows a lot of elements from many other games, it mashes them all together and refines them into its own thing. Not one single element feels undercooked and the result is a mysterious world you'll instantly be lost within. Outside of the odd frame dip in certain situations, we absolutely loved Death's Door. It's a game filled with surprises, nods, humour, and moves at such a pace we could barely put the controller down. Games this well-crafted don't come along very often, but when they do, they're something to celebrate. Death's Door deserves all the attention it will most likely get, and is a contender for one of 2021's best games.
Okay I've gone from I might play if it comes to Game Pass to might get it
NICE! I'll probably pick it up when i get home.
Waaaaaat! Didn't see this comming!
Wow This looks good
Holy crap, a 10? Will definitely add this to my watchlist!
Feel free to ask me anything if any of you guys have any further questions! 🙂
This in gamepass?
@Flurbdurb if you had to choose, this or tunic, which would you get?
@PhhhCough I actually haven’t played Tunic yet so I’m not sure, but they seem to be great companion pieces to one another. Tunic seems more traditional Zelda while this embodies elements of Hollow Knight and Dark Souls. It all depends which it sounds like you’ll gravitate more towards.
@Krzzystuff Nope! Unfortunately not.
Holy *****, I didn't realize this game was coming out so soon. The reviews for this game are so far amazing and I just now purchased the game. I'm in quarantine right now, so I can't wait to dive deep into this game today.
Ok ty for making me spend 20 euros I guess xD
Never even heard of this ...will check out other reviews and if they say similar things il buy this when I'm home from work
Thanks for the review, Looks like i'll give it a shot..
Question: Is this an actual Xbox exclusive or a timed exclusive?
Wow...this has gone from being on my radar to “I want to play it now!!”
PS: you need to update your “game profile” box on top right of page, as it currently states this will be released on 21 October!
Looks interesting. I might pick it up. How's the difficulty? Not sure if I can handle something that's Soulslike, unfortunately.
@masofdas Gamepass has turned 80% of the xbox gamers into tightarse scroungers.
I've played it for an hour. Loving it so far.
@Roqka it is challenging, but not as hard as a Souls game. Well, the very first enemy you fight in the game is actually a mini-boss, and I died to it several times, but later on it gets far more manageable.
I want to get this. But knowing my luck, as soon as I do, it'll be announced for the switch. Xbox games have a tendency to migrate there, eventually. Cuphead, the ori games, etc. Dammit, first world problems.
@Bmartin001 "Question: Is this an actual Xbox exclusive or a timed exclusive?"
Answer: Does it really matter?
Been watching this for a while, looks great. Glad to hear it's reviewing really well. Will get to it in due course... so much to play this month, so little time!
You had me at, "You play as a crow... claiming souls of the deceased". This looks great, I'm looking forward to playing this.
I didn’t even know about this game until I seen your review and others today! Seems to be getting universal praise and sounds right up my alley so for £14 it seems like a no brainer! I’ll try it later looks good.
@Roqka It’s really not bad at all. My fiancé is playing it who is a very casual gamer, and while she’s died a few times on bosses, she’s always managed to push through!
@Flurbdurb @Magabro Thanks, guys! Sounds like it'll be manageable even for me.
I can definitely like a challenge but nowadays I don't have the luxury to play countless of hours, so I tend to stick with games where I don't get stuck on a single boss for ages.
@russbeer yeah lol but have bought this now but really the savings of Game Pass and buying Nintendo's games for £50 anything helps
I’ve played this a couple of hours tonight and it’s really good. It starts off really simple and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it but as I’m progressing and learning more it’s getting better. The boss battles so far are really fun too.
@russbeer It is mind boggling to see a game earn this much praise and then to see commenters saying “Ten out of ten you say? It sounds really amazing but do I actually have to PAY for it if I want to play it?”
I was going to wait on this, but so many good reviews sold me. While I wouldn’t have argued to it being on Game Pass, I’m always happy to support a smaller studio. Fingers crossed it comes to Switch one day, I’d rebuy it on that in a heartbeat.
Played for the last three hours, amazing game! The fps drops on XSX is kinda anoying tho, and I miss a map lol
@Flurbdurb how hard is this? (Like, would I die a ton?) I’m really interested but have less gaming time now with young kids.
@SplooshDmg thanks for the info! This wasn’t on my radar until recently but I think I’m gonna have to get it now.
@The_New_Butler Sounds good, might as well get it. It's a steal for that price, regardless.
Frequent checkpoints are key for me. For example I really wanted to pick up Returnal for PS5 but I had to let it go. I will very rarely have time for hour long runs with no saves in between.
Just learned about this today. Now I'm trying to decide on the Xbox or PC version. Judging from all the great reviews this is already getting I wouldn't be surprised if MS picked this dev up.
Wow. Was not expecting that.
It's an incredible game so far, truly. The combat, art style, fluidity, soundtrack, forgiving fail states, world building, etc. It's all great. If it's not a 10/10, the lowest I could go is a solid 9, and that's only because I really wish I had a flippin map lmao get it, it's well worth the $20
@xMightyMatt14x You'll probably die a few times, but it's pretty easy to cheese most of the harder fights as long as you take your time. You can run in, attack, then dash back to fire ranged attacks if you want to make it a bit easier. 🙂
agree, something like this deserves to be bought especially how cheap it is.
its the one big downside of game pass, people who think every game should be free
I'm excited after this review. Sounds like my kind of game! A few things that bug me:
1) The box art turned me off and I never even looked at the game until I saw a clip on twitter that caught my eye. The box art doesn't look like the game or genre at all IMO; and
2) The art style, style of game, and apparent quality make this a must play for many and I wonder why Xbox was so silent on it.
Why didn't Xbox push this game during E3 or before? Did they not know they had a great indy? Makes me question their ability to judge a good game and/or manage this many studios.
@SplooshDmg I’d agree with you except for the fact there is a exclusivity agreement. Promoting the game benefits Microsoft (more money, prestige for ecosystem, etc.), the game (money, notoriety, etc.), and the publisher (money). Surely marketing was thought of and it benefits all.
I go on the Xbox app and don’t see it. Microsoft software page — which promotes quantum break — and it’s absent. Strange.
@SplooshDmg my point stands. Xbox knew or should have known they had a great game here and should have marketed it/arranged a marketing deal. It makes no sense why they wouldn't other than they weren't paying attention. Devolver isn't going to turn down free front page advertising by Microsoft.
Your position is Microsoft goes to Devolver and says, "we want you on the front page of our store, marketed heavily to drive sales, and pushed as our big Summer game." Devolver says, "no, we want to spread via word of mouth."
Yeah, it could happen but it makes zero sense. And if Microsoft just missed the fact that this was a good game and now needs to go to them for approval, it just proves my point. They should have been on top of this much sooner.
@SplooshDmg point still stands. If they dumped money into the game, they would/should have had prior knowledge of the quality of the game and should have negotiated that long ago.
The fact that they didn't is disappointing and a big miss from them.
@russbeer to be fair I was one before Gamepass
@SplooshDmg it's a missed opportunity and unfortunate. My feeling, yes, but factual as well. Hopefully they do better scouting games and promoting them in the future.
@SplooshDmg Your contention is word of mouth marketing will result in the same sales as word of mouth marketing plus the promotion of the game by Microsoft?
Essentially you need proof that marketing by a two trillion dollar company helps sales verses no help. Yeah, you win. That's not an obvious answer.
@SplooshDmg you're missing the point. I am more concerned with Microsoft missing the opportunity to show they have great games to play exclusively on their console. It's a win/win for them and Devolver, but they didn't recognize this as a game to push.
@SplooshDmg It's not a "huge assumption" to say Devolver would say yes to free marketing of their game. Yes, that typically takes place weeks, months, years before a game comes out. Microsoft should have seen this game was a good one and marketed it better.
Additional marketing would help the game, but, as I'm arguing, would help the Xbox brand's argument about having good games. This is the point I'm most concerned with. I'm not crapping on anyone, but expressing disappointment in a comment section about a missed opportunity. No names being called to you or them.
@SplooshDmg "You are crapping on them when you have no evidence to support your claims." They have a 10/10 game, the current hot indy game out, possibly winning many awards at the end of the year as an exclusive. Yet there was barely a peep out of Microsoft about this game. Little to no promotion.
That's evidence of a missed opportunity. Yes it requires deals, moving other things off the store, a slot at a presentation, and/or promotion on social media/the Xbox store. But they didn't do that.
It's not rocket science, but you keep going to the success of the game, when I'm talking about Microsoft missing a big summer indy game. You're missing the point . . . again.
@SplooshDmg so is your point that there is a marketing agreement by pointing out the examples above? They wouldn't do that for free, right? So they should have done more and further back to point it out. It's a missed opportunity. Perhaps they can jump on after release, it's not too late.
And it's not promotion for free. Microsoft gets something. First, money from additional sales. Second, more people buying into their system and generating hype about their brand.
I figured an accountant would know Microsoft gets a cut of the sale and would have other non-monetary benefits. Guess not.
@SplooshDmg name calling lets me know you've lost the argument. No need to take it so personally; no need to be a corporate defender. Again, Microsoft gets a benefit — you just disagree with me about the degree of the benefit. Believe it or not, you're not an expert on accounting, PR, advertising, gaming, corporations, and every other subject matter you think.
This is a missed opportunity from Microsoft. Big indy game that's exclusive and the hype that could have brought is a missed opportunity. I think that warrants them bumping Quantum Break for a week or two from the featured section. Call me crazy all you want, but it's a bad call on their part IMO.
Me: 70 comments?!?! It must be some interesting discussion about this really cool new game.
Comments: piles of *****
@SplooshDmg Have a good day. Sorry if I hurt your feelings about your profession. We just disagree. Have a good day.
Wishlisted, looking forward to this!
Bought it right after reading this review.
To many great things being said about this game to ignore. Downloading now.
While I am waiting for MFS to play later today in the UK I thought I would get on with this game. And wow! If you loved Hades you will love this. Definitely an early GOTY contender. Absolutely superb gaming experience. Wow. Just wow and fully deserves the 10/10.
I could have done with a map if I’m being honest but minor niggle aside a fabulous game. I paid about £7 from the Argentine Xbox store a few months and it’s easily worth twice that.
Still need to get this game, but I'm opting for the Switch port. Sounds like a nice addition for GP subscribers, as well!
Had too much on my plate when this first came round so didn't buy it. But now it's on Game Pass it goes right near the top of the list.
Referencing Zelda, Dark Souls and Hollow Knight, three of my favourite games/series of all time has just made me even more excited.
Was very interested until read like dark souls. The review touches on the difficulty being so so.
But anyone out there say if is difficult? My stance on games that not have the time (or even the desire) spend 5 hours of try and die to move just 5 mins along. I spent years doing that on the NES.
I've put those days behind me now. Far behind me.
I bought it day one! Will go nice with Tunic!
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