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A scene from“ Death’ s Door.”.

Acid Nerve first partnered with publisher Devolver Digital in 2015 for Titan Souls, an action-adventure game full of difficult challenges. Now Acid Nerve has once again teamed up with Devolver Digital for Death’s Door, a new adventure game about the day-to-day life of a bird that reaps souls. Acid Nerve shows tremendous growth with Death’s Door, as it’s one of the best indie games of the year.

The reaper calls

In Death’s Door, players take on the role of a crow whose day-to-day job consists of reaping the souls of the deceased. The cozy lifestyle of being an agent of death is interrupted when one of the crow’s targets is stolen away. Now, players must make their way through some uncharted territory in order to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs.

It’s not just a single soul that’s at stake, but the player themselves. As an immortal being, the reapers travel through doors to visit different dimensions. However, a reaper becomes mortal for as long as their door is open, and that door will remain open until the reaper returns with their designated soul. This works as our ticking clock in Death’s Door, as the player is tasked with finding the thief who took their soul and returning back to the commission, all in one piece.

The story in Death’s Door is intriguing, thanks to some excellent work in lore and world-building. I felt like my experience was just one small slice of a much bigger universe, one I’d love to learn more about in the future. I also liked that despite being a game about death and reaping souls, Death’s Door manages to mix in some humor and keep things fairly light.

Death at your door

Combat is where Death’s Door excels. Equipped with a sword and a bow, players will come face to face with a plethora of different enemies. There’s quick melee attacks, charged attacks, and then ranged attacks using the bow. Fighting waves of enemies, I found myself constantly rolling around, stringing together attacks to lay the hurt on oncoming adversaries.

There’s a solid balance to the combat too. Although the bow is perfect for taking out enemies before they even get in range, there’s a finite number of charges to it. Charges are refilled over a period of time, or by dealing damage to enemies with melee attacks. Death’s Door does an excellent job at forcing the player to adopt several different playstyles.

As you make your way through the game and master combat, you’ll discover new ways to use your abilities. I had a huge grin on my face when I realized that using a charge attack on a projectile will send that projectile flying right back to its sender. There’s a ton of small moments like this riddled throughout Death’s Door.

Keeping your talons sharp

The enemies in Death’s Door were an impressive aspect of the game. There’s a wide variety, from zombie-like foes that try to take you out in close-range, to teleporting mages that send magical blasts from afar. This rings true with the game’s bosses, who are each incredibly designed. Bosses are tough, but they each exhibit patterns that players can learn and adapt to. I often died in my first or second battle against a boss, but it rarely ever felt unfair or cheap. When I respawned, I felt better equipped to take them on.

As players make their way through different locations, they’ll have the ability to heal, but not whenever they like. There’s seeds scattered around the world that can be gathered. However, they must be planted at designated pots. I found this to be a great way of ratcheting up the challenge, without making the player feel completely helpless.

Death’s Door features a variety of weapons and gear that players can equip to deal out more damage and enjoy some neat bonuses. As for abilities themselves, players can bring the souls that they gather during their adventure back to the Reaper Commission and exchange them for stat upgrades.

Bleak and beautiful

As players enter different doors, they’ll be transported to different locations in the universe. Each of the different environments in Death’s Door feel wholly unique, giving the feeling that they actually are from different corners of the world. The fantasy art style coupled with some solid graphics also make Death’s Door a gorgeous game to explore.

The music in Death’s Door helps to enhance the story and combat. However, it never feels overbearing. There’s plenty of instances where there’s no music at all, with the only sounds coming from ambient noises in the environment as well as your weapons striking enemies.

The detailed nature of Death’s Door is also present in the game’s puzzles. Players will often need to find a key to a door, or a ladder to access a certain area, and so on. The developers do a superb job at giving players all of the necessary tools and clues needed to discover a solution for any given puzzle.

My only issue is that several of the puzzles require some backtracking and retracing through levels. With the intricate layout of some areas and the light pace at which the character moves, this feels tedious in some instances.

Don’t mess with death

Death’s Door combines excellent story and lore with challenging and rewarding combat. As an action game, there’s a lot to love about the enemies faced and customization available. Story can easily take the backseat in a game like this, but the sheer concept of it all and the lore dumped on top makes the story in Death’s Door equally intriguing. Acid Nerve delivers one of the more well-rounded titles I’ve played this year with Death’s Door.

This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Death’s Door is available now for PC and Xbox platforms for $19.99. For the latest information about videogames, visit http://www.shacknews.com.

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