When first starting up Death’s Door there’s an assumption that it’s going to be like every other hack and slash indie game out there. Those games typically feature overwhelming waves of enemies, a slow upgrade system, and increasingly-difficult bosses with more challenging patterns as time goes on. In some ways that is what this game is, but while other games’ entire hook is from that idea it’s the details around the mechanics of Death’s Door that make it unique and worthy of all the praise it’s receiving in recent days.
The only requirement in all of Death’s Door is to follow the path that the player is meant to walk on. There’s a story in this game and the story itself is intriguing enough, but how the player advances that story is entirely up to them. This little bit of player choice creates a game where everyone will approach scenarios differently and it makes those experiences unique. It also sets itself up to be one of those games that will be a great speedrun someday.
The Player Chooses How Powerful They Want To Become
When the average player starts up Death’s Door they’re likely to slash their way through every enemy they encounter, gain experience in the form of soul points, and eventually use those points to level up all of their stats. That is one way to play Death’s Door and it is completely viable, but it is arguably one of the more challenging ways to experience the game. Enemies are tough early on, and only grow more challenging as you progress, and some of the combat scenarios feel impossible to overcome. They’re also, interestingly, not required.
The big hook of Death’s Door is that, outside of main set piece moments, these combat scenarios are really nothing more than a way to grind out extra experience. Enemies respawn every time the player goes back to the hub world, or upon death, but progress always remains. The game actively encourages pushing forward instead of trying to slay what’s in front of you, and the only gain from combat is to become more powerful. Of course, becoming more powerful is one heck of a hook so abandoning combat altogether is likely not recommended unless you’re attempting a challenge run. Essentially, though, the player can choose how much combat they want to do. Experience is plentiful without fighting in every combat scenario so choosing when to progress is key to moving forward.
This gives playthroughs of Death’s Door infinite possibilities. Want to fight everything and become the most powerful reaper ever? Do it. Want to skate past enemies, move the story along, and only fight when necessary? That’s an option, too. The only limit placed on the player is story beats. Beyond that? Go nuts.
Death’s Door Is Going To Be An Amazing Speedrun Someday
Death’s Door feels like a speedrunner’s dream. Optimizing a run-through of the game to shave off the perfect amount of time is all about optimizing, and that’s what Death’s Door is built to allow. The game blatantly tells the player to be quick in their first 30 minutes.
Decisions like choosing when the right time to fight or run away, what exact skill to upgrade, and where is the best place to plant one of the finite healing seeds can add or take away time from a playthrough. While most of these decisions don’t have too much impact on the regular player, because of the ability to grind out experience or just keep dying until progress is made, it can make or break a challenge run. Specifically for speedrunners.
There are so many different options in how to approach a run and the game actively encourages experimentation. This variety is going to create a lot of really fun speedruns early on, because players are still learning how to best optimize the game. Eventually though they’ll have this down to a science, but progress is already being made in a big way. The game came out on July 20 and according to Speedrun.com there’s already someone with a time below one hour. Meanwhile, the developers at Acid Nerve say an average playthrough should take 8-10 hours. It wouldn’t be surprising to see someone have this down to half an hour at some point.
Speedrun or not, Death’s Door is a great game
Whether someone is trying to speedrun the game or not, Death’s Door is a great game worthy of everyone’s time. There’s a reason everyone who’s played it can’t stop talking about it and as more people get their hands on the game that chorus is only going to get louder. Don’t let Death’s Door slip under the radar, because we’re gonna hear it popping up a lot in December when Game of The Year discussions start.