Announced during the [email protected] showcase this morning was Death’s Door, the long-awaited return for developer Acid Nerve, the team behind Titan Souls.
The game is an off-beat action adventure game starring a crow who’s nine-to-five involves reaping souls. A mystery emerges when a soul earmarked for him goes missing and the hunt for the thief begins.
We were fortunate enough to have a brief chat with Acid Nerve’s Mark Foster and David Fenn about Death’s Door and what it’s all about.
While my knowledge of Titan Souls extends only to my research of it, it would appear that, being a spiritual successor of sorts, at a design level that Death’s Door is intended to be a bit more forgiving and accessible?
It’s definitely more forgiving and accessible. We’ve worked hard to strike a balance where all the intensity, edge-of-your-seat action is maintained, but without the frustrating, defeating elements that were a core part of Titan Souls. (No regrets on those though, just going for something different this time!)
Death’s Door also has upgrades and secrets which will give you a better chance at success. So if you do hit a wall with a hard boss, you can explore more to get yourself more prepared, rather than just try over and over.
Where’d the idea stem from? A soul reaping crow isn’t a mainstream concept by a long chalk.
It’s hard to say where the idea first came from since it’s been brewing in our heads for so long it just feels right at this point. We’d been prototyping stuff with death, and doors, and when we made the main character a crow it just started feeling better.
While the game looks to do the action-adventure genre proud, it looks as though Death’s Door’s big draw will be its larger than life boss encounters, is this one part of Titan Souls’ DNA that has bled over into this new title?
There’s definitely a lot of Titan Souls’ DNA when it comes to the bosses. The minimal design and limitations of Titan Souls forced us to be creative with bosses, like a mini-study in game design. So we’ve been able to take a lot of what we’ve learnt and apply it to something with more depth and ambition.
It’s no secret that Xbox values its indies, how’d it come to be that Death’s Door would feature in the [email protected] showcase?
We leave that stuff to Devolver, but my understanding is that [email protected] were just really into the game, and it’s very helpful for indies to have that kind of backing from a big platform holder. After it caught their eye we sent over a bunch of gameplay and demos and they were super keen so we made it official.
Further to that, any murmurings on whether Death’s Door debut on Xbox Game Pass like so many others?
It isn’t planned for Game Pass.
Obviously the game’s perspective takes a more isometric approach, as opposed to Titan Souls’ top down view. Is this a means to differentiate the two, or is it just a stylistic pivot driven by greater experience as developers?
We experimented with this early on, and I think whatever you’re less used to always feels cooler, so we settled on the isometric. You also get a clearer view of two angles so I feel it lends itself a little better to creating detailed areas with verticality. We also use this to differentiate the main game world from the Hall of Doors — where the crows work — where we lean more towards a straight-on angle rather than the classic isometric angle.
I love the juxtaposition of the vibrant worlds where you reap to the colourless monotony of the ‘office’ for our hero crow, were you guys going for a real film-noir feel with the white collar portions of Death’s Door?
The office has a real noir feel but with a surreal twist. It’s moody and subdued, but the characters are endearing, with touches of humour and positivity. It’s almost like a Ghibli-take on what a noir office full of soul-reaping crows would be, but with a bit of British humour.
Being a small team, how long has it taken to conceptualise and develop Death’s Door? It appears pretty robust in its lore and is clearly design driven.
We’ve been thinking about it, prototyping and planning — between other projects — since shortly after Titan Souls, but didn’t go ahead into full production until it really felt right. This turned out to be a good decision as things have come together really smoothly since beginning full-time development about three and a half years ago. This is when we brought on a team to help us develop our ideas with a matching visual design. We thankfully seemed to be able to communicate exactly what we were going for straight away, as Frits (our Art Director) nailed the look from the very beginning.
I always ask the question to developers who work under the Devolver umbrella: how good is it developing for them? I get the impression they give you a license to kill and bring to life, uncompromised, whatever your vision is.
Yeah, exactly that, they never really asked us to change anything, just provided the resources to make the game we wanted to make, along with marketing and production assistance. We did have plenty of testing and feedback, but it’s always left up to us how much we want to incorporate – most of it however was useful changes that only assisted us in delivering our vision. Only downside is we’ve barely seen them this time around, as we haven’t done any conventions!
If the game is tailored more for a rounded experience that anyone can access, is there going to be anything to appeal to the hardcore?
Yeah, I think it’ll still appeal to the hardcore as it’s not easy by any means. We also included an abandoned umbrella you can pick up in the office at the very start, which is the worst weapon in the game, and included an achievement for beating the game using only that, for anyone who desires to attempt such a thing! As well as combat difficulty, there’s a lot of hidden secrets and completionist stuff in there, and it’s a really fun game to 100% as well, so I think it should appeal to that portion of the hardcore as well.
Although mileage is bound to vary, how much content can players expect to get out of Death’s Door?
It’s about eight-to-ten hours for the main story, then several more to 100%. All the content is handcrafted as well so there’s no padding in that time.
Death’s Door releases later this year for PC, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.