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Post by KostaAndreadis @ 02:26pm 29/03/21 | Comments
Reaping souls in a dark fantasy setting that blends The Legend of Zelda style adventuring with fluid combat. We sit down with the team behind the upcoming Death's Door.

Released back in 2015, developer Acid Nerve’s Titan Souls was something of a cult and critical hit thanks to its vibrant 2D-meets-3D visuals and challenging yet rewarding combat. After a few years in the development wilderness the studio is now back with its latest endeavour called Death’s Door - a fantasy action-adventure set in a bleak yet beautiful world. And much like with Titan Souls the combat is as fast and fluid as the art direction is evocative.

Set in an afterlife of sorts you take control of a soul-reaping Crow when one of those assigned bits of mystical presence is stolen. This sets off an adventure into a fantasy world devoid of death, a place where creatures are left to grow and succumb to their need for power and shiny things to collect.

With a release date set for mid-2021 and its reveal happening over the weekend we had the chance to sit down with Mark Foster and David Fenn at Acid Nerve to talk about the jump from 2d to full 3D visuals, combat philosophy in an isometric world, and the inspiration behind the look and setting.

AusGamers: Titan Souls featured a 2D presentation, with Death's Door what were some of the challenges in moving to an isometric 3D perspective?

Acid Derve: Moving to 3D was definitely one of the biggest challenges for us, as there was a lot to figure out, but definitely worth it for the opportunities and increased potential it provides. Infact, we had already used 3D for some of Titan Souls’ bosses, in order to have smoother movement when rotating and so forth, so being able to bring this to every character was a natural step.

One of the main challenges was figuring out a workflow when it came to animation. In early prototypes, we found the process to be slower than what we were used to, as being able to rapidly prototype and iterate is very important to our development process. Mark, the programmer and combat designer, actually learnt to rig and animate from scratch at the start of this project in order to be able to keep that rapid turnaround we’re used to. Out of necessity he got good at it pretty quickly!

AusGamers: The story, art direction, and look are wonderful – what was some of the inspiration behind Death’s Door?

Acid Derve: It’s honestly hard to say at this point since it’s been brewing in our heads for so long. The Legend of Zelda is a key influence and we don’t think there can ever be too many of this kind of game. We also brought a bit of British humour to the story. Mark, who wrote the script, was probably more inspired by TV than games. Frits, the art director, was inspired by games with a heavy focus on attention to detail that makes the world cohesive and believable, like Final Fantasy IX.

AusGamers: How did the setting inform the design of the beasts and other creatures – for example, the large frog-like boss seen in the gameplay preview?

Acid Derve: We wanted to create a distinctive fantasy setting that didn’t lean too heavily into established styles like medieval fantasy. The idea was that there is a power imbalance in the world, where those who have been alive far longer than intended have become excessively powerful and corrupted, so the bosses are overgrown, colossal beings, whereas the grunts are mindless followers who wear masks to show loyalty to their leader. On top of this, the core characters and bosses all have their own backstories, beliefs and even obsessions, which are incorporated into their visual design.

AusGamers: With combat that’s fast, fluid, and intuitive – what were the design goals behind this side of the experience?

Acid Derve: Something we were careful about was not to lose the responsiveness of the 2D/pixel-art styles, which can happen in a lot of 3D games. So in Death’s Door, your attacks and dodgerolls are all executed within very few frames of you pressing the button, making sure it keeps the fast and fluid feel people would hope for in this type of game.

"We wanted to create a distinctive fantasy setting that didn’t lean too heavily into established styles like medieval fantasy. The idea was that there is a power imbalance in the world, where those who have been alive far longer than intended have become excessively powerful and corrupted."

We also wanted to make sure the feeling of hits and arrows connecting, as well as getting hit, was very strong, to make sure you had a good awareness of what’s going on. Things can get pretty intense and fast paced, so that intuitive communication is essential to make sure you feel in control and everything feels fair.

AusGamers: The soundtrack is quite evocative too, hints of eastern orchestral styles that suits the fantasy showcased. Assuming there’s no voice-work – is the music being approached from the perspective of being a key part of the story and world?

Acid Derve: I think the eastern style is a result of me playing too many JRPGs, also I think all good soundtracks should be a combination of the composer's interests and specific approaches for the game world being scored. The elements I added that I think are specific to Death’s Door are these big, washy, atmospheric harp tremolos and very slightly detuned winds creating a lush background ambience, and tonalities that are a little bit twisted. Melodies on instruments like piano are always a bit prettier than expected, and that denotes the optimism and hope that is a key part of this otherwise dark and sinister world.

AusGamers: How would you describe the feel of Death's Door and the style of action-adventure it aims to capture?

Acid Derve: We hope for it to have a vibe all of its own, a challenging adventure in a distinctive dark world offset by quirky touches of humour and positivity. It’s definitely a game that’s all about the details, everything from the fun touches to the hidden secrets we’ve managed to include throughout.