Title: 8Doors: Arum's Afterlife Adventure
Developer: Rootless Studio
Release Date: April 7, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: 2D Action
8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure takes heavy inspiration from Metroidvanias and Dark Souls. From the beginning, you’ll know that it is intended to be difficult and that you should be familiar with the 2D action genre. If you aren’t confident in your abilities, there is an easy option, so don’t get discouraged just yet. This is good because I’d want as many people to play it. After all, it’s become one of my favorites.
8Doors follows a young girl named Arum who is trying to find her father’s soul after being the lone survivor of a mysterious incident. This journey takes her through the afterlife as she uncovers a string of incidents that are throwing this realm into chaos. Players will navigate the 8 Doors of Purgatory, where many enemies stand in their way.
Let me get this out of the way; I will be comparing this game to Dark Souls as it has drawn some noticeable inspiration from the series found in the estus flask system, bonfires, and the way you approach combat. In essence, 8Doors could be a Metroidvania-Dark Souls, which ends up being a good thing due to how fun it is to learn to deal with enemies while dispatching them effectively without losing resources. 8Doors takes this approach with its bosses, meaning that you will lose a few times to learn the attack patterns and the best way to avoid getting hit.
Thankfully, these battles are assisted with responsive controls allowing me to feel in control of every encounter, even if I ended up dying. This only adds to the satisfaction earned after a tough battle since luck had nothing to do with it. If you won, you worked for it, and I really enjoyed the sensation.
That said, the regular enemies leave much to be desired as many of them can get locked into hit stun. Turning the minute-to-minute combat into a game of how fast you can reach the enemy and combo them to death. A few enemies can’t be hit stunned, and they are more challenging but tend to die relatively quickly once you know what attacks to dodge. What makes the normal enemies even easier to pick off is that they have one attack that they spam constantly. Most of the time, you just need to dodge a single attack then move in to attack.
The aforementioned bonfire and Estus flask system play a significant role in this adventure. During gameplay, you’ll come upon a gravestone that fills up your potions, health, and sin when you pray. When you die, you return to the last gravestone that you visited with everything refilled. The main difference is that when you pray, enemies do not respawn, and you don’t lose any currency. This means that when you rest with 100 coins, you can die and return to the saved 100 coins. This makes dying feel less harsh and instead helps encourage you to explore and die as much as possible to figure everything out.
Aside from combat, gameplay includes exploring multiple areas. This game has a linear story and path to follow, so you will always have the necessary tools to explore the stages. This ensures that you are always moving forward and much of the backtracking is for extra items or secret bosses. The game rarely expects you to have found a secret to actually progress the narrative.
Still, there were moments where I was wandering around, not sure what to do even with the objective details. However, I would often discover that I was just in the wrong area, but nothing alludes to where that area is or what item is needed to access it; not even the NPCs say anything meaningful. It didn’t happen often, but it was frustrating to find out that an item was needed to progress when it did.
Despite this momentary frustration, the world itself is a joy to explore, and using your abilities to get over obstacles is exceptionally fun. You feel as if you are actually making small discoveries as you stumble upon an optional boss or a skill point. Not only that, but every new weapon opens up new possibilities of where you can explore. Some weapons are mainly used for exploration rather than dealing damage to enemies. The dual use of the weapons makes exploring feel satisfying as you are constantly changing the way you interact with the world around you.
As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock addition perks. These allow you to either become better in combat, exploration, or raise your survivability. Each upgrade can slightly alter how you approach fights as you change up your play style. Points can found by exploring and finding them throughout the world. You can also upgrade by collecting fugitive souls. Every four you collect will grant you coins and two skill points to be spent in the skill tree. Each of these is hidden in locations that can be missed if you’re rushing. Although the combat is fast, taking your time to navigate the world will provide a few bonuses.
8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure is an excellent action-adventure that delivers a satisfying experience by using a few notable influences. Normal combat can become monotonous, but fights against bosses are deeply rewarding, mirrored by the sense of exploration needed to find everything the game has to offer. This is a game that’s perfect for any looking for a charming and unique Metroidvania experience, with added layers of difficulties for veterans of the genre.
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