“Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous.” - H. P. Lovecraft
The Last Door is a four episode, community backed adventure game steeped in the lore of H. P. Lovecraft. The first season relates the journey of Jeremiah Devitt, a British gentleman summoned to the home of his friend, Anthony Beechworth. Unbeknownst to Jeremiah, Anthony has killed himself, his suicide marking the end of a tumultuous life of torment marked by possession and otherworldly obsession. Anthony’s death is but the first step towards a greater mystery, its origins reaching back to their lives at a boarding school where their growing, and almost heretical, interest in philosophy led to a life changing discovery.
If The Last Door has a failing, it is that the game is too easy for its own good. It lacks the sprawling locales and globe trotting/planet hopping of large budget adventure games, opting instead for a one location per episode format. Truthfully, the experience feels particularly light on gameplay content because of this. Each episode plays out exactly the same way. You’ll click on and around the environment, steering Devitt towards clues that will move the story forward. Through exploration, puzzles emerge as rudimentary obstacles that don’t require much effort to overcome. Items found scattered throughout episodes have a specific place or function that can almost always be easily figured out. The game rarely poses the player with any significant challenges or complex jumps in logic.
There exists, however, a grand and illustrious silver lining to the its “light in calories” nature. Scaling back the difficulty nurtures the strength of the game’s powerful story which gives The Last Door its allure. A love letter to Lovecraft, we discover that Devitt, Anthony and their fellow students were brought together by an event that allowed these mere mortals to pierce The Veil and glimpse a whole other dimension occupied by a previously unseen bird-like god. Though brief, each episode leaves a lasting impression and drips with gothic horror and intrigue, depicting scholarly educated men and followers of a religious faith faced with something far beyond their imaginations. The Last Door makes use of a heavily pixelated aesthetic that removes key details, like facial expressions or unique hand gestures. I wasn’t sure the game’s scares would play well against such visuals but was proven wrong. Not only does it work but the artstyle gives the story an added layer of surrealism during its moments of terror. Fueling this Lovecraftian nightmare is a brilliant soundtrack by Carlos Viola, whose ambient score gives The Last Door a fantastically eerie and atmospheric feel.
Simple but effective, The Last Door offers a great, chilling narrative experience. A little on the short side, episodes do not run longer than thirty minutes or so, but its levity is no reason to ignore this well written and conceived story of the supernatural. I sincerely hope that Season Two will see a speedy release.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.