How to beat the Gray Crow boss fight at Death’s Gate

The raven and the gray crow stand in front of the death gate in the death gate - how to beat the gray crow in the death gate.

Screenshot: Acid nerve

The door of death, an isometric dungeon robot released for PC and Xbox earlier this year, is a master class in stylish game design. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a late-game boss fight. Pretty much in every way – visually, thematically, mechanically, musically – the fight is a tour de force. I can’t help but think about it.

Major spoilers follow for The door of death.

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The configuration for The door of death is quite simple: you play as a crow, a basic employee in a bureaucratic organization that collects the souls of the dying. Under the rules of this agency, when you are in the field, you can die. But once you come back with your “assigned soul,” you come back to immortality and an indefinitely prolonged (after) life.

Your first gig is to line up the soul of an octopus-like monster that’s not quite ready to say goodbye to life. You get the job done, because it’s basically a tutorial level, and then an older crow who calls himself Gray Crow comes out of nowhere and steals the soul that is rightfully yours. Apparently, he needs souls to open the titular death door, behind which he lost a soul of his own, so that he can return to an ageless existence. Gray Crow then tasks you with defeating three giants, each alive, in classic style Zelda style, deep in the chasms of labyrinthine dungeons. Once you’re done with your task, the shit becomes real.

Using the three giant souls, you open the door of death. There you meet Death, who isn’t a concept but actually just a former reaper named Death, who while wearing a fanny pack, treats you with the big twist. Years before the events of The door of death, your boss, the Lord of Gates, sought Eternal Life in a conspiratorial plot that involved locking Death behind a door and throwing the key away. Gray Crow cannot handle this information overload – cannot handle the fact that he has devoted most of his life to some fruitless cause – and becomes consumed with rage, transforming into his boss form, The Gray crow.

While tough, The Gray Crow is by no means the toughest boss fight in the game. (This dishonor unequivocally belongs to Betty, the Third Giant.) But it’s definitely the prettiest. Here is a video of Bearbarian blur, a YouTuber specializing in creating boss fight guides, showing a damage-free match (!!):

Yes, it is an impressive achievement. But also: the music! The austere visuals! It’s like that definitive black and white segment of Grey, the excellent 2018 puzzle-platformer from Nomada Studio, except stretched and molded in a boss fight that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Gray stands on a contrasting black and white frame as the birds swell around her figure.

Screenshot: Nomada / Kotaku Studio

The fight against The Gray Crow stands out not only for what it does, but also for what it doesn’t. The most of The door of death constrains you to a specific space. Dungeon battles are usually lined with walls or bottomless pits. Previous boss fights, meanwhile, take place in tightly confined arenas, with circular or square platforms that can fit into the space of a single frame. But when you take on The Gray Crow, you can run, run and run, forever. (Yes, yes, I understand that this is an optical illusion, a graphic trick that makes space seem like no limits. Yet after spending an entire game navigating within dictated limits, the feeling unlimited is intoxicating.)

But it also plays with the form of the game in a way that no previous boss fights do. The door of death has no health bars or hit points or anything like that. On the contrary, as you mine an enemy’s health, they will slowly develop fuschia-colored cracks. Once an enemy seems ready to shatter, you can usually take them out with a hit or two. The Gray Crow introduces an additional wrinkle: every time you hit a blow, it loses a feather. Any loose plumage will turn into homing projectiles that will slowly stalk you. If you can line it up correctly, you can throw those projectiles back at it, dislodging another feather, creating a cycle like a dance.

Defeating The Gray Crow may take a few tries, depending on how comfortable you are with isometric action games. Like Fuzzy Bearbarian, I found it easier to spice it up with the enhanced fire spell – found in the catacombs en route to the Witch’s Mansion – which deals constant damage over time. In the second half of the fight, he will start dropping gravity wells that can ruin your day, so pulling them out is imperative.

The final victory brings one of the The door of deaththe themes in crystal clarity. Despite its name and ostensible emphasis on, you know, harvesting souls, gambling on life. It’s about how, when the time comes, most people don’t want to die and will do everything in their power to avoid it. But that’s not the way it works. Without death, says Death, there can be no life.

There is a haunting and melancholy addiction to the whole. Yes you win, but this is one of those nominative victories. The Gray Crow is not returning to its previously balanced way. He has no epiphany and gives up the fight. He’s just … gone. By your hand.

“I’m sorry for your big feathered friend over there. It is always difficult for the living to let the dead go, ”Death tells you once you walk through the door. “Even rougher, having to harvest it yourself.”

About Johanna Gooding

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