Doors of Insanity has nothing to do with Jim Morrison going crazy.
I’ve become something of an aficionado of deck-building rogue-like games since writing for Big Boss Battle. From the big hitters like Slay the Spire and Monster Train, to lesser-known rivals such as The Last Hex and Fights in Tight Spaces I’ve played pretty much any one I can get my hands on. I’ve recently had an opportunity to play through Doors of Insanity which is currently in Early Access on Steam. Whilst it certainly shares some of the genre’s conventions, this young upstart does just enough different to make it stand out from the crowd.
As far as plot goes, you play as a nameless, customisable hero who awakens in a realm of monsters. That’s about it when it comes to story, so don’t expect much in the way of lore or world-building. Just know that this world contains all sorts of strange characters and monsters that you’ll meet as you travel through the titular doors.
Much like Slay the Spire, in Doors of Insanity you choose what sort of confrontation to have next. Perhaps you’ll pick a standard battle, maybe an event, or a trader. This is very similar to this game’s inspiration, but it also lacks a map, meaning that any decision you make will be purely based on what’s in front of you, rather than you planning the route you’d most like to take. Often you are presented with three doors with identical options on them, meaning that your decision is pretty meaningless. Something like a difficulty with greater or lesser rewards on each door would certainly add a little variety here.
Battles also play out like so many games in this genre. You’ll play your cards based on attack, defence, and buffs with differing energy costs meaning you’ll be limited in what you’ll be able to do each turn. You’ll know what your enemy plans to do, allowing you to make informed decisions about whether to block incoming damage or go on the offensive, whilst increasing your damage output through various power-ups. Death sends you back to the start with some new features unlocked for future runs by using crystals you’ve gained. So far, so normal.
Doors of Insanity has a pretty neat feature though, in the form of dice. Every turn you gain a dice and roll those you already have, and you can decide to spend these to cause more damage or defend yourself further. You can only hold a maximum of five, so you’re encouraged to use them, but should you waste a roll of 1 to give yourself a tiny armour boost when it could be re-rolled as a 6 next turn. It’s a nice twist on the genre, and even plays into some of the cards which allow you to gain more dice quickly, so you can build a deck around using and reusing dice if you want.
Then there are helper cards that add minions to your side of the battle that can cause damage or defend and buff you. Whilst you have no direct control over these, you can set yourself up to not have to worry about defence through their use, as you focus on hammering out the damage. This was my preferred playstyle and gave me some solid success.
The final key gameplay difference between Doors of Insanity and so many others is the loot system. You’ll find armour and weapons as you play through that give you small benefits to attack, defence, health, and crit chance. A small feature, yes, but I really liked that you could see these items on your character in battle. It made for some genuinely silly looks as I ended up with a turtle shell shield on my arm, a swordfish in my hand, and Batman’s cowl protecting my noggin. This feature extends to the artifacts you find along the way too, which function as permanent buffs as you play through.
This visual style is an interesting element too, as the monsters you fight look absolutely beautiful, having that classic cartoon style recently seen in Cuphead. The enemies have a great deal of personality and are animated really nicely, and this is absolutely one of the strongest suits. There aren’t a large number of different enemies at the moment, meaning I fought the same ones multiple times, often in a row, but hopefully, this roster will grow over time. Unfortunately, this impressive visual design is only a feature of the enemies. Your character model lacks the detail and animation of your opponents, whilst the characters you meet seem to have a completely different (although no less impressive) art style.
Then there are the cards which have a completely different art style again, appearing as though they have a webcomic look to them. Most of the cards are nice enough, but then there are ones that seem completely out of place, including ones that imitate the poop emoji, or various memes. It feels as though there are several disparate styles in Doors of Insanity that all want attention leading to it lacking a style of its own. There needs to be more consistency here, I feel. Perhaps this is something that will change as the game develops through Early Access.
I do feel that changes over time will occur, as the developers are very active on Steam and seem very happy to take on any suggestions for consideration. Whilst this is a solid game to play at the moment — and a pretty fun one at that — it does feel like an Early Access game. Odd things like not being able to check your discard pile, or examine your inventory when you visit a merchant are irritating whilst the very lacklustre sound effects and inability to access the options menu until you start a game are other issues that can be looked into.
Doors of Insanity is a good addition to the rogue-like deck builder genre that I’m genuinely enjoying as it stands. I’m hoping to see a greater variety of enemies and cards become part of it as the game continues to develop, whilst those smaller irritations are ironed out. There’s even a PvP mode available, although I wasn’t able to try it out at the time of writing, which is a pretty nice feature for a game of this ilk. I look forward to diving back into the madness over the coming months as it grows.
Doors of Insanity is out now on Steam Early Access.