“Game as soulless as its lead character”
You have been conjured up by an entity known as fate to work as a skeleton-like Grim Reaper to decide the fate of humans in an office to decide on flashcards whether they live or die based on their ages, employment and how they live their lives. This is Death and Taxes developed and published by Placeholder Gameworks and joint published by Hawthorn Games. Will the decisions you make on people’s lives make the world a better place, or drive it into sheer chaos, the choice is yours!!
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox One | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on X!
The office. Where the lives and deaths of many people will be decided.
Things I liked!
- The opening cutscene is fabulous | I absolutely loved the comic book style opening and the conclusion to a playthrough and how the cutscene develops from tile to tile, it’s a cut scene style which Death and Taxes should absolutely have leant on more, especially in more impactful parts midway through the game and not left it to the start and ending, it would have provided more world building and in my opinion, more cutscenes with this style is very much welcome.
- Drawn visuals are pleasant | Death and Taxes is visualized in a hand-drawn style which I really like. The colours are vibrant and it’s very pleasant to look at. The characters also look very well drawn. I wish they had used this more than just an office scene and an elevator where most of the game is played as well as interactions with the odd few characters.
Time for Fate to decide my performance for another day.
Neither good nor bad
- Multiple Endings | Normally I would rate having multiple endings and differing routes to achieve them as being a positive thing but none of the endings have that distinct emotional impact, mainly due to the lack of soulless nature of the main characters and the plot lines not gripping me (both I have eluded on below). So I have had to put it in the somewhere between column as the endings didn’t grip me as they should have, they ended up just being achievements to tick off.
- Difficulty | In Death and Taxes the difficulty starts very easy and this is okay to get you used to the game’s mechanics and how Death and Taxes should be played to be successful then it initially ratchets the difficulty up and to some part mid-way through your 1st playthrough it feels quite a challenge, but over time the parameters feel quite samey so you realize there’s a distinct technique to playing the game and this makes the game feel much easier over time. It’s challenging for short periods.
Finally, I’m home. After a long shift of killing.
Things I disliked!
- Characters are not fleshed out | Pardon the pun about the characters not being fleshed out, when the lead character is a skeleton-like grim reaper, but it shows over the course of Death and Taxes with the interactions with Fate and his cat and to some degree the interactions with the characters in the Cerberus Den, that the lead character is completely soulless and the narrative suffers as a result. The interactions with Fate are largely just how well you did in that given day and give a basic outline of how things are going on and it just isn’t enough for the writer.
- Plot Lines | The plot lines in Death and Taxes are close to being as emotionally invested as they should have been, there are no real stakes to being successful and failing a day, especially compared to other titles in the same genre. Papers, Please manage this by having stakes to how much money is earned by the character as the family can freeze or starve to death. There’s nothing like this in Death and Taxes, a successful day earns you money, but this money is only spent on collectables and items that can help you down the road when the game gets more challenging.
- Soundtrack | The soundtrack to Death and Taxes is very simplistic and it’s just lounge and elevator-styled tracks, and there’s no real variety there. If it was me there would be more music to emphasize what situation the world is in or how serious the situation is, especially with the interactions with Fate. There are limited voices in the story, the voice actors do an okay job, but I wish the main character had a voice as well. This is another example where the limitations make the character feel soulless. Overall with the sound, I wish the developers had paid more attention to the different audio elements.
- No meter to gauge statuses | When the endings of Death and Taxes hinge on parameters such as world health, prosperity, chaos etc. You would expect to be inundated on the progress and situation on these, with a level bar or a menu, but there isn’t any in the game, so effectively you are guessing where you are based on the choices you make and the basic consequences to those choices on the mobile phone.
How long did I play the review before publishing? 3 Hours
How long to beat the story? 3 Hours
How many Achievements did I earn before publishing? 14/58
How long to achieve 1000G | 10 Hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Papers, Please and Mind Scanners
Death and Taxes sadly suffers from that in this writer’s opinion. The game is as soulless as its lead character and doesn’t develop the Reaper nearly enough for the game to invest in the success/failure of that character, the stakes aren’t high enough and that’s really what lets Death and Taxes down. The one big redeeming feature is the visuals which I really like the hand-drawn aesthetic, it’s a shame that the lead character is barely seen because I feel this was a missed opportunity to flesh that character out a bit more. I feel like in a genre such as this multiple endings and pathways on which you can go or whom to side with in the end is a staple but it doesn’t give me the emotional investment that other titles produced.