We have had many games in the past few years like Death and Taxes, where we are face with hard decisions. Papers, Please and Undertale are the biggest examples that come to mind. If you have an ounce of compassion for others, you will find this type of game challenging, regardless of how simple the actual concept behind it may be.
What is Death and Taxes about?
The background is very straightforward. You are a freshly created reaper who works for Fate. Your job is to decide who dies and who lives based on age, sex, occupation and a brief description. The only thing to guide you will be Fate’s letters, in which he tells you how many people need to die each day, as well as some specifics about them. Sometimes they have to be young, for example.
The catch? You will need to read “Cawker” every day – you can guess what that is – because your choices will make an effect on the world.
Unfortunately, Death and Taxes wasn’t fully released at the time I wrote this. It will drop on Steam on Feb. 20 in all of its glory, and I have a very good feeling that it will have a lot more content. As of now you can only complete 7 days as an “evaluation” in the demo version, which I am using for this review. Either way, I hope I can continue on with being a reaper after that.
What is good about Death and Taxes?
Let’s talk about the surface level goods first.
The music is absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t have thought for such a small game they would give so much effort just to make the ambiance good. But they did, and I’m really glad. It’s one of the very few soundtracks that I could listen to in my everyday life. The sound design is great all around. The person who did the voice acting for Fate did a great job to portray the personality of the character. Kind of snobby and bossy, but for a very good reason, since he oversees the reaping of human life. Every sentence spoken by him reflects the somber circumstances of his position.
The dialogue is outstanding as well, with really well though-out responses. What we as players can say in Death and Taxes is exactly how a person would express themselves in such a situation. You are also given the option to take the suck-up route, where you want to appease the boss as much as possible, although that may not feel very true to life for some.
And of course, the art style. If you have read previous Free & Fun reviews, then you know how much I like to gush about hand drawn black and white styles. They are my absolute favorite. This game didn’t quite go that far, though. Most of Death and Taxes is black and white, but as you can clearly see in the pictures, there are a few items that are colored. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think about it, but I do know it gives me an uneasy feeling, probably because of the inconsistency.
The final and best quality of the game is the amount of guilt it gives you. I know, it’s not a great feeling, but there are way too few games that can get this reaction out of us. The last time I had to think this much about who I want to kill was in Papers, Please. And quite honestly, it almost broke me. I’m sure that if this game had more content as of now, it would have had the same effect.
I also think that this game will make a great addition to your collection if you mainly play shooters. Those tend to make us feel disassociated from the world we are playing in, because there are very few consequences to our actions. This exception might be just what you need, a break away from mindless murder. This time you will have to mind who you kill. Although, if you prefer fast paced games where you don’t have to think, you could also give Crossout a try.
What is bad about Death and Taxes?
The first thing that came to mind was “Cawker”. I don’t know if I should appreciate the pun or hate it, but it made me groan way too hard the first time, so let’s count it as a con.
In all seriousness, I am looking forward to the full version of Death and Taxes. The demo is rather short, and I’m really hoping that the developer decided to include more days, or different routes to explore, because there are a lot of things to be potentially explored here. And it would be a shame not to get to do it. Despite its heightened moral consequences – or because of them – I find it hard to step away from Death and Taxes.