- Beautiful water color styling
- Moral testing decisions
- Repetitive in nature
- Short game play
- That damn annoying cat
In life, all things have a balance. People die, and people live. In Death and Taxes, it is your job to determine who is worthy of living and who deserves to die. Death and Taxes comes from game studio Placeholder Gameworks. The game will be available on steam for $12.99 on February 20th, 2020.
Graphics and Styling
Death and Taxes is a uniquely styled, watercolor style design. The colors are dark and gloomy, giving a perfect complement to the overall atmosphere of the game. Since the game is essentialy a visual novel, animations are mostly non-existent. All the characters are full of life, and each serves a needed role. The brooding boss who seeks world destruction, the comedic relief of the basement-dwelling trinket vendor, and the bosses’ cat whose only purpose seems to be solely to piss you off. All of them provided a great addition to the game without cramming a bunch of unneeded characters into the game. Overall the styling choices for the genre were excellent, and I think they did a fantastic job.
In Death and Taxes you’re tasked with determining the fate of humans on earth, live or die. At first, the game seems very straight forward and appears to be a matter of following directions. However, shortly into the game, you begin to realize that not everything is as it seems. A mysterious person is intervening and is trying to get you to tempt Fate by creating your own set of rules for who lives and who dies.
Each day at the end of your “shift” you will meet with Fate, the boss, and he will give you an evaluation on how you did. This is where the game gets interesting. No matter what choices you make, it has almost zero impact on your job. Kill them all, Save them all, punish good people, save the criminals, it all makes zero difference to your boss. He may scold you, but other than that, he seems to give zero fucks about what happens.
So that begs the question, what is your actual goal if not to please your boss? That is where the game becomes less straight forward and entirely more shrouded in mystery. While there are several different endings, figuring out how to get to them is a bit confusing. It may seem as easy as just killing all the bad guys and saving the good guys, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes you save a dedicated priest who has nothing but good for his community, but shit turns out he’s a cultist.
There are several items you can unlock along the way to help unravel the mysterys. However, like the rest of the game, the items are a complete mystery, and no exact use is given. This leaves it up to the player to take guesses and infer their use. While we appreciate the level of mystery the game is trying to build, it would have been nice to have a little more guidance with what exactly is happening.
Each day you will be tasked with waking up, performing your daily duties, reporting to the boss, and then going back to bed to start the process all over again. The game is essentially a visual novel since the only real gameplay elements are marking people for life or death. While we appreciated the new game+ that allowed you to restart and try for new endings, it became a bit monotonous after the second playthrough. What I would have loved to have seen was an actual breakdown of the choices made in-game. Possibly at the end of the game, that shows what decisions I made that lead to negative consequences or perhaps an overall evaluation showing your bias towards good or evil.
To ensure everyone that I am a benevolent ruler, and the game doesn’t punish it, I choose to ignore the mysterious force and Fate. I became the jury, judge, and the executioner and only killed those deserving and saved the innocent. I was the highest power in the universe and got the ending I wanted on the second playthrough.
Death and Taxes is a game for a specific audience. The humor is dark, there are little gameplay elements, and it’s mostly about existential decision making. Fans of visual novels will most certainly enjoy this game as long as they prepare to laugh at the expense of others. The game is priced at $12.99, which may be a bit high since one playthrough will only last a few hours. If you are the kind of person to replay a game multiple times to get every last possible ending, then there may be some value here. Overall I recommend fans of visuals novels check it out but possibly wait for it to be on sale.