Death and Taxes brings us a point-and-click simulation in which we play as a Grim Reaper, deciding who may keep their lives and who must die. Sounds simple enough, right? While the gameplay is easy enough to get the hang of, along the way we will be questioned about our work and the morality behind it. This can lead to a number of decisions, and ultimately, a variety of different endings. Death and Taxes is a lot like Papers, Please (this particular game is even subtly referenced by Fate at one point), in that we have to choose the destiny of those that arrive on our desk. While there are comparisons, Death and Taxes offers its own charms such as the art style and the narrative design.
Be wary of the choices you make: the future of humanity is at stake, and following the wrong voice can lead to total chaos. Should we obey Fate’s every whim, or should we follow our conscience?
Death and Taxes is available on PC (Steam).
Story – Grim Beginnings
The story begins with a fun comic in which we see Fate buying lemons in order to create us, a Grim Reaper. We are given an office job, but this isn’t a simple nine-to-five in which we sit blindly trawling through sheets of data: we must take heed of what is happening to humanity, and decide who should live and who should die. Each day brings new quotas and challenges, so it isn’t just as easy as making a moral choice. Not only do we have the pressure of choosing which people to spare and who to send into the dark unknown, but we are also regularly reviewed by our creator, and to displease him too often could end up in us getting fired. On the other hand, certain decisions could lead us to the top position. Choose carefully, and we could be the ultimate Grim Reaper.
The story is great fun to play through. There are many twists and turns along the way that we can play around with for different outcomes. In many ways, this is a story of our own choosing.
Gameplay – Taking on Fate
Death and Taxes offers a lot of fun for point-and-click fans. At the beginning of the game, we are given the opportunity to customise our Grim Reaper, but don’t worry; the appearance of your Grim Reaper can be changed later on in the game. Quartermaster Mortimer’s Plunder Emporium allows us to buy items that will help us, along with decorative and customisation pieces. After purchasing a mirror from him, you can customise your look again however many times you like, and speak to your conscience who questions your decisions and adds another level of philosophy and morality to the game. Some items from the emporium can be purchased and placed on your desk for decoration, but others, like the calendar, are particularly useful as they help us to see which day we are on, so this is worth getting early on.
The structure of each day is relatively straight forward: We begin each new day in the office, end each day by visiting Fate in his lofty office for a review, and then return to our personal quarters. This is highlighted clearly along each step of the way. Quartermaster Mortimer’s Plunder Emporium and the dressing room are available at all times and can be visited whenever we like, but it is a good idea to visit the dressing room whenever you see clouds floating around the mirror. This enables you to speak to your conscience.
Each fresh day brings us to our office where we are faced with the another pile of unfortunate beings (I say beings but we do have one day where we decide the fate of plants). We are given some help from Fate’s instructions, who may notify us on how many people have to die, or may, for example, be more specific and instruct us to kill anybody in a certain industry. We have to choose whether to follow these instructions or follow our conscience, but be warned: disobeying Fate too often will lead to us being fired. As well as Fate’s instructions, we are also equipped with a phone that allows us to check on the state of the world and observe the impact of our decisions through tweet-styled updates. Not only does the phone allow us to check how we’re doing, but it also gives us hints on what else is going on in the world that may help us make decisions for that particular day too.
Ultimately, the decisions grow more difficult. As the days go on, we are urged to start going against Fate’s instructions and must be careful of which instructions we follow. Not everything is as it seems, and our creator is withholding dark secrets. There may be some days when the instructions don’t match up with the profiles, and we have to act at our own discretion.
Death and Taxes can be played through in a few hours, but this is a game that is meant to the played through more than once as there are many alternate endings to achieve. The office-style, the classy undertones, and the ease of play makes this game great for any type of player, whether they be casual or hardcore gamers.
Graphics and Audio – A Classy Office to Kill People in
The graphics in Death and Taxes are designed like a comic. The simplistic style and the splashes of colour make it easy to see everything we need and guides us along each step of the way. Personally, I love these little touches as it adds to the charm and ensures the game is easy to follow. The characters and the customisation options we can choose from for our Grim Reaper are designed in a way that suits the office theme, but doesn’t restrain the overall eccentricity. These quirky inclusions creates a fun overall feel, and it’s clear to see from the graphics alone that this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Despite the implications of what we are doing as a Grim Reaper, the graphics and the design keeps the emphasis on the bizarre nature of the game.
Death and Taxes does feature some music, mostly just a jazz-styled type of background music that fits the game well, but it can get a bit repetitive after a while. A soundtrack was recently released (1 June) and is available for free for owners of the game.
As well as this, we also have voiced characters. Fate’s tones are stern and proper which gives his character an air of authority, Mortimer has the voice of a stereotypical pirate, and our conscience speaks to us in a wispy, ethereal voice. Fate’s cat even meows at us occasionally. The addition of the voiced characters ensures that the game doesn’t feel flat, and contributes to each of their characterisations.
The simplistic, quirky design and the choice of audio really adds to the overall feel of the game, and doesn’t distract the player from the task in hand.