Death and Taxes – Still Brewing

Death in the Corporate World

I have heard it said that two things are certain in this life. Death and taxes. By the end of this life you are going to pay both the government and the funeral home, but not necessarily in that order. For Placeholder Gameworks newest narrative-based title, Death and Taxes, it is your job to make the hard choices of whether others live or die. That’s right, you get to play as the Grim Reaper…at his desk job.

Thanks to the developer, I was able to play an early version of this title and see what makes this game different from other narrative-based experiences. After digging a little deeper into the creation of this title, I not only found out that it is unique but also comes from a very special place.

From Spelkollektivet with Love

For the last two years, a little indie paradise has supplied like-minded individuals space where they can live, create, and thrive. This place is called Spelkollektivet, and it is a co-living living community for game developers situated in a small village in southern Sweden. Since opening in 2017, young developers from all over the world have joined the community to hone their craft. The creative minds who run Placeholder Gameworks are a part of this community

It’s a place for game creators to create with each other.

Death and Taxes is the product of the collaborations that take place within Spelkollektivet. As minds come together, incredible creations like this game come to light. As unique as Death and Taxes is, its existence only proves that collaborations that take place within Spelkollektivet surly do stand out as being exceptional among those within the indie industry.

Working for Fate

This game begins with a hand-drawn comic depicting a day in the life of Fate. This rather corporate-looking gentleman is piecing together a ritual of sorts, a ritual that will eventually create you. He tells you that he is Fate, and he has created you to bring balance to the world through choosing who will live and who will die. However, instead of going out in the field and doing it yourself, you are actually put behind a desk and given the profiles of the individuals whose lives hang in the balance.

The demo that I played gave me a seven day “grace period” in which I came to work and got to choose who the victims of the next day would be. I began each day by sitting at my desk in front of multiple items that can be interacted with.

The tools of the trade

On the left-hand side of the desk is a stack of profiles with some information about those who will potentially meet their fate at the end of the day. In the center of the desk is a note that is left by Fate discussing the “rules” for the day. Next to that note sits the very marker you will use to mark a profile for death. The cell phone in the corner delivers news of how people died and gives clues as to what impact their deaths have on the future. After the profiles are marked, the fax machine is then clicked and the day is over.

Messing with the Natural Order

As one of many Grim Reapers working for Fate, you have the freedom to choose whether to follow Fate’s orders or not. Each person that is killed or saved will influence the outside world, and Fate’s rules often seem to express an ulterior motive on his part. After each day, Fate will assess your work and see if you are being an obedient corporate lackey or rogue employee. His interactions with you change depending on your choices, and that also includes your attitude toward your boss. You can play the role of a respectable employee or you can be belligerent. The choice is yours.

Image result for Death and taxes Game
The choices are plentiful, but each one has a consequence. Also, your conscience may get in the way of making a hard choice.

My experience

I played through the game multiple times, and each time through I decided to mix things up. I played as the submissive Reaper, doing everything that Fate told me to do. In the end, I ended up killing everyone on the planet with a disease. I also decided to be the murderous Reaper, killing everyone that came across my desk and disrespecting my boss. That didn’t go too well either. For all the choices I had, I couldn’t find that “sweet spot” that provided the best outcome for humanity. That simply means that there is more to this game than one can experience in just an hour of play.

Complete but Not Finished

The demo I played is available for everyone to experience themselves on the developer’s itch.io site. Though this game shows quite a bit of polish, it is still not a complete title. The developers have told me that the finished product will have more features including more music tracks, narrative choices, and other surprises. The game is slated for a release in February 2020.

As bad as I do feel for individuals that I mark down for demise in Death and Taxes, I can’t help but have fun with it at the same time. Check out Death and Taxes today and see how you fare as a Reaper sitting in the office of Fate.  

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