Dead Cells is a procedurally generated 2D metroidvania-roguelite-action-platformer by a studio called Motion Twin. You start off the game as some sort of weirdly enchanted living slime that ends up reanimating a corpse body which becomes your controlled vessel of choice (ah but of course!). The first character you meet, and who you will continue to meet tells you about how strange it all is and will welcome you for the first few times following your ‘revivals’. Your quest is to make it through the labyrinth of corridors and different areas battling a variety of enemies as well as a few bosses that inhabit the world. As the game is procedurally generated – every level is different. And it will be different every time, except maybe for the bosses. This is actually quite clever because it means you never know what to expect and what’s going to come your way and yes, kill you next. Add to this there are different paths to all the sections and many secret areas to uncover.
The thing about Dead Cells and getting back to the revivals is that you will die. There’s no shame in admitting it; it will happen frequently, over and over again. The game is incredibly tough and spares the player no mercy to begin with. As you traverse your way through the world of Dead Cells you will encounter many enemies to kill, each one with it’s own way of attacking and even when defeated can surprise an unwitting player. You really need to keep your wits about you, pay attention and plan your attacks accordingly if you want to survive and get further without taking unnecessary damage to your health. Death is not simply death in Dead Cells, it’s permadeath. There are no lives, no checkpoints and no continues. This means when you come across an item, be it a pickup from a standard enemy, a more legendary level item from a boss or even one from the mighty elites, should you die then these items will be gone and the path forever lost.
When defeating enemies the player is sometimes awarded cells which can be used to upgrade permanent skills and extras that will hopefully help on your next run. Alternatively you can choose to buy blueprints for new gear you’ll collect during your travels. However you’ll need to reach a hub area at the end of each level to make these purchases from a merchant and should you die then these acquired cells would also be lost. Fortunately should you make it, the game forces you to spend your cells before allowing you to progress which is a really, REALLY smart move to get you to invest wisely in your next upgrade and not have it completely lost. In the hub you’ll also encounter another character that provides one mutation to begin with and sometimes a few at a time to follow later. These mutations add buffs and enhancements for that run only, will have to be acquired again next time and are not themselves a permanent addition. My favourite combo has to be the ability to be revived one time only and the combo mutation that adds extra dps for a small period of time following a kill.
Your basic attacks consist of two assigned weapons of choice. Most probably you’ll start the game with a rusty blade but depending on your previously acquired unlocks you may have a different choice waiting for you when starting a new game next time. I quite favoured the blade and bow combo, often utilising the extra effects from the likes of an Ice Bow to freeze my enemies before going to town on them with a blade that provided +2 HP points following a kill. Your secondary set of weapons or ‘tools’ are again dependent on choices. Will you go with a Fire and Ice grenade or will you mix it up with an arrow firing turret?
I love how there’s always an extra perk to most weapons where enemies don’t simply die but also explode causing damage to others nearby or leave behind a toxic gas temporarily. There’s certainly a variety of ways to go.
Dead Cells also encourages the player to carry out speed runs as all the areas have gates that only open if reached within a certain amount of time. If you’re quick enough to get into these areas you may be awarded with extra gems and superior weapons to help you along your way.
RogueVania: The progressive exploration of an interconnected world with the replayability of a rogue-lite and the adrenaline pumping threat of permadeath.
2D Souls-lite Action: Tough but fair combat. More than fifty weapons and spells with unique gameplay. And of course, the emergency panic roll to get you out of trouble.
Nonlinear progression: Sewers, Ossuary or Remparts? Once unlocked, special permanent abilities allow you to access new paths to reach your objective. Opt for the path that suits your current build, your play style or just your mood.
Exploration: Secret rooms, hidden passages, charming landscapes. Take a moment to stroll the towers and breath in that fresh sea mist infused air…
Dead Cells is a stunning game to look at and I was drawn by the visuals immediately. From the Sewers, Ossuary or to the Remparts the different landscapes are bright, colourful and as fiendish and sinister as they are inviting. The character animations are some of the best I have ever seen in this style of game. I love my pixel-art games and Dead Cells just towers over them all. It’s quite clear how much love and attention to detail that has been put into this game. It’s brutally hard and challenging at first, but with every new run comes the opportunity of newly acquired items and permanent skills to get you further next time. And there will be a next time because it’s so hard to put down even when the game shows some repetition in its gameplay.
Despite being procedurally generated, there’s only so many types of enemies and it is a case of run, kill, die, rinse and repeat. There’s always a secret chest, a gate to run to quickly, the same wizard sh*ts that can blast you through floors and walls and weird disgusting looking leeches that explode into well, even more exploding bits (those are nasty btw, you need to jump away ASAP brother). I haven’t made it to the end of the game myself though having done oh-I-don’t-know-so-many-runs but I love to explore this world and I simply must find some better drops to help me on my way and to take my enemies down with.
And just when I think I’m doing it right and that I’m finally getting somewhere, DEATH. And that’s ok, cos frankly Dead Cells, you are too friggin’ awesome and I am going to play the hell out of you even if you choose to knock me back.
For the purposes of this review, a review copy for Xbox One was provided and you can view all the achievements here.
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- Gorgeous looking game.
- Procedurally generated levels so every game is different.
- Plenty to explore, secrets and weapons to find.
- Excellent mixture of genres.
- It's tough going. The game will beat you down repeatedly.
- No lives, no checkpoints and no continues. You die, you lose everything you had on you.