Dead Cells is a new roguelike action platformer from indie development studio Motion Twin. In the game players explore a sprawling, ever-changing castle as they fight their way past its keepers.
In Dead Cells players take control of a mass of cells that occupies and takes control of a body in the castle's dungeons. In control of this corpse, they fight their way through the castle to find a way out. Along the way they gather weapons, discover treasures and other tools to aid in combat and exploration.
Because it is a roguelike genre game, it features no checkpoints and a significant portion of progress is reset upon death, so it is all about improving your game: kill, die, learn, repeat.
The game made its way to Steam Early Access back in 2017 and its retail version recently released for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
The game mechanics are the focal point of Dead Cells. The gameplay is best described as a mix between Castlevania and Dark Souls. Combat is quite punishing as it requires a lot of precision and skill. Most enemies will kill you with just a few hits and health can be hard to come by. Players would have to learn enemy patterns, adapt to any situation, and overall get good at the game to make Dead Cells a rewarding experience.
Players will be exploring randomly-generated maps filled with weapons, vendors, power-ups, and enemies. They collect their gear by either exploring the world or by purchasing it from the weapon vendor that can be found in each level. However, most of the items in the game are not permanent and the only way to make a permanent upgrade to your character is by collecting cells.
Cells are used to upgrade a multitude of things like health potion capacity, starting weapons, gold retained after dead, and more. The only catch is that all cells collected from enemies will be lost upon death just like in Dark Souls.
That being said, exploration can also be rewarding as the game features secret rooms, hidden passages and beautiful landscapes. All levels are interconnected, so there is an incentive to explore.
If you are looking for a cohesive story, Dead Cells doesn't have much to offer. As a full disclosure, I have not yet finished Dead Cells completely and currently have over 15 hours in it, but on the chunk that I have played, I did not get much narrative.
The game gives the players bits and pieces here and there by interacting with the world but these were merely distractions rather than a part of a plot. However, this small bit of narrative does make the island feel more alive and the game deserves some appraisal for that.
Dead Cells aesthetics is a good example of what any good pixel art game should look like. There are plenty of jaw-dropping background designs and detailed foreground to go along with it. The colors are vibrant often times contrasting.
My favorite part of Dead Cells' look is how it used lighting effectively. The Black Bridge level is a great example of how well the light set the tone.
In addition, combat animations are often well combined with lighting effects, further enhancing the experience.
The game's soundtrack is a mixture of classical epic with plenty of heavy drums to gets you hyped during enemy encounters, so it does a decent job. Each level has its own soundtrack and it well fits into the theme of the levels.
Aside from that, sound effects are satisfying and the game doesn't shy away from being quiet every once in a while which can be considered a virtue in today's gaming world.
Dead Cells is a really good roguelike game and it separates itself from the pack by having addicting game mechanics, difficult but satisfying combat and aesthetic beauty.
On the contrary, the repetitive nature of the game and its lack of any significant story can be a real issue for some people. However, if you enjoy the thrill of collecting powerful loot and a skill-based combat system, then definitely give Dead Cells a try.