Dead Cells is a dangerous game for gamers like Tom. Those who know him well or who have watched him stream games, know the kind of game that captivates him: a retro/pixel art style, roguelite gameplay, and, most of all anything that presents a real challenge. Dead Cells encompasses all three of those things. Here’s Tom’s review of the newly released indie game by Motion Twin.
If we look to my past gaming experiences, I’ve put in a ridiculous amount of hours into games like Rogue Legacy, The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon and Darkest Dungeon, and I can see myself putting the same, if not more, hours into this game as well. With that being said, let’s jump into the nitty-gritty of this game.
Dead Cells at its core is a 2D retro-looking, hack’n’slash, roguelite/metroidvania dungeon crawler. (That was a mouthful!) You play as a mass of gross looking cells that possess an old corpse that’s tasked with exploring an ever-changing island. Along the way you’ll meet a couple of interesting characters that will help you on your journey, fight a bunch of monster that want you dead, and if you’re lucky you’ll get a chance to take on the “Keepers”.
If you’ve never played a roguelite before, the one thing you’ll require, in order to play these games, is bucket loads of patience. In Dead Cells once you die, that’s it. You get sent back to the start of the game, losing any awesome weapons or loot you picked up along the way. This is going to happen A LOT. It took me about 10 runs before I even made it to the first boss. However, you have to remember that each death is a lesson learnt to take into the next run. Live. Die. Repeat.
Thankfully dying doesn’t become repetitive for a variety of reasons. First of all is the soundtrack. I really dig the music. It fits the pace of the game perfectly. My favourite track so far is called “Prisoner’s Awakening”. It’s one of the first pieces of music you hear once you start a run. It really puts me in the mood to race through a dungeon and kill all the monsters in my sight.
Secondly, the combat feels so fluid and nice. Once you get a hang of the controls you’ll end up feeling like a ballerina performing a bloody masterpiece. You won’t want to put the controller down. It helps that there’s never a dull moment when dungeon crawling and Motion Twin have made sure of this by keeping the cooldowns of your skills and weapons relatively low so you can use them in every fight. There’s nothing more annoying in other crawler games where you accidently activate a skill and have to sit there for 30 to 60 seconds until your skill comes off cooldown. The only ‘dull’ moment you’ll find in Dead Cells is in between levels while you trade in the Cells you’ve collected for a chance at better loot on your next playthrough.
Thirdly, the huge amount of different primary weapons (swords, bows), utility weapons (skills, shields and grenades) and talismans (passive upgrades) ensures that each run will play differently from the last. Each weapon has their own advantages, disadvantages and play-style. The Broadsword swings very slowly and heavily but deals massive damage. The Twin Daggers deal less damage but let you rapidly attack enemies. You’ll eventually find your personal favourite and most hated weapons but as with all roguelites, you need to work with what you’re given and make the most out of the situation presented.
For the story lovers out there, I do have some good news and bad news. The good news is that there is a story to this game, bad news is that it’s sprinkled throughout the levels for you to find. This time around there isn’t an old narrator to spell out every detail for you. Motion Twin looked to have taken a page out of the Dark Souls series and hid the Dead Cells lore in notes and scrawlings left behind by those who came before. In my personal opinion this isn’t a deal breaker, I’m playing Dead Cells for the challenge and gameplay. No doubt after I’ve put a substantial amount of time into this game I might start reading up on the lore.
Before I wrap up, I would like to commend Motion Twin for the brilliant game they’ve made and the fact that they are not finished with updating this game. For the last 400 plus days, Motion Twin have been keenly listening to the community’s feedback on Dead Cells while it was in early access and implementing the feedback wherever possible. It’s great seeing game developers caring and listening to their fans. This is one of the reasons I love the Indie Developer scene so much.
In conclusion, Dead Cells is a fantastic addition to the roguelite genre that feels amazing to play. I would even say that this game is a brilliant starting point for anyone looking to get into this genre. For the roguelite veterans like myself, you’ll find plenty to sink your teeth into while rocking out to the sweet jams that Yoann Laulan (the composer) has graced your ears with. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys a good challenge while hacking and slashing away at some retro looking monsters.