Dead Cells is a title I was expecting to enjoy. It offers a side-scrolling, Castlevania-style roguelike with some Souls-like elements in the mix as well. What I didn’t expect was just how much I would like what I got my hands on once I sat down to taste this title.
Currently in early access, Dead Cells is a 2D action platformer title that gives you a player character that is able to die and die again, all while making progress through a world that is completely out to kill you. With deadly enemies to overcome, insane bosses to defeat and a series of levels to master, this title puts a lot in front of you. Don’t expect to master the game’s simple controls on your first run. Although you will get to grips with them, both on keyboard and controller, the gameplay will see you tested in how well you execute even the most basic of inputs. Timing your attacks, moving just right and even mastering the dodge roll are key to surviving in this title. Don’t be fooled by this though, because Dead Cells captures that feeling of “one more try” flawlessly and keeps you wanting more.
Every run will present you with plenty of chances to pick up equipment and it is all down to the luck of the draw. Your way to influence this is by spending cells that you pick up to unlock items, which you find through blueprints, to add them to the loot pool. This results in gameplay that is different every time thanks to the fact you need to learn how to use every weapon you unlock due to never knowing what you might be given on a run. Add this to the random nature of the title along with the speed at which you need to react and you have a solid format to repeat. I say repeat because yes, you will die. Lots.
Beyond the weapons and equipment the game also offers nonlinear progression meaning you are able to explore the world as you wish, picking which areas you move onto next. At the same time you will unlock permanent abilities that aid in your journey. From growing climbable vines to unlock new routes or putting the weapon drops in your favour, Dead Cells allows you to create options that fit your play style or rather, build the game’s systems around your playstyle.
You see, Dead Cells lives and breathes for the idea of fast, fluid action throughout its design and gameplay. From the movement of the player character to doors that are locked after a set amount of time, this title will test your skills and reaction time. With fast combat, rapid traversal and plenty of chances to unleash some amazing combos you will find yourself experimenting with new ideas and strategies on each run. It might seem like a lot of work but that is the joy of Dead Cells and it is so rewarding when you are able to master the systems to overcome the challenges you will face.
Visually speaking, this title is a complete treat for the eyes. The mix of gothic architecture with a touch of steampunk is complemented by the use of bright colours and stunning lighting effects. Whether you are traversing the Sewers, the Ramparts or even The Clock Tower, each of them feels unique and special in their own right. The beauty of the game is not just limited to the environment but is also found in the characters and animations. Each of the different weapons has its own animation set that is accompanied by plenty of visual effects that pop with colour and add to the action. Combined with the game’s beautiful sound direction and you have a stunningly beautiful, if a bit gorey, title.
Currently Dead Cells has over ten levels, each with their own atmosphere and secrets to discover, two bosses, that are a complete joy and challenge to overcome, plenty of different weapons and skills, special powers, a Daily Run Mode and hours of fun. This is just the current offering the title has and once out of early access it is promising plenty more hours of content to enjoy and experience. With regular updates to improve the experience, add more content and flesh out the systems already in place, it is clear that the developers mean to deliver an outstanding title. Though only a taste of what is to come, I cannot wait to jump back into Dead Cells and overcome the challenges of the full title when it releases in the coming months. If you are not already keeping an eye on this title then I highly recommend you do so.