Quick Look: Dead Cells
Keeping at the forefront of modern gaming, we here at ninjarefinery.com are finally ready to write about 2018’s Dead Cells….
I’ll be honest, the recent Castlevania DLC for Dead Cells has put the game back at the forefront of my mind. And having come off Portal 2, I wanted a game I could play nicely on my Steam Deck, too. Dead Cells shows as “Steam Deck Verified” in my Steam library. So it’s time to come back to the game that is somehow still on the lips of many a gamer almost 5 years later.
Having played it a little, around 2020, I wasn’t really sure I would be moved enough by Dead Cells to sink into it like I wanted. But I was definitely wrong!
Dead Cells is very much a metroidvania rogue-lite, and it’s scratching an itch. Thanks to Hades, Rogue Legacy 2, Hitman Freelancer and even Battle Royale games.
Permanent death, completely different runs, and tangible progress (either skill or unlocks), I’ve become a fan of a genre I didn’t understand when I first played Dead Cells.
Also, worth noting that the game has nothing to do with the Papa Roach “Dead Cell” which will likely only even cross the minds of past emo/nu metal kids of my generation, but hey, it’s my site. So there you go. Papa Roach referenced.
Dead Cells is a rogue-lite, and honestly, I’d guess it doesn’t need too much of an introduction these days. However, let’s have a quick look at what Dead Cells actually is.
It’s a 2D action-platformer that takes place in a dark and gloomy world. The game offers players a rogue-like experience where you must navigate through a series of challenging levels while battling your way through hordes of enemies. The game offers a unique blend of exploration, combat, and progression, which makes it incredibly addictive.
The gameplay in Dead Cells is smooth, fast-paced, and incredibly satisfying. The controls are tight, and the combat is challenging, making it a game that rewards skill and precision. The game offers a vast array of weapons, each with their unique set of abilities, and the game’s crafting system allows players to upgrade and customize their gear. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new abilities, allowing you to access previously inaccessible areas, which adds to the game’s sense of exploration.
The new abilities for going back to areas inaccessible previously, is very much in that Castlevania/Metroid wheelhouse. Hence the Metroidvania comparisons. But the randomness, the permanent death and the slow addition of buffs and improvements fits tidily into the roguelite genre.
Style and substance
I think one of the biggest takeaways from Dead Cells is that it looks and feels incredible. The pixel art style is wonderful, paired with fluid animations that still make me grin even after many many runs.
Movement feels snappy and responsive, which just means that any time you mess-up, it’s totally on you.
Combat, both melee and ranged, is fun and unlocking newer or upgraded weapons means you can wreak carnage as you crawl through these dungeons.
The randomised locales are stunning to look at and nicely themed, too. Even as you sprint around to get through them as quick as possible trying to unlock some of the time-gated doors in the areas between levels. You can take it all in.
Dead Cells is nothing short of stunning, no matter which way you approach it. The gameplay loop is clean and it eases you into the game and it’s motions. It looks great, it plays great and the music is wonderful, too. To the point where I’m looking for the soundtrack to add to some play lists.
I’ll be honest, I have very little idea what’s going on. That’s not an issue in any way, but I wonder if I would get even greater enjoyment if I knew what I was doing this for, or why it’s all very blatant that it’s the same person dying and being revived over an over?
No doubt some of it will come as I progress further. Having only really done the first proper boss so far. I suspect there’s plenty to learn by just progressing.
Dead Cells could have no story whatsoever, though. It’s brimming with charm and style, and each run is a story in itself. I get more of a kick thinking about how I “could have done that” or “should have gone there” than I would from knowing exactly what’s going on.
I can absolutely see why Dead Cells is praised by most outlets. Why it’s still on the tip of everyone’s tongue when talking about the genres it so clearly helped define and progress.
Dead Cells is a stunning, rich and smooth gameplay experience that just gives you the old “one more run” itch.
I’ve a lot to learn and improve upon, but having it with me on-the-go means I don’t need to keep chained to my PC to have a bash. A quick run before bed is a great way to end the day (unless it becomes a 30+ minute run!).
As someone that tries (and regularly fails) to remain balanced in opinion and not go over the top on praise when nothing is without fault. I’m really struggling to find issues with Dead Cells. Which is testament to just how well developer Twin Motion have put this game together.
Perhaps looking at it as a new game in 2023 means it now has the benefit of my experience with other, similar, modern games. Maybe my eyes and mind are more conditioned to it and 5 years ago, perhaps people had a different view of it? I imagine the randomness and the always dying weren’t quite so common place?
With a metric ton of DLCs to get at some point, too. Dead Cells could be come a permanent fixture in my steady rotation of “always installed and ready to play” games.