Dead Cells is another in a list of Indie games that went well beyond my expectations. Usually when I stumble on an Indie game by accident, I expect a really cool game that misses a couple shots for me. But Dead Cells blew my expectations out of the water just like the other Indie darling, Hollow Knight, did. I picked up the game when the Rise of Giants free dlc came out and while I may not be fantastic at Dead Cells, I always have a blast playing it. But don’t let my talk of it being “Another in a list” fool you, because it stands out in many different ways.
The Fantastic Art Style
The most obvious way Dead Cells stands out, is its gorgeous pixel art style. And what sticks out to me personally is how fluid the animations are, even with it being done in pixel art, which usually I find a little rough. Its a good blend of pixel and definition that I can’t get enough of. And the backgrounds, while not the main focus, is still is worth admiration.
Each area has its own unique style of backdrop, layouts, enemies, textures, and obstacles. And every single area can be easily defined just by glancing at it. Even the underground levels all have unique flavors that make them completely distinct from one another. That itself is particularly amazing to me as sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate one underground tunnel from another in most other games.
The Brutal Combat
Combat in Dead Cells Can be as quick or as slow as you make it, depending on your play style and the gear you have. Want to be slower but each of your hits crush weaker enemies? Try out the Nutcracker, which will give you a Critical hit when you strike immobilized enemies. Pair that with an ice grenade and you’re made. Want something quick and punishing? The Twin Daggers are your go to, the 3rd strike is a Critical hit which can absolutely shred enemies.
But melee weapons aren’t all that you can bring on your journey. There are Bows, Shields, which take one of your two weapon slots. Plus Skills and Gear which share another two slots, which is a total of 4 slots to mix and match items in.
My favorite set up is Spartan Sandals, Quick Bow, Wolf Traps and the Mushroom Boi that came with the Bad Seed DLC. The Spartan Sandals kick with high knockback. The Quick Bow is a rapid fire bow that has a Critical hit every shot after the 2nd one that hits an enemy. The Wolf Traps because they immobilize enemies and it lasts longer than freezing the large enemies. And the Mushroom Boi is a small mushroom monster that follows you around and charges enemies, you can also detonate him, doing more damage if needed.
But remember there is no best way to play, its all depending on you and how you approach an encounter. So grab new items and experiment. After all, you won’t live forever.
What was added
In Dead Cell’s first paid for DLC, they added a 3 whole new areas, Dilapidated Arboretum, Morass Of the Banished, and The Nest. They added 5 new enemies as well as a new boss. 6 New items including the previously mentioned Mushroom Boi. And a whole 12 new outfits, 5 of which are just different colors. This adds more to fight through, unlock, and experience and I am very satisfied with the entire DLC.
Death is Inevitable
Since Dead Cells is a rogue-lite, you will eventually die. But lucky for some of the more casual players, you can spend Cells for permanent upgrades, weapons, skills, gear, outfits, and other useful stuff along those lines. Weapons, skills, and gear will be given to you upon unlocking them in addition to being added to the rotation of weapons found throughout the world. Meaning more weapons to maim your enemies with!
Upon death you lose your weapons, gear, skills, cells, any collected weapon blueprints, and your gold unless you have the upgrades. The game can be as tough or as easy as you make it, want something harder? Don’t unlock permanent upgrades. Having too much trouble? Spend cells on some upgrades to give yourself a new edge in combat. It is truly up to you.
Dead Cells, was heavily inspired by modern culture and famous games that they state. Those biggest inspirations are Dark Souls, Castlevania, and Metroid. It also isn’t afraid to dip it’s toes into pop culture a little bit. But these little easter eggs don’t take away from the serious undertones of the story and areas. Like the Vorpan, a frying pan weapon. Which I feel is inspired a little bit by a pretty well known battle royale game that came out only months before Dead Cells did.
There is also references to one of Dead Cells inspirations, dark souls. There are Paintings of Solaire doing his “Praise the Sun” emote, and bonfires, in addition to an actual bonfire, but you can’t use it. But the Most Recent update added my personal favorite, Half life references. The HEV suit, crowbar as a weapon, and the corpse of a scientist with a headcrab, as well as a Barnacle skill! But I should mention, Half life references are steam exclusive sadly.
But there’s also references to Hollow Knight, Nathan Drake, Tomb Raider, Portal, Nier Automata, Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, and even Transistor. They’re cleverly hidden so keep your eye out!
Dead Cells is a fun but difficult game that has stunning atmosphere and amazing design in every aspect. The enemies, the areas, the characters, the items, and the lore rooms. There is not a moment that goes by where I’m not admiring it.
That’s not even mentioning how responsive the controls are, which I feel is important for a game like this. When I hit a button it immediately responds and I do that action unless there is something else that I am in the middle of doing. You never feel like when you died because of the game, it always easy to understand where you messed up. And you will know how to tackle that the next time you roll through, or how to entirely avoid it.
It is tough but fair and I highly recommend it to people looking for a new MetroidVania or a Roguelite. And For the current price of 24.99 USD on steam and only 4.99 USD for The Bad Seed, it is well worth the money.