written by Derrick Smith
One cannot remember the last time I died so much and found myself enjoying every minute of my resurrection process to once again embark on an amazing combative quest in hopes of besting my previous attempt at journeying even further than before. Dead Cells is one such game that tasks players as an undead warrior within this 2D-platforming escapade of danger and revelations which this critic has yet to put down. There is simply so much here to be enjoyed.
We’ll start out with the obvious, Dead Cells is brutally fantastic!
With an impressive combination exploration layered with platforming, strategic combat (if you’re smart), and procedural level designs, Dead Cells introduces players to a punishing new take on the rougelike themed experience which smartly borrows from other great games.
For starters, players appear as a source of unknown matter which is given life as an undead entity of sorts. Early on players are introduced to a few low level weapons which get the job done such as a sword, then there is the option to choose a bow or shield. Depending on your play-style or should I say your eventual and more successful play-style approach, players will find out which weapons and resources work more in their favor, depending on the opposition ahead.
As a source of currency players must collect blur orbs which are acquired from fallen foes. This currency is the life blood to players going that extra mile or in this case getting to that new level because of the much needed new resources paid for with your blue orbs.
Upon completing a level the blue orbs acquired are then used in a variety of ways, yet in the sole purpose of equipping you with better resources. For example, you can spend your orbs on better weapons, upgrading your current weapons which are in use, and with unlocking new abilities. During your play time players will also find blueprints laid about, which can also be unlocked with blue orbs.
However, Dead Cells is certainly not for the faint of heart as death comes with a price. If you die before completing a level then you will lose all of the orbs you acquired. In addition, you will also be forced to begin the game from the very beginning, regardless of your progress. Yep, you read that correctly!
Not to scare you so soon, Dead Cells maintains a wonderful balancing act in how it encourages your progress despite inevitable death. Yes, you will die, often, a lot, you cannot avoid it, or can you? Encouraging your resolve Dead Cells is littered with an attractive assortment of weapon types and dedicated attributes which builds on the players confidence to some how make it to the end.
If you are like me then you will find yourself combing each area of each level and in doing so death becomes more apparent, however with Dead Cells you never can predict what lies just ahead. Maybe there is a massive item chest waiting to be opened, or a merchant selling some valuable weapon items, or could there be a challenge portal with great riches, or a teleportation statue? If the level has been procedurally aligned in your favor then maybe you discover a hidden areas where someone has left behind secret writings leading to a cool new and useful item. There are all sort of epiphanies within Dead Cells, yet death is always in the balance here.
Managing that perfect mix of tools and elements I find to be of utmost importance as it allows me a certain comfort level of progress, without getting too comfortable. Early on I found myself approaching Dead Cells from a position of recklessness and I certainly paid for it.
Don’t be easily deceived by your ability to quickly dispatch enemies early on, how you manage use life source and elements along the way is critical. The right approach to combat is all the difference. Thankfully, even in death I never felt cheated. I mostly died due to a lack of resource management and or by inaccurately targeting certain key enemies or enemy strongholds. Of course, I also died sometimes from simply making bone head mistakes. Regardless, Dead Cells combat has this addictive charm which is easy to just pick up and play and feel empowered from the start.
From shooting your bow, slashing with your sword or blocking with your shield, to laying down traps, turrents and the like, the combat feels effortless.
With every weapon you unlock each item is showcased within these hanging jars at the start of the game, sort of reminding you of your exploits or accomplishments, sort of easing the pain of having to start all over again.
Because Dead Cells is positioned from a random set of rules, don’t expect to just begin a new game, hoping to attain the same valuable weapons or level of expected item jars waiting to be cracked open. Working with what you have to the best of your ability is the name of the game, regardless of how well you manage your resources. It can feel like a quest of chance, yet this does assist in keeping the game fresh with each new game start.
While Dead Cells might invite the idea that it can sometimes feel repetitive, my extensive time with the game has been more intoxicated by properly managing the hand I am dealt for each game start.
Interestingly, while the trials and errors of your quest will bring your experience to hours of blissful gameplay, I was surprised at just how condensed the entire game actually was. Before completing the game I probably spent tens of hour trying to get to its exciting conclusion. Even upon this discovery, I found myself once again and again and again going through the games leveling process from the beginning, taking in all the new challenges I overlooked on my previous playthrough.
While Dead Cells has been compared to the likes of Demon Souls and Bloodbone based on its challenging degree of gameplay success, I would go as far as to saying that Dead Cells is far more accessible in style and gameplay, making it just the right mix of gameplay challenge and empowerment as one of the most unique experiences of the year.
Sure it can sometimes be exhausting having to begin from the beginning, however with each new game start there is new still new hope.