Review: Dead Cells – I died. I died a lot.

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After almost a year in Early Access, Dead Cells by independent team Motion Twin is finally here for the console gamers, allowing them to dive into one of the most challenging roguelike-metroidvania style games ever released. Now, it’s our turn to share our adventure and our thoughts of the game with our review for Dead Cells on PlayStation 4.

 


Pros:
+Extremely addictive and fun gameplay elements including loot finding and boss fights
+Randomly generated maps ensure that players will never visit the same spot twice
+Enemies are never placed in the exact same place or as the same type

Cons:
-Elevated difficulties may be unwelcoming to some new players to the genre
-Boss fights can be overwhelming in their difficulty spike, especially when first experiencing the game


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Let me be clear. I love roguelike titles. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with games like The Binding of IsaacNethack (yeesh talk about a serious classic from the 80’s) and even the challenging turn-based roguelike title Darkest Dungeon. Toss in the fact I grew up with games such as Metroid and Castlevania, it becomes abundantly clear why I’m suddenly drawn into the mysterious title Dead Cells itself despite its – at times – overwhelmingly difficult maps.

But toss that tidbit aside, there’s a lot to talk about, including the games overall difficulty for players both new and old to one such title. To get things rolling, Dead Cells is absolute eye-candy for fans of 32-bit style games. It’s gorgeous. Its sound design is probably one of the best there is and it even plays like a game straight out of the 80’s and 90’s. Just don’t let it fool you. Dead Cells is an absolute challenge, it doesn’t cut any corners by any means.

It’s a game that focuses on its use of traps, overwhelming foes, and unique gameplay mechanics. It’ll even take you for a spin once you come to the realization that no one map will ever play the same. Each of the maps is procedurally generated, making it so that you can’t predict where your foes will spawn, how they will act and what traps the game will use in order to rip you apart. Long story short, Dead Cells is unforgiving. It’s challenging and it will push players to their very limits in order to give them the challenge they crave. To be honest, it’s a welcome change from some of today’s most recent releases.

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But it’s an addictive cycle. You’ll die, you’ll be reborn without your equipment, and you’ll press on once again, collecting every weapon, every item, and every upgrade you had lost. It’s a game about finding out what works best for you, whether it’s a bow, a sword, grenades, a whip, or even a shield to block incoming damage. Just like titles such as MetroidvaniaDark Souls, and even that surprisingly fun title Axiom Verge, you will have to learn to like Dead Cells before you get into the meat of it all.

Once you get past that one single hurdle, that’s when the magnificence behind Dead Cells really begins to shine. It’s brilliant, it’s beautiful, and it’s even one of the most sophisticated games of its type, which again, is brilliance by design. But let me be extremely clear on one thing. You will die. You will die a lot. Death isn’t something that isn’t avoidable in this game. While it is plausible, it’s not something you can completely avoid altogether. You will need to see each death as a learning experience as to how enemies fight, how each weapon works, what mutations work best for you, and where you want to upgrade your points with each scroll found.

You have a lot to learn when playing Dead Cells. Thankfully, the game doesn’t shy away from teaching you everything you need to know. This is a roguelike, and as such, you’re going to die quite a few times. This is one of those games where death is a certainty, and just because you did well in one playthrough doesn’t mean you’re going to get just a little bit further the next time. If you allow yourself to learn from the game, however, things will go very differently, and you will go further every time.

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Combat itself is a rather straightforward ordeal thanks to its use of hack-and-slack gameplay elements that Castlevania fans should be rather acquainted with. Unlike Castlevania, however, there is a unique element some may be familiar with from the Shinobi franchise – limited ammunition for long-range weapons. Meaning, you will need to find arrows as you go through the maps or pick up the ones you shot into a foe.

Weapons themselves are scattered out across multiple types ranging from swords, dual blades, spears, and even whips among a few others. These are your primaries, these are the ones you’ll want to become proficient with if you wish to survive. Secondly, you also have secondary weapons such as grenades, bear traps, and even automatic crossbows – just to name a few. Each of them has their own unique use in combat and can tilt an ongoing battle in your favor.

Over the course of the game – you – a re-animated collection of dead cells will take over another body with each of your ongoing deaths, deaths that reset everything from mutations to the weapons obtained had vanished. It’s a consistent element, one that’s enjoyable and unique in the games ongoing pacing. Your ultimate goal is quite clear: get through all of the stages, find out what is killing the world, and rid it of the threat. Along the way blueprints will be your friend, you can even find permanent upgrades for your character called runes, which will see each of these upgrades become permanent.

Across each level, you will come across “Elite Creatures”, each of them acting as a boss of sorts in the game and each coming with their very own unique challenge to be had. Each of them is harder than the casual enemies you come up across during your time exploring through the story of Dead Cells.

Dead Cells – Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Developer: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin
Release Date: Now Available
Cost: $24.99

But let me conclude this review with one very important tidbit of information. I’ve become hooked – addicted as some may say – with how Dead Cells progresses. It’s not like Dark Souls or Darkest Dungeon where you can easily overcome the odds put before you. This game is a lot different in how it approaches its vicious cycle of completionism. That’s where the charm is though. It’s the challenge that Dead Cells has that separates it from the rest and makes it quite possibly one of the best throwbacks to retro games such as CastlevaniaMetroid, and even Nethack.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 8 out of 10


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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