Rogue-lite games provide fun, differing experiences that can keep you playing for hours on end. Dead Cells takes this formula and places it into a 2D action platformer with a grim aesthetic.
Dead Cells follows a nameless humanoid warrior that cannot die; well, he can die, but he just reforms himself at the beginning of the first level after he does. After you reform, you can reclaim some of your gold from before you died, and you then make your way to a starting room that gives you the choice between a bow and a shield. Your primary weapon is a sword, and your aforementioned choice becomes your starting secondary weapon. If you want range, go for the bow, but if you want to have the option to block and reduce damage, grab the shield. I always opted for the bow, because dodge rolling past enemy attacks was enough to prevent damage.
The gameplay involves traversing randomly generated maze-like levels in order to reach the exit. You’ll run into plenty of enemies along the way, so strike them down to obtain gold and cells. The gold is used to purchase items from the shops that you can find throughout the levels, while the cells are used to unlock permanent upgrades from the Collector. The Collector is found in the hub level that exists in-between each level. For example, after exiting the sewers, you’ll end up in an area with the Collector, who will not let you pass until you put every cell you have into unlocking upgrades. The unlocks have specified numbers of cells needed for each one, and you can put any amount of cells into them in order to slowly work towards obtaining them. So if something requires 50 cells to unlock, you can put nine in now, and that’ll permanently drop the requirement down to 41 cells. These permanent upgrades and unlocks are extremely helpful, and the sense of progression with them works very well.
In addition to the Collector, you will also find Guillain and a giant health potion in each rest area. Guillain allows you to equip one new mutation every time you see him, but that is more than enough. Mutations include healing a little every time you kill an enemy, increasing your max health, reducing cooldowns of items, and more. Mutations last for the entirety of that run, but must be equipped again if you die and start a new run. The giant health potion is incredibly useful as well; it not only heals you to full health, but it refills your health potion or potions at no cost. You always have a potion with you, but if you use it, you must refill it at the giant potion station. You don’t end up collecting potions like in other games, so this is a great way to prepare before entering the next level.
When fighting your way through the levels, your main method of attack is your sword. As you progress, you can find other primary and secondary weapons in chests, behind special doors, or in shops. There are chests randomly scattered around that can contain weapons or tools. Weapons can be anything from swords, bows, magic attacks, and kunai, while tools can include grenades, bear traps, ice bombs, and more. Every weapon has its pros and cons, so you’ll want to test them out and find what works best for you. Not every weapon and tool are going to be easily available on every run, so take that into account as well. There are also cursed chests that place a curse on the player as a result of willingly picking up the items it drops. The curse has a task that you must complete in order to remove it; my toughest example was having to defeat ten enemies without getting hit because one hit was set to kill me. It was a tense situation, but it provided an extra challenge that I quite enjoyed.
There are also special doors that you will encounter: gold doors and timed doors. The gold doors can only be opened by spending gold, and they have items that you can grab behind them. The timed doors are doors that can only be opened if you get to them within a certain time frame. For example, a door may be unlocked until ten minutes in, and if you reach that door after ten minutes has passed, it stays locked. Both of these doors are purely optional and provide ways for the player to obtain extra items and possibly gold. They add an extra neat way to find different weapons and tools. Besides the doors, you’ll also find teleporters that can transport you to any other teleporter in that level instantly. This helps cut down backtracking time if you run into some dead ends, which keeps the action moving forward.
One of my favorite items to find was the upgrade scroll. These are usually kept in special cases that you click on to open. After the scroll is out, you choose to upgrade red weapon damage, purple weapon damage, or green weapon damage. Red weapons include the swords, purple weapons include bows, traps, and more, and the green weapons boils down to healing mutations. Every weapon and tool is surrounded with one of these colors, so it is very easy to determine what category they fall under. Picking an upgrade also increases your max health by a specified percentage, which varies based on your progression. Either way, more health is always a welcome gift.
After playing through some levels, you will also encounter bosses. The boss fights can be tough, especially if you don’t have a lot of good upgrades and mutations when you encounter them. Trust me, I had a hard time against the first boss that I came up against. If you want a challenge, the bosses will give you a run for your money. Be ready to strike, dodge, and use those tools in order to take down your monstrous new acquaintance.
Dead Cells is a great rogue-like 2D action platformer with an interesting concept. The maze-like levels and overall aesthetic have a dark feeling to them, but that works in its favor. The gameplay itself is fast, fluid, and exciting, especially when taking on a group of enemies. The variety of weapons, tools, upgrades, and mutations all help you create a powerful warrior that will slash their way through the world. If you like the progression of rogue-like games and permanent upgrades, then Dead Cells is easily worth picking up.
Dead Cells is an amazing rogue-like 2D action platformer. Fast, fluid combat is enjoyable, especially with the different weapons and tools you can find. Permanent upgrades add a sense of progression and give you more goals to work towards. If you like games similar to the likes of Enter the Gungeon and The Binding of Isaac, then Dead Cells is worth checking out.
- Fast, fluid combat
- Permanent upgrades and mutations are cool
- Great variety of weapons and tools
- Unique features such as timed doors and curses
- Can be tough early on, especially if you reach a boss