Dead Cells is a hybrid of different genres- a Roguelike, Metroidvania, action/exploration game.
In this game, you play as a bunch of cells that controls a new dead body at the start of each run. Once you’ve gained control of this new body, you select your starting weapons and head off to kill lots and lots of creatures through a series of randomly generated stages that get progressively harder.
Dead Cells Progression System
Firstly I want to go over the most important aspect of Dead Cells- the progression system. As I mentioned, the game does get significantly harder as you go, and skill can only help you so much.
In order to stand a chance in the later stages (and even the middle stages), there’s plenty of collectibles to help you out.
You’ll be collecting money to buy gear from shops or upgrading your current gear within your run. There are blueprints to find which unlock more weapons, mods, etc. But most importantly, you’ll need to collect cells to permanently unlock perks, like being able to heal yourself more from your potion, give yourself better starting equipment, and so much more.
Eventually, you will die, but it’s the upgrades using the cells that make each playthrough that little bit easier. Or so that’s what it’s meant to be like. Dead Cells has a very random nature to it. Even if you found some amazing blueprints and unlocked that weapon with cells, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to use it.
Weapons are rarely found throughout the game, and you might be stuck with a dud weapon for quite a while.
There’s also no guarantee you’re going to have a good run, even after hours of grinding. Some runs I made it pretty far and had a really good setup, while others I didn’t even make it halfway.
It’s that random nature that is both the best part and worst part of Dead Cells, it all depends on how you look at it.
On the plus side, each playthrough is unpredictable, and it’s that unpredictability that makes Dead Cells so alluring. You just don’t know what going to happen. You might end up with an amazing weapon, some powerful traps, heaps of HP, and you’ll feel unstoppable. On the flipside, you might struggle and get owned by the first boss.
On the negative side of it all though, I never actually felt like I was getting stronger with each subsequent playthrough. I always like to feel like I’ve progressed in some way, even though I have to start again every time. Yes, you can unlock some things permanently as you play, but you’re not guaranteed to get those unlocks.
You’re basically only giving yourself the CHANCE to do well. I really do wish you had the option to upgrade stats (like HP and Strength) as a permanent upgrade, and that would have made the game a whole lot more addictive.
While Dead Cells is its own game, I can’t help but make comparisons to Rogue Legacy- a fairly similar game. With Rogue Legacy, when you eventually die, you keep all your coins to then spend on permanently upgrading yourself (such as stats), so you’re stronger on the next playthrough. Also because you’re stronger, there always that addictive allure to dive right back in and see how much stronger you’ve become, and it actually feels like you’re progressing each time.
On the other hand with Dead Cells, you don’t get to keep your all-important cells when you die, you basically have to spend them as you go. If you die, you lose everything you’ve collected, putting the pressure on to complete the area you’re in. You can eventually gain the ability to keep some of your coins, but cells are the main collectible which you always lose upon death. Unlike Rogue Legacy, I never felt like I was progressing all that much with each playthrough, which ties into the unpredictable nature of it, and I can’t really tell you whether you’ll think it’s a good thing or not.
Ultimately I felt that both games have that ‘carrot on the stick’ lure to keep you playing over and over again. In this case, I felt that Rogue Legacy’s carrot was big and juicy, while Dead Cells was just a little too small, but it was still there!
Dead Cells Gameplay
The gameplay in Dead Cells is a major highlight of the game! The animations are so fluid, the controls are responsive, and the combat is fast-paced and incredibly satisfying. There is a good variety of weapons, traps, grenades, etc for you to experiment with to find out what style suits you best.
Personally I loved the twin daggers, as they give you a critical hit at the end of the 3-hit combo for big damage. I have my favourite traps I like to use, but there’s still so many more to discover. I love in the first room how it shows everything you’ve unlocked so far hanging in bottles from the ceiling, just to show how much more there is to find.
There’s a good variety of enemies, and you’ll discover new enemies in each new area, all with their own unique attacks you’ll have to learn. You’ll want to fight carefully as well, because healing yourself doesn’t happen often, so understanding how each enemy attacks and defends is very important.
Even though the maps are randomly generated, there is a Metroidvania element to it, as you’ll eventually unlock runes that give you access to previously unreachable areas. If you explore well enough, you’ll find paths to secret alternate maps, making exploration another highlight of the game.
Dead Cells Review Summary
Dead Cells is a game I’ll be coming back to over and over again just to see how far I can go. The combat is just so fun, and unlocking something new that may help me, can be pretty exciting.
The random nature is both a blessing and a curse, as that feeling of progression isn’t always felt. But the unpredictability is also a good enough reason to have another run.
I do wish this game just felt a little more addictive, like other games in the genre, but I believe there’s enough here to keep me coming back anyway.