Light theme

Dead Cells review
by GameItAll

No matter how you really look at it, there is nothing better than a well done Roguelike game, which is possibly why the indie scene has been chalk full of them. The latest to hit the scene is Motion Twin's Dead Cells, a self-proclaimed Castlevania inspired Roguelike with some Souls-style combat.

Dead Cells take you in the role of a prisoner on a mysterious island, one that seems to change and shift every time he attempts to escape. The rest of the game's story is presented in a minimalist style, in which you find through your adventure notes from the King, prison guards or Alchemy experts on a fatal disease that is swarming through the land and what the kingdom intends on doing about it.

This type of story telling is popular among horror inspired games and the Soul series, leaving enough information to build up your own theory and keep you going in order to find out more about what is actually happening. This is a hit or miss style of storytelling but for a game like Dead Cells, it works quite well, giving you just enough to give you the slightest idea on what is happening, yet throw a curve ball later on.

But like any great Roguelike, it's the gameplay that really stands out. Dead Cells is heavily inspired by Castlevania titles like Symphony of the Night and its follow-up Gameboy Advance titles. Dead Cells does a couple of things that are interesting to the formula however by giving you options on how you want to play the game.

For example, those who love exploration and finding everything that there is in a level, will be treated to multiple paths, hidden treasures and optional Elite guards who will drop more Cells for you to upgrade your Prisoner. Those who are the Speedrunner type are given additional hidden rooms that hold stronger items and even more bonus Cells to compensate your avoidance of combat.

The Prisoner can hold up to 4 items to bring with him into battle, two weapons and two traps/grenades. Weapons range from swords, daggers, bow and arrows, whips, and shields, while traps can be items that will leave opponents trapped in place (wolf/bear traps) to automatic turrets that will help take down enemies while you deal with other things or avoid getting brutally murdered. On top of this, players have other means of attacks by busting down doors, a downward kick that can help stun or damage those below them, and a quick dodge roll - which can also help in sneaking behind their enemies for extra damage.

Combat in Dead Cells never feels boring, even after collecting several power-ups or high-class weapons. This is mainly thanks to the game's difficulty curve which while insanely difficult, still feels quite fair. Dying of course is par for the course in a Roguelike and collecting Cells to upgrade your Prisoner's available arsenal and various power-ups is a necessary method of attempting to survive the island, along with giving you a helpful strategy for dealing with whatever killed you in the first place.

As a fan of the PSOne and GBA era of the Castlevania series, the graphics for Dead Cells felt like an homage with the necessary updates. The environments feel like it plays to a big part of the history of the world and acts almost as its own separate character. The game's music features a great orchestrated score that is falls in place with the dark fantasy setting that gives the game a bit of that Souls feel when it, raising the tension when needed.

In a year that is filled with Roguelikes, Dead Cells is definitely one that stands out on its own. After many hours of going through the game, it never lost its intrigue or its ability to make you feel like a bad ass, yet reminds you to stay humble after it knocks you down a few pegs.

Review from
«Just one more turn»
«Can’t stop playing»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»

Other reviews21

Crazy good
«Just one more turn»
«Can’t stop playing»
Concise Review:
Great combat. Excellent build variety. Excellent longevity. Very fun Roguelite.

Journal Style Review:

Ooh I’m gonna like this game. The combat feels decent, and the weapons/builds have shown a lot of promise. The weapons have had unique feels and I can see a ton of different combinations and strategies potentially being very effective. Fun start.

Got the 1st Boss Cell. I’m loving this game. Similar to Hades I am definitely not close to stopping yet. I still have a lot of new weapons to try out and strategies to use. This build I had was fucking unreal. Currently a high B+ with A- on its sights.

It’s hard for me not to compare this game to Hades. One difference is that when I beat Hades, even with the slight difficulty mods, I pretty much crushed it over and over again. For dead cells, I am not crushing it on BC1. The challenge is much higher.

I’ve been trying to get a good ranged build going. I feel like I’ll have a good one going and then I’ll blow it during one of the levels rather than during boss fights. I think the ranged build works better for bosses than for multiple enemies.

Found a new melee build where I gain health back from melee kills with a speed boost active and built around that synergy. I used the rapier and it was incredible. Love this game. 2BCs obtained. Going for all of them at this point.

Fuck I lost on 2BC to the final boss with like a 1/5th health left. So close. I blew it right at the finish. I had this unreal heavy crossbow that was only level IV but it had such good perks and synergy.

I’m feeling the ranged builds. The ice crossbow is decent, the heavy crossbow can be amazing with the right perks and I just unlocked the repeater crossbow which also looks to have great potential, especially against bosses. I think the purple powers are the best too, whether it’s the owl, the chicken egg, or either of the turrets they are very effective. I still haven’t touched shields. I don’t know if I ever will but I should at some point.

Fuck I’ve had some good runs on 2BC quickly get fucked up. Early on I had a heavy crossbow where I nearly beat the HOTK and since then I’ve been blowing it in the later areas or I barely make a dent on the HOTK. Loving the game still. Just one more run.

Fuck me I blew another unreal run. I had three potions and half health going into HOTK with a sick heavy crossbow and both the turrets. It was my ideal build. I should have used a health potion before battle because I very quickly blew it and died before I used any of my three heals. It’s the most defeated I’ve get yet. I had such a strong feeling I was going to win. 

Fuck ya beat 2BC with my heavy crossbow build. I knew it could work. Nailed it! On to 3BC.

Played 3BC for awhile and it’s started to get a bit repetitive so I’m calling it quits for now. I may return in the future. I really enjoyed it.

Final Score: A-
Yeah idk this is fine enough but for having all this lore and an actual endgame, it's surprisingly directionless.
Amazing game, if you like roguelikes this is the best roguelike you can play. 
«Can’t stop playing»
«Beaten more than once»
Great mechanics, it’s true to the genre, personal favorite! 

It had makes some mistakes but overall the it’s an incredible game.
«Blew my mind»
«Just one more turn»
«Just one more turn»
«Can’t stop playing»
Dead Cells makes a great first impression. A metroidvania inspired rogue-lite with itemization on the scale of Binding of Isaac sounded too good to be true.

It was. It quickly turned into that game I'll maybe play a single run of every few days, which is a real shame because the combat is fast, fluid, and engaging enough that I'd play a non-rogue game with it in a heartbeat. 

My first run of Dead Cells was the most fun I had in this game: Unlocking new abilities, learning the ropes, and finally defeating the "final" boss, all on my first try. I thought the game was too easy. Luckily, it seems you unlock harder difficulties each time you clear the final boss. So I switched to Hard mode and continued playing. I welcomed the extra challenge and started exploring for the remaining permanent upgrades that were locking me out of content. After a few attempts, I quickly realized that I had screwed myself. I was unlocking whatever items looked cool. Unfortunately, this is the worst possible strategy and permanently makes your save file less effective by diluting your item pool with shitty situational weapons and skills.

The itemization is nowhere near Binding of Isaac's level. You heavily rely on finding a weapon that matches your color (Red/Purple/Green) and isn't too situational to be good (bonus damage to bleeding enemies, for example, would be pretty terrible if you have no bleeding sources). Otherwise it turns into a game of cat and mouse with even the lowliest of enemies. Normally, this heavy of an RNG component would not be a bad thing for a rogue-like game, but Dead Cells runs last upwards of an hour, with most of the run being preparation for the final boss, because that's so much more challenging than the rest. Speaking of item modifiers, that's the extent of the synergies between items in this game. Some items apply status effects, others benefit from hitting someone with a status effect.

The randomization is okay at best. Level layouts change in small ways, but not enough to be memorable. I partially attribute this to the art style. It also creates poor enemy/environment clarity and some questionable animations.

I'm sure Dead Cells is a fine rogue-lite, but everything about it just felt like it was playing it safe with the typical rogue-lite formula. Nothing about it besides its obvious metroidvania roots felt interesting enough for me to stick around. It focuses too heavily on making you play over and over again to incrementally unlock all the game's features and items, as opposed to Isaac's approach of "if you're good enough, you could get every Completion Mark in a single run." The final straw for me, though, was the game crashing after every death, as if it was trying to tell me to stop playing.
«Can’t stop playing»
the random level generation is top notch, the character controls swimmingly, and the boss battles are pretty neat.
the plot is...well, there's not much of a plot, but that's ok - this game is about endless fun with varied playthroughs. if that's what you're looking for, go for it; simply not for me.
My first impressions of the game was that the combat was fun, but the game itself was too grindy. This improved somewhat as I persisted. It definitely takes a few hours of dying prematurely to unlock enough upgrades for the game to become an enjoyable challenge. The pace of the gameplay makes for a riveting combat experience. Each move feels crisp and every encounter feels like there is a way to outskill the enemy with enough skill and speed.  Once you are desensitised to dying and starting over, the game itself becomes quite mesmerising and it is easy to whittle away a few hours without even realising it. 
«Just one more turn»