I loved the month of August, not only cause I currently am on vacation as I am writing this review, but also because I got to play 3 super awesome games with Dead Cells being one of them.
For the uninitiated, Dead Cells is a rogue-like action platformer and it executes everything that entices perfectly. It has been available on Early Access for quite a while now and I have been watching one of my favourite YouTubers, Northernlion, die over and over again trying to beat the game, so I kinda knew what to expect when I got my hands on a PS4 copy of the game.
Dead Cells is fast, frenetic and you always need to be moving when you are fighting against enemies since just a couple of hits and you are dead. So playing the game, most of the time, it feels like playing a bullet-hellish game where you are constantly dodging, jumping, slashing and throwing bombs and traps around you. And all of this feels so so nice. The game is fast and chaotic, but you always feel in control, the control and the responsiveness is spot on so the next time you die, it is not on the game, it’s on you.
Another thing that I really appreciated and really got into was looking out for the best synergies. In Dead Cells, you have two primary weapons ranging from swords, knives, whips, arrows to shields, elemental magic bursts etc. Then you have two other secondary slots for grenades, bombs, traps, etc. During gameplay, you will come across scrolls which can upgrade your green, red or purple “stuff”. I say stuff cause I don’t remember what the names for the green, red and purple are. Well, green is for health, but can’t remember the names of the other two, it doesn’t matter.
Each of the weapons you get, either primary or secondary, are color coded too. So when you upgrade your character, the weapon with the same color as the scroll gets a buff too. Some of the weapons have two colors and upgrading one, lowers the other part. Going back to the synergy, each weapon has a primary effect, but it can also have multiple secondary ones. The simplest example that I can actually remember is a flaming sword will cause 2-3x the damage to oiled up enemies, so if you hit an enemy with an oil sword or throw at them an oil urn then hit them with the flaming sword, you can cause massive damages.
Or you can throw a bear trap to trap an enemy in place then throw a saw disc launcher or an arrow turret and they will cause massive damages to a still enemy. Or you can throw a burning grenade and set fire to the area for powerful AOE attacks. Or you can mix and match between freezing arrows and electric swords or powerful hammers for massive DPS attacks. The synergies are practically limitless and that’s one of the most fun aspects of the game. Yes, the RNG might not be on your side, most of the times, giving you shit weapons and abilities, but once in a while, often, you will get that “god roll” and you will feel unstoppable.
That until you reach a new area, where you will encounter new enemy types with new and unpredictable attack patterns and you die. But that is the beauty of this game, in each run, you can learn something new, you can unlock a new blueprint for a weapon, gear or ability, you can fight a new enemy or you can earn a new traversal ability. You can spend the earned dead cells to unlock new weapons, abilities or upgrade your gear like your health flask to use it multiple times in a level or the gold pouch so that you retain more gold when you die.
Now I have not finished the game, I am not even close to doing so. I have only seen a couple of levels, there’s like a dozen or so, but I get what the game is all about. In terms of story, it follows a Dark Souls way of storytelling, where you learn small bits of stuff by finding hidden journals or talking to some NPCs which give small and vague story bits, you have to piece together to understand what is happening. Maybe there’s something surprising in the end or maybe you are just a reanimated corpse going on runs over and over again for someone’s else evil agenda. I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care all that much.
Dead Cells, much like other rogue-likes, is a game enjoyed in small sessions, go for a few runs, unlock some weapons or abilities and then go do something else to just return a little bit later. Yeah, Dead Cells is one of the best games I’ve played this year and you also should play it or watch someone else play it on Youtube cause it’s that good and interesting. Thanks for reading!