Dead Cells Review

Posted August 6, 2018 by Kyle Simcox in Video Games

Developer: Motion Twin

Publisher: Motion Twin

Release Date: August 7th, 2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

Metroid-vania and Dark Souls come together in Motion Twin’s challenging Rogue-lite action-platformer, Dead Cells.

You’ll always have the prison…

In Dead Cells, you play a smoky headed immortal figure known only as the Prisoner who fights his way across an increasingly dangerous island that is constantly changing. The story of Dead Cells takes a beat from Dark Souls by going with a minimalist approach. Much of what you’ll learn is told through items found throughout Dead Cells’ world. The Prisoner is as much of a mystery himself. Being beheaded before the game takes place does little for his conversation skills. Some details do slip through the way he emotes and he does have some fourth wall breaking inner dialogue that will pop up as players investigate things around the island. To learn as much as you can about the island though, you’ll be expected to die and die again.

Each and every time you die, the island shifts and no one playthrough is ever the same. Death offers the players to experience new paths, opening up routes to new areas and closing off old ones. Despite encouraging a slow and steady approach, the gameplay is fast paced and very smooth with minimal loading time in between areas. I don’t want to keep bringing up Dark Souls either but Dead Cells expects its players to get better and better after each and every death. As you begin to cut a bloody path through hordes of enemies and discover new locations on the island, it becomes increasingly satisfying just how apparent those improvements have become.

Battle through the scenic Ramparts!

The game does sport temporary upgrades by finding power scrolls the Prisoner can use to improve one of his three skills which consist of Brutality, Tactics and Survival. In between areas known as “passageways” you can invest in “Mutations” which offer specific upgrades in those skills as well. I always chose the one that increased my DPS after kills. Upgrading any skill will increase his Hit Points and any mutations bonuses he receives in those categories as well. Players can also collect blueprint throughout their journey and if you make it to the passageways between an area then you’ll be allowed to craft them for future use. When you die though, everything you’ve earned will be lost…. well, almost everything.

When you die, you absolutely will lose everything on you. Gold, blueprints, power-ups, weapons, etc. While Dead Cells does sport a permadeath system, not all is lost upon when you return to the prison through the power of upgrades. As you collect the glowing blue orbs known as “cells” from your enemies, the Prisoner can improve certain aspects of his adventures such as allowing him to carry more healing vials or recover larger sums of the gold he held in his previous life. The Prisoner can also earn permanent upgrades through exploration like a rune that allows him to sprout vines to climb and access to daily challenges which tasks players by having them race through a dungeon and defeating the boss as fast as possible.

Seriously, almost everything wants to kill you.

Short story time! Maybe it was just luck but on my second playthrough I received an item that I felt was pretty game breaking the moment I waltzed out of the Prison. It was a yellow bow that carried me through the game for about thirty minutes until I fought my first boss known as “The Concierge”. Only managing to narrowly defeat him, he dropped a sweet pair of dual blades and I carried onward with my path of destruction through the next two areas. The enemies began to get tougher but I forged ahead until I met my second boss in the clock tower. While I did manage to get him down to about a third of his health, his chaotic tactics eventually put me in my place and sent the Prisoner’s smoky head in search of another beheaded corpse to inherit. Moral of the story being, Dead Cells is full of kick ass items to help you along the way but just because they’re strong, they won’t be there to carry you through to the end with their strength alone. That’s what I love about the game. It really forces you to learn the mechanics and failure to do so will send you right back to the beginning.

Dead Cells has been in early access testing on PC’s for the past year and it’s absolutely paid off. It’s an extremely satifying and gorgeous game to play. The combat is smooth, fast and visceral. There is much to explore as the island is full of little mysteries, challenges and treasures beckoning for you to come find them. It’s biggest threat is the players failure to learn and you’re bound to die and die again. However, there’s knowledge to be gained in death and that’s how you’ll experience all the new heights and delve into the deeper depths of Dead Cells’ mysterious island.

About the Author

Kyle Simcox