Preview - Dead Cells

Posted by Rob Kalajian in review

Dead Cells Developer: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin
Year: 2017
Platform: Steam
MSRP: $16.99

Prelude

Dead Cells is a RogueVania sidescroller with Souls-lite combat and is currently up on Steam for Early Access. In the game, you play as…I dunno…a ball of snot?

I think it’s actually a collection of some sort of parasitic cells.

Either way, you’re this clump of icky green and yellow stuff that inhabits a headless, dead body. You’re immediately tossed into a dungeon and left to your own devices.

Being Dead Cells is being offered on Early Access, MotionTwin has this to say:

“Dead Cells is lots of fun right now, Early Access will make it even better. It’ll last about 8 - 12 months. We will try to double the content. Right now you have about 16 - 20 hours on average for one playthrough. The price will probably increase during/after the EA. We will work very closely with the community to improve the game.”

There’s actually a longer version here.

Play

Just by describing Dead Cells as a RogueVania game with Souls-lite combat probably gives you a good idea of how the game plays. Platforming exploration, upgradable items/abilities to be bought with Cells (earned from defeated enemies), permadeath, and all sorts of hidden secrets are all par for the course.

Dead Cells starts you off in a freshly possessed body with a rusty sword. From here you can snag either a Bow or Shield for your secondary action slot. That gives you two buttons to attack/defend with. Your character can also jump, double jump, roll, use up to 2 special secondary items (bombs, knives, etc…), and other abilities. All of these items can be upgraded through play, and new items can also be unlocked.

MovesThere’s also Runes to be found throughout that game that give you permanent powers. These are the things that are going to allow you to explore more of the map, or to quickly get to areas that previously took a bit of time to get to. You generally get Runes from bosses after a bit of tough exploration.

Speaking of the map, it’s always changing. Every time you die you come back to a completely different map. The same areas are always connected in the same ways, but their layouts are always different.

See how I mentioned, “every time you die?” There are no checkpoints in Dead Cells. When you die, you being all over again from the start. You retain any Runes you’ve found and anything you bought with collected Cells is still purchased, but you’re starting off fresh with just a rusty sword all the same. Also, you’ll lose all the Cells and gold you’ve collected up to that point.

Cells are the upgrade currency of Dead Cells, while gold lets you open certain doors and buy items from shops found throughout the map. Cells are spent when you progress from one area of the map to another. You must spend all your current Cells before you can proceed. Items like new weapons, weapon upgrades, starting bonuses, etc… can all be purchased with Cells. These upgrades make you just a bit stronger when you die and restart the game.

As you become stronger, you’ll be able to reach farther and farther into the map. As you do you’ll discover more secrets, unlock more upgrades, and maybe even discover some bits about the story and what’s going on.

Pixels

Dead Cells’ pixel graphics are nothing to scoff at. Everything from the environments, enemies, weapons, and effects are highly detailed with the utmost of care. Everything is animated which makes everything look alive as you play through the game. The soundtrack manages to be both excellent, but not overbearing. It resides just below the surface of the game accenting it but never pushing itself too far into your perspective that you lose track of the action on screen.

Perspective

Even though the game is still in Early Access, Dead Cells is shaping up to be one of the best Metroidvania style games in recent times. The Roguelike and Souls-lite elements, integrated seamlessly into gameplay, just elevate the game far and above similar titles.

The game has a smooth and fast-paced feel that let’s you glide through the map, delivering brutal attacks while rolling and jumping out of the way or your enemies. All the while the tension builds as your health deteriorates, or you stumble upon a new and unpredictable foe.

Dead Cells is certainly worth the price for any Metroidvania or Roguelike fan.

An early-access Steam copy of Dead Cells was provided free for review by Motion Twin.

Rob Kalajian

Father of 4. Husband to 1. Overall Geek. Rob is the owner of A Pawn's Perspective and an Editor over at Purple Pawn. During the day he's a Senior Web Developer for an ad agency in Avon, CT. In his free time...he has no free time. Games. Toys. Books. Scouting.