Dead Cells – Early Access Game Review

Dead Cells – Early Access Game Review
Dead Cells (PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin

Dead Cells is an action-packed rogue-lite, metroidvania style platformer. It is currently in its beta phase of early access on Steam.

The fluid, fast-paced combat makes up the core gameplay, and thankfully Dead Cells has excellent combat. It’s challenging, and the threat of perma-death is always there. Encountering new enemies is nerve-wracking because you don’t know yet what they are capable of, and it will undoubtedly take practice to get efficient at killing each type. Elite enemies are usually just more powerful, and faster than their non-elite versions, but they can be really scary to fight, especially in close quarters. There are only two bosses available right now, and holy crap that second boss is insanely difficult.

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To be successful in combat, you’ll need to pay attention, and learn enemy patterns, and keep your fingers crossed and hope to get some good loot. It is possible to be one-shotted, but that only happened to me when I didn’t unlock enough health upgrades on those runs. Death will be a common occurrence though, so if you don’t like dying a lot, you probably shouldn’t play Dead Cells.

During each run of the game, the loot and stat bonuses you acquire are only going to last this run, and when you die you lose all of it. However, there is some permanent progression that you work towards every time you complete a level. As you play, you collect cells, and before moving on to the next level, you spend all of the cells that you have earned on permanent upgrades, such as health potions to use, or damage boosts for each weapon. There are also some abilities that you can learn that stay with you through death as well. These different abilities allow you to take new paths that you couldn’t get to before when you first start the game.

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Pros:
  • excellent combat, that is very fluid, fast-paced, and challenging; dying does not feel unfair, and if you die, it’s your fault – timing your jumps, attacks, skills, and iframes are a major key to success
  • good variety of enemies with unique attacks, and each level has a different set of enemies to fight
  • there are a lot of weapons, skills, and stat-upgrades to find, and each one feels unique
  • levels, mobs, and loot are all procedurally generated giving lots of replay value – if you get stuck, you can choose to take alternate routes, and go through another level entrance instead to keep it from feeling too repetitive (9+hours and I’m still loving it)
  • although there is perma-death, there is some permanent progression, so you feel like you’ve accomplished something even when you die over and over (really hardcore players might not like this permanent progression, but people who die a lot will)
  • pixel-style graphics look great; the environments are interesting and level designs are visually diverse
  • sound effects are done well, and the music is good too; the music seems to change in each level (but when I was focused on the combat, I admit that I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the soundtrack)
  • controls are very tight, and responsive – keyboard controls are fully customizable, but playing with a controller is significantly easier
Cons:
  • (bug) couldn’t upgrade one of my weapons (this was the only bug I encountered in both the alpha and beta, and it’s a minor one)
  • (nitpick) not much of the story is revealed yet, and the couple dialog scenes you do get to experience are very brief
  • (nitpick) a few enemy types that look like they have been reskinned or resized

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Conclusion:

Overall, Dead Cells is a lot of fun, but it’s definitely a challenging game. The perma-death can be very punishing, and you will die a lot. With that being said, the gameplay is not frustrating because chances are that you will only have yourself to blame for failing. Permanent progression does help out a small amount for those who continuously struggle, but in the end, you will need to ‘git gud’ if you want to succeed. I really enjoyed my time playing Dead Cells, and I look forward to what content they add to it next.

Press copy was provided for this review.