Dead Cells is a Rogue-lite, Metroidvania game with really tight combat and a beautiful art style. The game sports a perma-death system that is relatively punishing, but allows you to keep certain things permanently so that you feel like you are making progress in the grand scheme of things.
You start off in a dungeon with a basic sword, and the choice between a bow and arrow or shield. Luckily, both options are fun, because the game’s combat is really satisfying.
The game doesn’t have you do combos or anything like that. It’s more akin to the Dark Souls series, or even more like Rogue Legacy, where you only have one melee button, but need to focus on proper timing. Since taking damage can be very punishing in this game, you will have to roll, or parry at the right time, to then follow up with attacks.
You have options though. On top of the different types of melee weapons you get, you can choose between bows, throwing knives, bombs, traps etc. Different items also have different stats such as freezing or poisoning to make them feel refreshing. There’s some more unique ones like a shield that makes enemies drop golden teeth you can sell if you parry at the right time, or throwing knives that cause group bleeding if used correctly.
You have 2 slots for melee weapons/ranged weapons/shields. You can configure that however you want, if you want 2 swords, it’s possible. If you want a whip and a bow, it’s possible. (Haven’t tested 2 shields, but that doesn’t sound like the greatest idea).
Next, you have 2 slots for items that are more disposable as opposed to a weapon. Stuff like bombs, traps or flashbangs will go in here. These can be used infinitely, and just require that you wait a short cooldown before using them again to prevent spamming. The game gets really hard in later levels, so you are probably encouraged to use everything you have in your arsenal in battles.
You can find new loot in a number of ways. Purchasing it from stores, finding treasure rooms etc.
Enemies drop Gold, but they also drop Cells. This is what you use to permanently upgrade your character. When you finish a level, you will be met with a strange character that offers to give you upgrade in exchange for your cells. You must spend all your cells before moving on. Here, you can unlock new weapons to start with, or useful tools like a bag that will preserve a percentage of your gold from your previous life. That way, if you die you don’t lose EVERYTHING.
The game does a really good job at balancing permanent and temporary upgrades so you don’t feel like you’re getting nowhere forever.
You will also unlock Runes that allow you to interact with the environment in unique ways like growing a vine at specific locations. This will allow you to reach new areas you couldn’t have previously, or getting to new levels.
Although you will sometimes recognize certain room layouts, the overall level designs are randomly generated. Every time you die, and come back to your new playthrough, everything will be reset. New enemy spots, treasures etc.
On top of changing the environment between levels, new enemies will also appear. You will need to adapt to new strategies to overcome them. Although the way you attack won’t change, you will need to learn their movesets, and find out what positioning and timing you need to kill the enemies. It can be relatively punishing in later areas when you are a low level, so you’ll probably need to level your character up over time before really making any real progress in the harder levels.
I thought that overall the game does a pretty good job at keeping stuff fresh. You are constantly discovering new stuff, although one minor gripe would be that it can be a bit tiresome to replay the first areas over and over every playthrough. That’s a typical problem with the rogue-lite genre, but games like Binding of Isaac fixed it in my opinion by giving the game the choice to shuffle between 2 or 3 starting areas. It’s not too big of a deal though, since you will grow more powerful overtime, and can speed through the first area pretty easily.
In my opinion, the art style if really pleasant to look at. I’m not generally a fan of pixelart, but I think it’s beautiful here, and the animations are smooth and feel cool.
Overall, I’m really loving the game so far. The music is super catchy, the combat feels meaty and satisfying, getting loot and progressing through the game feels rewarding, and I honestly can’t think of any real problems with the game currently. The devs have said they plan to double the amount of items, levels, and so on. If they stick by that, I will be very happy. Recommended!