Dead Cells – Early Access Preview
Two of the biggest genres in the indie scene right now are Rogue-likes and Metroidvania. It seems every other week we are getting new games in these styles. But what happens when you combine the two. Do you get a wonderful new experience or do you get an unholy concoction? Well in the case of Dead Cells it is a match made in heaven.
Dead Cells is a self-titled “roguevania” game, combining elements from both of these popular genres. The live-die-repeat loop from rogue-likes is the basis of the title with an unknown warrior gradually working his way through multiple levels until he dies and starts the loop again. The Metroid components come into play with permanent ability upgrades that open up new options in traversal, which in turn opens up new areas to explore. Once unlocked, these abilities stay with the character even after death, unlike most pickups in the game.
Dead Cells uses two currency types within the game. The first is coins, which can be used during each run to purchase weapons and items. These weapons and items are lost as soon as you die and without a permanent upgrade, the player also loses all coins collected. The second currency type is cells. These cells can be used at a vendor that appears at the end of each area to unlock upgrades that stay with the player. Things like health flasks, the ability to keep coins after death and better starting weapons can be purchased. The cells can also be used unlock new weapon and item types that will appear throughout the randomly generated levels.
What Dead Cells does really well is provide the “one more turn” hook. Each game achieves something. A new weapon, a new area, a better understanding. There is a sense of progression every time you pick up the controller. This is the key to a good rogue-like and the developers have nailed it here. This is also helped by the fact the game controls perfectly. Pin-point platforming and combat are on offer here. It really is a pleasure to play and the feeling of improvement the game gives players is something rarely experienced in gaming.
The visual style of the game is also worth mentioning. It uses a “16-bit” style but believe me when I say there weren’t many SNES or Mega Drive games that looked this good. The main character is wonderfully detailed and animated, displaying loads of personality and the enemy design is universally exceptional. This is a game that has clearly been made by a team of very talented artists. Even the level design, though randomly generated, looks and feels like it has been handcrafted, which is a wonderful achievement.
The game is in early access presently but is coming up on its full release so it is pretty much in its final state. There are no bugs to be seen and it all runs smoothly. I even had it running perfectly on a Surface Pro so you can be pretty sure it will run on just about every PC available. Which is great news because this game should be played by as many people as possible. It is a great title that combines two genres perfectly creating something that feels both familiar and unique at the same time. This is a title that also deserves to be released on consoles (Switch especially) because I can see it being a great addition to any console owner’s library. With a few more updates to come before full release, the game is only going to get better. Dead Cells is a triumph that should be on everyone’s Steam wishlist.
*You can catch more coverage of Dead Cells thanks to a previous episode of Player 2 Plays.