Dead Cells hits a unique category that has not been done much before with 2d platform roguelite the only competition it really has for comparison is Rogue Legacy, but Dead Cells gets a little more hard core and with more Linear gameplay.
That isn’t to say it’s linear, with varying levels that snap back in for boss fights or even skips around them. When I first started playing this I got a very Rogue Legacy and Spelunky Vibe from the level design and setting (foreground and background), but Dead Cells sets itself apart from its inspirations. In saying that the developer doesn’t shy away from it with mention on the official website of “Castlevania-inspired” and “[Dark] Souls-lite combat”.
Dead Cells is still in early access, however with runs that can take around an hour it provides much more content than most early access so don’t let that scare you off. With 36 unique weapons, 25 skills and regular large updates (one was released last month with another scheduled before next month) expanding the game even further all the time. This game could be on full release already and I’d still say its worth it, but then you know it’s going to get more content? Awesome!
The gameplay leaves you with the usual controls for movement, then 2 weapon buttons, 2 skill buttons, a roll that makes you impervious to most attacks and a heal/potion that you can refill at stage end. In addition to weapons normal abilities they have ones which can be things like double damage taken and received or additional damage against stunned enemies.
With some mysterious characters that are seemingly allies they set you on your journey through the prisoner’s cells. Through the prisoner’s cells you slay enemies and occasionally they will drop a ‘dead cell’, this is your upgrade material. Between level transitions you will have a chance to spend your dead cells on upgrades or unlocking blueprints that drop from enemies or are found in secret areas. Each subsequent stage has characteristics that it owns like the sewers having pools of poison and the Ramparts are a bunch of high buildings.
The enemies are well designed and varied with any one of them able to catch you off guard and deal a large chunk of health. The bosses are well done, seeming very daunting and intimidating especially on first encounter. They give a very dark souls esque ‘you expect me to kill that?’ feeling, each with signature attacks that must be overcome. The second boss was so difficult at the first time meeting it, it crushed me and the hour I spent getting to that point. To overcome it and go to see what’s next only to be instakilled by a progress blocker is a little disappointing, but this is still in development.
The negative things I have to say about it are minimal. Firstly the weapon fire brands is overpowered. Once you figure out how to use them well you can roll through the game easily including bosses. Secondly Early in my time playing I got several necklace items with very unique abilities (permanent invisibility) and have not seen them again. Several times there has been a bug where the stomp action gets stuck and It takes an enemy attack to break out of it. these are minor drawbacks to what is still an enjoyable game.
All in all very positive and promising signs from an early access game, at the very least keep your eyes on this one as it is developed