Motion Twin (studio)
07 August 2018 (released)
07 August 2018
So it’s finally here! One of this year’s most anticipated titles has come to the console platforms after what feels like an eternity on Steam’s Early Access. Dead Cells is a pixel art, inspired dungeon crawler which takes elements from the “Souls” genre and challenges players with nail biting/ trial and error gameplay. It’s been long awaited and finally console gamers can see if this has been worth the wait.
As mentioned, Dead Cells is a Dark Souls inspired 2D pixel art, dungeon crawler. Players will venture through an ever changing world segmented into different areas including prisons, graveyards, harbour towns and clock towers. All of which have been overrun by monsters and crazed killers. Our poor leading character is not doing better as he/she is a ball of slime having to use dead bodies to actually do some adventuring. During said adventure, our lovable ball of slime has to collect various “dead cells” in order to upgrade their abilities, weapons and gadgets. However if the player dies at any stage during their adventure, they must start over from the very beginning.
So as you imagine, there’s plenty of room to rage quit, throw your controller and just rage out completely. But then again, there’s more room for players to be captivated and hooked by its engaging sense of challenge and progression.
Earlier this year, Patrick wrote a preview of Dead Cells in its later stages of development and from what I’ve seen previously; there’s been quite a few changes. One of the biggest changes comes in the form of small areas you can find, each room giving more detail and depth on the story of “the Island”. This was absent from the preview build and now players can grasp a better understanding of what may have happened. Much like Dark Souls, the story is explained through fragmented findings and told within a dark, comedic manner. It’s compelling to go out and find, but never essential for players to find.
Gameplay has been tweaked to ease difficulty in certain areas and ensuring weapons are gadgets have greater impact. Small touches have been included to avoid a majority of cheap deaths occurring while larger enemies and bosses have been balanced in their attacks and health. This is great news as in previous, some enemies would be relentless and for new comers having to repeat the campaign over and over, it was even worse. There is still a steep learning curve with Dead Cells for new players, but thankfully these tweaks mean that they will progress quickly. There seems to be more Cells dropped from enemies and blue prints are more frequent for the first few hours.
The one thing which will grind anyone’s nerves are the sewer levels, plain and simple they’re not really that much fun. While not terrible, these levels can end up being relentless labyrinths filled with plenty of hidden enemies that do way too much damage. Even for a speed runner, it’s a chore just to find the correct route. Making the timed door in the next level can prove extremely taxing depending on how much the game wants to complicate the paths. While one sewer level is bad enough, players will have to venture through another sewer level in order to continue a certain path. Joy! While you can change routes in the first sewer level, it doesn’t make it easier knowing you’ll have to play another at some stage and most likely on repeated try outs.
Sewer levels are actually worse than cave and snow levels in my opinion and Dead Cells does very little to make them interesting.
Dead Cells is all about trial and error, so if you’re not a fan of repeating your journey over and over, getting stronger with each try, then this might not be for you. Dead Cells does a great job at breaking up the game with alternating paths and gears that allows you to unlock new ones. There’s a vast amount of secrets in each area and as each level’s layout changes, it’s never truly the same. Although the layouts do feel similar each time I played the game, even to have the same elite enemies and types of secrets which don’t change that often.
Despite its little problems, I never found myself quitting Dead Cells and overall I have to say it’s one of the best games I’ve played all this year.
However, since this review I've found myself battling a game that crashes more often than I like it too. I also don't understand why Dead Cells does not save my level progression when the game crashes but stepping forward a foot or two, exiting a game and returning does indeed save. It's baffling and unfair as you could be near finishing a level, have the game crashes and start over.
Dead Cells is a punishing yet highly rewarding experience which anyone can pick up. While beginning stages can provide difficult learning curves, the more you play, the more chances you get to become better. For ever bad run I had, there were half a dozen great ones and the more I unlocked, the more I pursued and played.
Yes, it’s kind of feels like Ground Hog day after a while and yes, you will have to play the entire game even if you die at the very last boss. But this is what makes it so engaging and even in death you still get rewarded. It’s highly engaging, enthralling, immersive and brilliant! It’s every word that shines praise on this beautiful little pixel art inspired Soul clone.
++ Highly engaging Metrovania gameplay
++ Great challenge and rewards
+ Beautiful looking and sounding
- Sewer levels
- Some annoying learning curves
An Xbox One review copy of Dead Cells was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review