I had a feeling Dead Cells would be something special when I previewed it last year, and frankly, it’s proving difficult to pull myself away from it to actually write this Verdict. I told myself that I’d jump on for just five minutes this morning, to get myself in the groove. An hour later, after failing at the hands of The Concierge, the first boss, I’m back to writing. It’s a great game.
I’ve recorded a number of videos, chronicling my first handful of journeys through Dead Cells, all of which can be found on our YouTube channel (cheap plug – Ed). I had intended to take a video for every life, but I soon realised that I would block the playlist with thirty-second clips of me dying while fighting one of the first zombies in the opening Prisoners Quarters biome. Nobody wants to see that do they?
Rhetorical question aside, Dead Cells is so very good, and has come on leaps and bounds since I was playing it in Early Access. Everything feels more refined, and while I wouldn’t like to say it has been made easier, some of the mass enemy mobs in The Ramparts that I used to witness have certainly been toned down. It’s still a challenge to the uninitiated, but at least these days I can safely make my way through to the first boss, provided I don’t make any silly mistakes.
Mistakes will be punished, and quickly. Dive in to battle without jumping or dodging is bound to lead to your untimely demise. You certainly have to be on your toes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to rush along head-first without stopping for breath. Yes, there are timed gates that appear in the second biome onwards which hold goodies for those who traverse the levels fast enough, but speed isn’t the only approach. During one session, I was exploring the Toxic Sewers (one of the two potential second biomes in this branching structure of a game world), having a merry old time killing foes. But, a few mistakes with the timing and direction of my jumps saw me land back in the exploding remains of a creature I killed. I was left with 6hp, and no idea where I would find the doorway to the next area.
My entire approach changed at this point. No longer was I rushing headlong towards the next creature, now I was taking my time, creeping along slowly, avoiding any potential fight I came across. I saw the location of one of the Elites I would have to kill to unlock a Rune that would stay with me, regardless of death. Taking him on would have been foolish in the extreme. I made use of the teleportation devices, skulking around until…rejoice! There was the exit, a visit to The Collector to trade in my Cells and a chance to replenish my health. I had never felt so relieved…it’s just a shame that I quickly perished on The Ramparts.
I never claimed to be any good at Dead Cells ok? Just that I really enjoy it.
The old system of powering up your character through a playthrough was ripped up long ago and replaced by a much more elegant solution whereby you can improve your Brutality, Tactics or Survival. Finding a scroll will allow you to upgrade one of these, with each providing some improvement to your maximum health, while also offering a damage improvement to weapons or skills of the corresponding type. It’s simple and slick, allowing you to always improve yourself in some way or other. There are also story elements, take your time exploring the different biomes, and you might find a hidden nook or crany where the timer pauses, and you can learn some more about what has happened to this hell you inhabit.
I’ve lost track of how many lives I have lost in Dead Cells, but with each one, I learn something more. Whether it is about the best combination of Mutations to choose, or figuring out what combination of weapons and skills will work best against The Concierge. All I know is that every time I make it to The Collector, I can hand in some Cells, unlock some permanent improvements, and keep on exploring, dodging and killing.
The Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch
Platform Reviewed – PC
Review based on Steam media account copy. For more on our scoring policy, please head here.