Dead Cells takes the progression of a Metroidvania and integrates it into this procedurally generated action Roguelike that has you slowly chipping away at its steep difficulty….Just kidding.
Dead Cells is a game that I’ve had my eyes on for quite a while now but haven’t picked it up because, typically, two things I don’t enjoy are procedurally-generated worlds and permadeath consequences…yet I decided to give this game a chance and immediately fell in love with it. The reason I picked it up was that I’ve had the urge to play Celeste and Hollow Knight again recently but Dead Cells is a game that always seems to come up along with those two on any search result page. So, might as well give it a shot, right? Just a few hours in and I completely understood why.
Dead Cells has such charm to it even though it offers a literally faceless protagonist who wanders a world that offers very little consistency, the wonderful experience comes from the feeling that everything you do is unique. Each time you die, you start over from the beginning, losing your weapons, gold, cells, and progress all at once. Granted, you can work towards permanent upgrades but other than those few caveats, this is a game that doesn’t allow room for most errors or simple mistakes. While death offers finality, it’s the belief that the next run will be successful that kept me going for the first 8 or so hours.
Although it took me 13 tries to actually reach the end of the game, I never really felt as though I was playing through the same sections repeatedly; since this game has permanent death but balances it with an ever-changing landscape, each run still manages to feel unique. The paths you take, weapons you find, enemies you encounter, and, sure, some luck will all change between playthroughs which means you have unlimited reasons to experiment with your playstyle and adjust accordingly. However, you don’t have to be RNGesus to beat the game or even progress further than last time. Once you get the hang of how enemies react to you, how they attack you, what damages them most, and how to defend yourself, you’ll be running through the game in 45 minutes without even attempting to speedrun. Granted, my completed runs have all been around 58 minutes so far but 45 will be commonplace once I get more upgrades that will carry over between runs.
Honestly, I’m late to play this, late to review it, and I only learned from my coworker today what the terms “Metroidvania” and “Roguelite” actually mean so I might not be the best person to discuss the quality of this game but what I can tell you, unbiased and unreservedly, is that I adore this game on all levels. It’s fun as hell, charming, and offers a unique experience not only compared to other games but even compared to itself between it’s hour-long campaign runs. Best of all, you can complete a difficulty, collect a reward, increase the difficulty, play again, and keep getting rewarded five times over. Even if you feel like it’s getting old after a dozen hours, just crank up the difficulty which offers new mechanics that will make the entire experience feel just as fresh, challenging, and rewarding as your first few playthroughs.
At this point, I still say that I prefer Hollow Knight (it’s one of my favorite games of all time now) but Dead Cells certainly offers elements that I adore just as much or even moreso. It’s not the biggest game in terms of game length but the depth that it offers via procedurally generated levels and ever-changing weapon options allows for a seemingly endless gaming experience.
I’ve only beat the game twice now (both on the first difficulty) and have played for about 12 hours but I can’t stop thinking about the game and how much I’m excited to jump back into the world. What will I do with my next run? What weapons will I get? What route will I take? Will I aim for timed doors, or flawless kills? The choice is mine, and there are so many important choices to make. You could attempt to make the exact same choices in each run but the chances of that are extremely low and would most likely make your experience less enjoyable. Just take you time, have fun, choose wisely, and level up as much as you can.
I should also mention that although death is permanent, experimenting with your build/loadout is one of my favorite things to do. After you’ve beaten the game a couple of times, you can totally just mess around with weapons you’d never thought to use before (for me, Spartan Sandals and any Shield has been enjoyable…albeit fruitless towards victory) and discover other ways to play the game. They won’t all be great, and you’ll definitely die, but you’ll learn from those mistakes and that information most certainly transcends permadeath. Dead Cells is an absolute blast that you should pick up as soon as you can.
As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!
Indiana University graduate in Media and Creative Writing. I love to write my own stories as well as experience the work of others. On this site, I post reviews, essays, and other fun posts that I hope you have as much fun reading and I have writing. Please share any comments you have, I’d be happy to hear what you think!
*Never a critic, always a fan*