Some get to play games for fun. Some play games because it’s a job. I don’t know what I did, but this game is making me pay with my many, many deaths. This past week I’ve played Dead Cells, a new early access game by Motion Twin. A rogue-like platforming Rogue Legacy feel with a Dead Souls combat and experience system. And if that feels like a long explanation, this game has only just gotten started.
The one shortcoming so far with this game is a lack of story. I’m not sure if there is one, but there are only a few hints at one. So the basics so far, is that your character has no name and also no head. Your corpse is then occupied by a weird algae like creature that then lights itself on fire and forms a head shape. Which, you know what, I take it back. That is your story dead flaming head guy.
The game is very reminiscent of another similar game Rogue Legacy and seems to draw inspiration heavily from that game. It also seems to draw on Dark Souls, with it’s well timed parries and dodging rolls. It also has a leveling system in the form of cells collected from enemies and is used to upgrade the various items that you discover while playing. Where the game differs from Rogue Legacy, is that the numerous advantages and disadvantages, are loaded into the items. Meaning that a new weapon may deal far more damage, but in return may curse you to taking more damage as well.
The game employs a procedurely generated level system. Each time you die, and you will die, the levels reset and are recreated for your next journey through. There are several sections that will be similar, such as the starting area in my games always had a long hallway from the spawn point. From there, you’re able to go wherever you can reach. In each stage there are elites you can fight for abilities to affect your environment. In my first playthrough in the Promenade of the Undead, there is an elite that drops an ability to create vines from green patches on the ground. Granting me access to areas that seemed previously inaccessible. Throughout the level as well, the character comes across scrolls that give power ups to health, damage and item cooldown. There is even a scroll that lets the player choose which he wants to level up. Finally, in my final playthrough before writing this, I managed to discover there are bosses. The fight was absolutely epic and really felt like it was testing my skills. I ultimately lost, but it was a close fight and wasn’t because of some broken ability but because of mistakes I made. Dodging when I could have attacked, or misinterpreting a ground attack for a regular attack. I felt disappointed that I lost, but it was still a very fun fight and I can only imagine the award that was waiting for me…for now anyway.
In the end, this was an incredible game and hard to believe it’s not complete. Because it’s a fully functioning game with solid mechanics and is absolutely a blast to play. The open dungeons and the ability to build your character how you want, through power ups and items, are the greatest features of the game. If you’ve played any of the games that I mentioned in this review, you need to play this game. If you’re looking for a fun platformer that rewards you for learning mechanics, you’ll fall in love with this game as hard as I did. I can’t stop saying good things about this game, so if you can give it a try. It’s currently available on Steam and don’t let that early access label scare you. This game is a cut above most games in the same status.