Dead Cells

Running the Castle in Dead Cells Early Access

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Here is a fun 2D adventure that has players battling enemies in a strange castle. Though still in early access we get to have some fun and know that when this is fully launched it will be a spectacular game to play. Dead Cells resembles a 2D Rogue-like game with no re-spawn locations where you need to collect, collect, and keep collecting gold and cells. This is important because when you die, especially before getting to the all-important collector, you must start from the very beginning and do the run all over again with all the starter weapons.

Dead Cells
In the beginning again but this time I get gold.

Getting to a collector before spawning again gives you added goodies that stay with you forever. Also if you get a gold recovery improvement spawning recovers some of your currency. More gold, the easier the next run will be. This helps when you need new weapons and must start out with a rusty sword. I got some nice daggers and had to start with a terrible rusty old sword. Then again the more you play the easier it is to get even farther the next time. Just watch out for those pesky hard enemies that can throw grenades and damaging orbs. Some of the main enemies can be more of a challenge then the elites. No matter how many times death comes to your character and you start over it is still a very fun and addicting game that can be enjoyed over and over again. It’s perfect if all you want is a good old fashion 2D game, love to collect items, and need to just bash a bunch of enemies.

Dead Cells
A scroll that increases health.

As far as a story, all I can say from just playing is the main character is a prisoner in the castle and he is trying to defeat enemies to escape. Along the way he gets help from some strange characters that provide new items and upgrades to existing items. Secrets and runes boost your abilities and cells build up the character to go farther in the castle. However, you are no ordinary human prisoner but an undead prisoner. More like a reanimated dead beheaded prisoner that is controlled by a strange blob. It is a game featuring the undead and ghastly monsters including zombies, while bats and coffins line the prison. It’s quite a spooky castle with toxic sewers and odd beings, like the collector, merchant, or strange scholar with your stats, unlocks, kill tallies, enemies fought, deaths, and achievements in gold and cell collecting.

Dead Cells
Fighting a scorpion.

When you die you lose cells, which are orbs that are collected when killing enemies. These are taken to a collector and exchanged along with blueprints for weapons, potions, and skills. Skills are things like grenades and traps. Getting to a collector is a matter of finding the right door. With a collector comes a huge flask to refill health potions. This is a nice added bonus in the game. The flask helps you to survive longer, especially if you find secrets and scrolls that give a longer health bar. Also least potion bottles are permanent and filled when re starting the castle run.

Dead Cells
Obstacles can be challenging in the castle, here are some spikes to be wary of.

Throughout the castle players will come across a myriad of enemies, the worst being the grenadiers as they are ranged enemies. The archers are easy, especially with a bow or grenades. Other enemies are zombies, shield bearers, and a tough little guy known as the phazer. I also started running into scorpions that killed me right off. The farther you get the harder the enemies’ get and new challenges along with obstacles appear. Assisting along the way are health potions and secrets, which expand either your health or strength. Watch out for the elite enemies, though with good weapons they are easy and fruitful. Elites give lots of cells and I even got a vine rune from my first elite.

Runes give permanent abilities. The vine rune for example allows you to grow a vine from the ticklish blobs. When first starting there are blobs like the one possessing the playable character. At first they can be tickled but once you get a vine rune they grow into vines so players can access new levels. I still haven’t figured out what the coffins do but you can rub them.

Dead Cells
A teleport

Aiding your castle run are teleports. If you want to get back to a previous location teleports can help as long as more than one has been activated. It’s good if you had to go back to a merchant after collecting more gold and purchase a weapon or amulet. There may be times where a door was sealed and you needed to collect more gold or find a way to open it. Just teleport back to an area near it and unlock the area to find hidden treasures. Usually these are secrets to gain new powers and abilities, or a new skill that can vanquish your enemies. Skills more often just deal more damage than weapons alone or incapacitate enemies long enough to deal damage. Traps and ice grenades incapacitate enemies, while other grenades and weapons deal damage.

The only downside to the weapons and skills in the game is the lack of an inventory. You are only limited to two weapons and skills. When coming across or buying a new weapon or skill it will either be placed in an empty slot in the inventory or must be switched out with a current weapon or skill. Both the skills and weapons can be upgraded through the collector and damage potential can be added through scrolls. Also, when the character is killed in game the player will lose all weapons and skills acquired from the slots.

Dead Cells
The collector

Finding scrolls can increase health or damage by weapons or skills. These are found in tanks throughout the game. Also scattered in the castle are weapons but you can also buy new weapons from merchants and use cells at a collector for weapons. Unlocking weapons at a collector requires blueprints.

The game does provide a good selection of melee and ranged weapons, including daggers, swords, blood swords, bows, blasts, and whips. I am fond of the blood sword that I got with a blueprint and many cells, it makes enemies bleed and does a fair amount of damage.  Shields are available and a player can have one melee and one shield, or a melee and ranged weapon. Even with only two slots there is potential to make a strong character. Once you buy a weapon, skill, or improvement from the collector that object is always available to get in game and usually right after re-spawning.

Dead Cells
A vine rune produces climbing vines. In the inventory s the blood sword.

Surprisingly having no checkpoints to re-spawn from a point well into the castle wasn’t annoying. Maybe because this game is really fun to play and the more you play the easier it gets and the farther you can go. The gameplay is quite good in Dead Cells. I felt that every control was intended to be easy on the player. Skills and potions are accessed with the right and left buttons, while weapons with the X and Y buttons. All movements and weapons can be smoothly handled during the game with no effort. Also the game instructs the player on the buttons to push at the inventory in the lower left and as you confront doors and interactive objects. Doors can either be smashed or opened with the Rb button.

Whether this is a downside or not the game works best with a controller. Actually I find these games best as controller games even on a PC. I did play it with keyboard and mouse but it wasn’t as smooth of a gameplay compared to my Xbox One controller.

Dead Cells
Found a challenge area

Lastly, there are secret challenge areas that can be found when activating hidden runes. Be prepared to fight as these are not merciful and death is imminent. There is usually a timer and specific challenge with the area.  At least death just puts players where they were right before entering the challenge. They are a no consequence area but a good way to collect cells and hone fighting tactics. Also, don’t worry about leaving the game during a run; you can actually pick up where you last left off without going to the beginning. Only death takes you to the start of the game.

As you continue going over through the game death after death you will unlock levels and abilities. Every run will be different as new areas open up or you get to access new areas. Players will have to go through the familiar areas but there are many different levels in the maps to explore and the game isn’t linear. This makes old challenges seem new in Dead Cells. It’s also what makes this game unique and fun. Death rewards the player but the more you survive the more you get to do after re-spawning for the umpteenth time.

It may still be in early access but don’t let this stop you from playing and yes bugs are inevitable but hey its still super fun. The little prisoner blob possessed undead guy is awesome and bashing the enemies a great distraction from everyday life. It’s worth trying out this game but in the end you will not be disappointed. Not one time was I annoyed by going back to the beginning and each time was a new challenge and a new opportunity to get items. Also now that I have gold recovery and healing potions it’s a longer and longer game each run through. From each run I know what to do, which weapons suit my play style, and I understand thy enemy, except for the phazers, scorpions, and the flying pinchers. With fascinating monsters, and a spooky renaissance soundtrack I give Dead Cells a very positive first look.

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