Dead Cells is a game that demands you to get good as soon as possible. It requires you to play fast and aggressively with tactical precision, but even then will punish you with a thousand deaths and demand even more patience.
It should be noted that even if Dead Cells is still in early access, it
is as polished as any final game out there. So it's frightening to imagine how
the final product will turn out.
For those who have never heard of Dead Cells, it is a 2D rogue-like side-scroller. It's fast, relentless, and the levels change every time you play them. It plays like Castlevania and Metroid, only less forgiving.
Death in Dead Cells is worse than anything you have seen in any other game. You lose everything: gold, weapons, items, and cells (skill points). This forces you to start straight from the beginning with almost nothing to carry over.
The game isn't without its rewards, however.
The more hours you spend in Dead Cells, the better you become. That doesn't sound like much but this game is all about developing your skills. This isn't like Dark Souls where your greatest disadvantages are the heavy controls and enemy ambushes. This isn't like Bloodborne or Nioh, where enemies can kill you in one or two hits. Dead Cells gives you every advantage: fluid movements, stat upgrades, weapons, amulets - and it's up to you how to use each of these randomized items and adapt them to your situation.
That's the beauty of Dead Cells.
In a single run you can pick up more weapons and amulets than you can handle but you can only carry one of each object. Do you sacrifice a short-range weapon with higher damage for a significantly weaker long-range weapon? Do you sacrifice your amulet that gives you a triple jump over one that reduces damage by 30%? It's all about finding the balance in your play style.
You do get some permanent items and skills, though. If you collect blueprints and manage to bring them to the end of the level, they become available for purchase using cells. These purchased items become more valuable after you find a similar item in the level, powering up your already powerful artifact. This way, blueprints are technically not just mere items that give you weapons, but they serve as upgrades to the weapons you pick up by chance.
You can also spend your cells to acquire
permanent skills. These range from abilities like keeping 25% gold upon death
or respawning with two healing potions. Even if you don't get far, you will
always end up back at the starting point where you can gather at least five to
ten cells for spending before you proceed to the next area.
You also acquire some permanent abilities that will allow you to travel to areas that were previously inaccessible. When you acquire these powers, you will find that the starting point of the game reveals shortcuts that you can use to hurriedly get back to where you died. The tradeoff for doing so is that you have less equipment and lower stats. It's a fair trade if you ask me because even though I skipped through some areas, these shortcuts almost always allowed me to find new weapons to replace my old ones really quick. Sadly, there were also times where I end up with almost no valuable equipment.
Dead Cells is both large and small at the same time. The areas you go through are few, the boss battles are limited, and yet each area is a vast, maze-like structure that you have to navigate your way around while keeping all your precious cells. You can either speed your way through these areas or explore them entirely, usually resulting in more items and increasing your risks of dying as you spend more time on a level.
The rewards for the risks you take in this game are epic in scale and developer Motion Twin has already set up their Early Access forums in order to improve this game. It's already fantastic as it is so let's see how they can set the bar even higher.