I managed to squeeze Dead Cells into my PAX East schedule last minute, and I’m glad that I did. I’m a huge fan of the Souls games, and Dead Cells offers a terrific Souls-like experience in 2D, introducing roguelike and Metroidvania elements to the classic formula of hard-as-nails combat, all presented in a unique, colorful and incredibly detailed pixel art aesthetic.
Dead Cells is a roguelike, Castlevania-inspired action-platformer, allowing you to explore a sprawling, ever-changing castle… assuming you’re able to fight your way past its keepers.
The first thing that struck me in trying Dead Cells was the aesthetic and art style. You play as what seems like a corpse inhabited by a strange energy presence creature thing. It’s vague. What this ends up looking like is a well built human body with a Sauron-esq light wreathed in smoke where it’s head should be. With each death, a new (or is it the same?) presence/creature falls into a corpse and you rise again. I’m incredibly interested to learn more about what this all means.
The game is full of bright and weird creatures and enemies, and while I only saw two environments, the Sewers and the Prisoner Cells, during my demo, there was enough variety to have me intrigued to see more of the gorgeous pixel art style the game has going for it. Everything has a glow to it that I found really appealing and wonderfully different from other games in the genre.
Mechanically, Dead Cells handles fantastically well, and give you numerous options. Even in my short demo I found three different weapons, each of which gave me a very different way to play the game. I ended up relying on my daggers and throwing knives I found quite a bit, playing as a quick ninja-like dungeon delver, but I also found a shield and a bow, and from early gameplay it’s clear there are a huge number of weapons, traps and tricks available. This level of variety is absolutely fantastic.
Like in any Souls-like, dodging and invincibility frames are vitally important, as your healing items are quite limited
As you defeat enemies, you’ll collect cells. These cells come in a few different classes, and are used to craft items, upgrade and unlock new weapons, which are carried over between lives. Get enough Undead Archer Cells to unlock a new bow, and you’ll be likely to run into it on your next run and all subsequent runs. It’s a great systems for making each new run feel different and worthwhile.
And that makes the core game loop: adventure, collect cells, unlock new weapons and abilities, die, and begin again. It’s a solid concept I am all too eager to delve into again.
Dead Cells is currently scheduled to release in spring of 2017.
You can find more information about Dead Cells on Steam.
Want to learn more about the games we saw at PAX East 2017? Check out this page, which lists all the game’s we saw, and we will be updating with links to our coverage as we complete it