So you're dead. A wriggling mass of green ick and slimy gross has just slithered its way into your headless corpse, and now you're a mute badass on a quest. What that quest is, we don't know. Doesn't seem like it matters, because in Dead Cells, it truly is about the journey not the destination (considering how fun it is just to move through the levels). Still, you'd probably like to be making some progress, right? Of course you do. Problem is, the world is a tad unforgiving, so this guide was put together to help you figure out the ropes of Dead Cells, so you have a more solid foot to stand on when you go toe-to-toe with your first elite and then your first boss.
What to Expect
You're going to die. Let's just get that out of the way. It's by design of the game that you're expected to die. From the current build, it could be technically possible to defeat the final boss using just your starting sword and a hell of a lot of skills, and we all look forward to those speed runs. However, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. Walk right into your grave.
Right off the bat, this game is not a Soulsborne game. It's highly likely people will compare it to Dark Souls, and that's just flat out wrong. A game has to do more than just be hard and have a dark fantasy setting to be considered a Soulsborne game. It's also only slightly a Metroidvania game. What features it shares in common with a Metroidvania is purely surface level, so don't expect a true Metroidvania experience. What it is is a rogue-lite (though it likes to call itself a RogueVania).
What does this mean? Well, in addition to dying a lot, you're also going to lose all your map progress and your stuff. Some gold can be hung onto, through upgradable skills, but anything you had on you at the time of death is gone. That's the rogue part of the roguelite moniker. The lite comes from the fact that even though you lost your stuff, assuming you made it through at least one level, you got to upgrade future stuff.
Throughout your run of Dead Cells, you'll be collecting, well, dead cells. These cells can be traded toward an in-between-level merchant who will upgrade your weapons and skills. This progress is saved between your deaths. So even though your death means going back to the start, it also means your next attempt will be a little bit easier. So to recap:
- You're going to die. A lot.
- Upon death, you go back to the start of the game.
- You lose all your weapons, skills, and most of your money when you kick the bucket.
- Progress made toward your upgrades persists between runs, making each run a little bit easier than the one before.
Some Basic Tips
Before we get into what you can expect in specific areas and what to look out for, let's cover some basic tips that will make your run of Dead Cells much easier.
- "Discretion is the better part of valor…" – The enemies can hit you way harder than you can hit them, but thankfully their patterns are easy to learn; it's better to play it safe than to be an action hero.
- "…except when it's not." – Okay, so it's best to be careful, but if you did happen to get hit, don't be afraid to leap in and start swinging. Dead Cells has a Bloodborne health regen system, where upon taking damage you can restore some of it by slashing at enemies, but only if you do so immediately after being hit.
- Use Skills Often – You may find yourself ignoring your two skills simply because it feels so good to slash and dash, but don't do this. Skills tend to have very short cooldowns, and can provide huge damage boosts and effective crowd control, so don't let them collect dust.
- Plunging Attacks are Great Openers – When you are in the air, if you press down and then your jump button, your character will rapidly speed toward the ground. When he lands, he'll do considerable damage to anything he hits and stun them.
- Be Mindful of Falls – Falling a great distance does not cause damage, but it will stun you. The further you fall, the longer the stun, and this can spell death if you land near enemies. In fact, if you use a plunging attack, you will negate this fall stun!
- Upgrade Your Strength First – Unless you're really having problems surviving, it's advisable to upgrade your strength first, if given the chance. Scattered throughout the map will be upgrade scrolls. Some only upgrade a set stat, either strength, health, or skill. There's one scroll that lets you choose which trait to upgrade.
- Never Upgrade Skills – Skill upgrades are not nearly as valuable as strength and health upgrades. Unless you found a great skill combo that's been carrying you, don't bother to upgrade your skill stat if you have a choice.
- Starting Out, Choose the Bow – At the start of your adventure, you get a sword and the choice between a bow and a shield. Pick the bow. Getting the timing right on the shield can be tricky at first, and the bow allows some extra damage that could save your life. You'll also have to rely on rolling to avoid attacks, which is a good habit to get into. Once you feel comfortable with rolling, try out shields for awhile, and work on the timing.
- Smash Open Doors to Stun - When coming upon a door, if you see an enemy on the other side, close to the door, smash it. The door will explode open, and stun the enemy, giving you a good advantage.
- When in Doubt, Cheese it Out – There are some skills that you can absolutely abuse so long as you have the high ground. Most enemies cannot get onto higher ground with you (though some do have swings big enough to reach you if you stand on the edge), so don't be afraid to just lob down grenades and meat grinders to take care of problem enemies.
- Upgrade Your Health Flask! – A no brainer, but you don't start off with a health flask, so be sure to upgrade that first so you can fill one up. They are filled by the large red distiller found after the cell merchant's exit door.
- Upgrade Your Starting Gear! – So this doesn't actually upgrade the strength of your rusty sword and basic bow and shield. Instead, investing in these skills means that instead of the default weapons, you are given a random item from the weapons you've unlocked! So now there's a chance you'll start your run off with the Twin Daggers!
- Use Synergy – The best way to cause massive damage is to use weapons and skills that complement each other. Weapons and skills come with random properties. Some of these traits are simply damage boosts, while others are a damage boost, but only against poisoned enemies. If you have a sword that does more damage on poisoned enemies, be on the lookout for any other skills or items that can poison enemies. Anything can have these properties, even shields. If you like, you can even wield two melee weapons, one that does bleed, and then one that does bonus damage on bleeding targets.
Best Weapons for Beginners
Dead Cells has a lot of weapons, shields, bows, and skills to choose from. Some, naturally, are going to be better than others. There are some weapons that really play off of a new player's tendencies, and can make your life a lot easier. Weapons are unlocked by first finding a blueprint for it, which is entirely random, so don't feel too bad if you see a weapon here that you don't have – it will come eventually!
Best Melee Weapon – Twin Daggers
The Twin Daggers have a property where after every third consecutive strike, you deal critical damage, which is almost always going to kill the enemy outright. You don't need to land all three hits on the enemy to trigger a crit, either. The weapon is fast, has good damage, and plays well with a new player's tendency to spam the attack button. The Rapier is another solid choice, though a bit trickier. It deals a critical strike if you attack immediately after rolling, but its normal damage is pitiful.
Best Bow – Ice Bow
In truth, the Infantry Bow performs better, damage wise, as it always deals critical damage if you fire from close range. However, the Ice Bow is not about dealing damage. Enemies struck by the Ice Bow become temporarily frozen, and will take damage over time when they thaw out. This gives you a huge opening. Against faster, weaker, enemies you don't need to bother with this bow, but against some of the bigger guys, putting them on ice for a moment can save your life.
Best Shield – Sturdy Shield
In truth, nearly any shield will get the job done as well as another. Sturdy Shield allows you to stun the enemy after blocking, however, so for that reason it's more useful. It's simple, understandable, and effective. Great starting shield.
Best Skill Combo – Bear Trap + Horizontal Turret/Meat Grinder
So rather than give you the best skill for beginners, I'll give you the best combo, because that's what you really want to look for when choosing skills – how they will combo with the rest of your arsenal. A Bear Trap will immobilize an enemy for 5 seconds, during which time they will take 35% increased damage. A turret will constantly fire arrows at the nearest target. A Meat Grinder lays down saw blades that damage enemies that walk over it. You see where I'm going with this. Toss out a Bear Trap and immediately follow it up with a turret or grinder. Now the turret has more range, but it also has a health bar so the enemy can destroy it. The Meat Grinder is far better, as it persists until you throw out another one. If you can aim it so it lands over the Bear Trap, you're in business.
This combination of skills can make short work of any elite or the first boss. Just lay them down and jump and roll away from attacks until they're off cool down. Relying just on them will cause the fight to last longer, but you just might live long enough to see the end of it. This is also great for big enemies, who aren't elites or bosses.
Area 0: Prisoner's Cells
This will be the starting area of the game. It leads out to the Promenade of the Condemned, and then later the Sewers and the Ossuary, but let's focus on your first dozen or so times through. Each area will have its own unique layout, hazards, and enemies to worry about, though for the starting area you'll not find anything too daunting. The goal is to reach the exit, which will take you to the upgrade merchant, who will then take you to the next level. Along the way, you're likely to find a giant treasure chest, which will contain helpful items and weapons.
The enemies you'll see are green and red zombies, archers, and shield zombies. Green zombies are the most common, and the most deadly. If they see you at a distance, they will lurch back and then leap forward, doing a ton of damage. Thankfully they can be taken care of quickly. Red Zombies do not engage in melee, but instead throw out grenades at your location. Doesn't matter if you're behind a door or even a wall, if you're within range, they'll toss one. Archers like to keep at a distance, so keep the pressure on by rolling under their arrows (or just ducking if you have to) and pushing in. Shield zombies are the most troublesome.
Do not try to jump over a shield zombie. They turn around quickly, so by the time you land, they'll have their shield facing you again. The shield zombie can, and will, charge at you, though they telegraph this clearly. The best thing to do is to roll through them. Get up close, and roll. That will take you through them, and allow you to get in a few back stabs.
Area 1: Promenade of the Condemned
This will be your first real area, and where you'll fight your first elite and get your first rune. Naturally, it has some extra things to worry about. For one, there will be spikes. Spread all around will be spikes you need to leap over. Once you get used to the jumping, they'll hardly register as obstacles to you. In the level you also have two new enemies: bats and phazers. Bats are tricky if you ignore them too long. They will follow you constantly, and when they are ready to attack, they'll stay still in the air and create a light targeting line toward you, so be ready to move out of the way. They do die in one hit, at least. Phazers will teleport around, always trying to get to you. They can't be as easily staggered as zombies, so after one or two hits, get ready to roll through them to avoid an attack.
The biggest annoyance will be the training dummies. These unique enemies will produce a shield around all nearby enemies, making them untouchable. Thankfully, there is a clear tether between him and each enemy he shields, so tracking him down is easy. Once you find him, just wail on him until he breaks.
Near the end of the level you will find a large red stone with a glowing rune. From this will spawn an Elite mob. Now, you may find blue stones that look similar that also summon elites, but this is different. This one will drop a rune. Runes are permanent skills that let you traverse the map in new ways. He may get you a few times, but remember the basic tips and you should be fine taking him out. Now you have the vine rune!
This creates a scalable vine out of those green slimes that you could tickle. From now on, at the end of this level, using the vine will take you toward the Ramparts. The vine also lets you reach the Old Sewers, though earlier in the level and usually underground. You can also reach the Toxic Sewers in a similar way, but through the Prisoner's Cells.
Area 2: The Ramparts
It doesn't matter which area you do next, Ramparts or Sewers. Both will eventually lead to the first boss and the Black Bridge. So what's unique about the Ramparts is that most of it takes place across tall towers, separated by steep pits. If you fall down one of these pits, you won't die, but you will respawn on solid ground with a chunk of your HP gone, so be careful where you jump down.
A couple enemies to watch out for is a mage and a new flying enemy, let's call it a bug. The mage tends to stand alone, and will cast a spell toward your position, so don't be standing still for very long. They're easy to take care of, at least. The bugs can be nasty. They fly around like the bats in the earlier level, but instead of dashing at you they will swipe. Sometimes in the Ramparts, you will see huge swarms of them. Avoid at all costs! You have little chance of dealing with that many enemies, no matter who they are.
Area 3: The Old/Toxic Sewers
The Sewers, both Old and Toxic, can be trickier than the Ramparts, but necessary to get to other levels. Both kinds of sewers are very similar, with only a couple differences in their enemy types. Toxic has less kinds, but the enemies themselves seem stronger, especially since you go their directly rather than stopping through the Promenade.
As you might have already guessed, the sewers have toxic sludge. However, these pools are few and far between, and very easy to avoid. Even if you do happen to take a dip, don't worry, the poison won't do much damage and won't last long.
There are two enemies to really watch out for in the sewers: worms and mushrooms. The worms won't be easily staggered, and so you must be ready to roll through them after one or two attacks, depending on your weapon. The worms will also leap across platforms to get at you, so don't feel too safe with a pit between you two. Once a worm dies, it will drop five grenades. Simply roll out of the way and you'll be fine.
The Mushroom is a stationary creature, but a far reaching one. Chances are it'll see you before you see it. You'll know one is near when you can see this kind of red-pink electricity spread across the ground beneath you. Move quickly, because in a couple seconds spikes will shoot up out of the ground. Like the dummy, this spell has a traceable path to its source. The mushroom only has that spell to defend itself with, so once you get in there, feel free to wail on it.
In the sewers is also another rune-holding elite. This guy is tricky. He likes to teleport to you if you run away to heal, so be careful. He has two big swings, and a third that causes a ground wave. Like other elites, he also summons minions and his abilities change as he loses health. Only attack him after his third swing. If you attack after the first or second, even if you're behind him, he will hit you for a lot of damage. Feel free to abuse skills to make it easier. After he dies, you get the teleport rune, but for now let's focus on your first boss.
Boss: The Incomplete One
The boss is in his own level, so you'll be going in with full health and potions. You'll need them. The Incomplete One (TIO) is a golem that is slow moving, but has some distance closing attacks. Like other enemies, he is susceptible to skill abuse, like the bear trap. His attacks start off basic, with slashing and punches. Just roll through him to avoid them. After certain thresholds of damage are taken, he will gain a temporary invulnerability shield or a damage dealing shield. When either is active, stay away. He also has a swipe attack that will cause a ground attack to send out from him and across the whole stage, so be ready to jump.
He'll eventually learn his leaping attack. Rather than lumber over to you, he will leap across the stage to hit you, so be ready with a roll because the attack hits very hard. As he goes through his little phases, he will get faster and faster, so don't rest easy if the first half was a cake walk for you. After you defeat him, you'll get a shower of gold and cells, and the pathway to the next area.
Hopefully these tips will help you in your first few hours of Dead Cells. Keep at it, and eventually you'll have mastery of the controls, and can move through them fast enough to reach those timed-locked doors you might have seen in some levels. Don't neglect killing enemies too much, though, even if they do become so weak you turn them into a red mist after one hit. Enemies, no matter who they are, have a chance to drop cells, and those cells are your ticket to having a stronger hero.