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Dead Cells Preview

Roguevania type of game? I think not. You should really find a way to name future games of this genre after Dead Cells as it has the potential to set the standard for these types of games for the foreseeable future. Read on to find out how.

Dead Cells Preview

INTRODUCTION

In recent years we see a constant rise of 2D sidescrollers. Indie developers often take advantage of start-up and financing platforms such as Steam early access program and likes of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding methods to bring their ideas to life. And going for 2D is understandable, it's cheaper, the games are easier to make and a good story can still be told through them. 
But in a sea of all kinds of sidescrollers, roguelikes, and Metroidvania type games, it's getting more and more difficult to stand out from the crowd and devs have to be extra creative to make their games a bit more unique than the competition. Dead Cells is a game that manages to do just that, and more. It takes full advantage of Steam early access and leaves an impression of a high degree of polish and completion, even at this stage of development.

Dead Cells is available for purchase on KeenShop for $24,20.

STORY & GAMEPLAY

There isn't a lot of story present in Dead Cells as of right now. You spawn as a wiggly mass of green goo and crawl into a suit of armor that comes alive. Your silent protagonist then navigates a series of levels composed of various dungeons, castles and the like, meeting only a two or three friendly characters that serve only as merchants or upgrade your skills. 

Dead Cells Preview Combat
On the gameplay side of things, Dead Cells is a hybrid of sorts. It is not a pure rogue game, nor is it a full Metroidvania game. Even the procedural generation is a hybrid system of sorts where chunks of levels are mixed and mashed together with a randomized layout of enemies, bosses, merchants and other points of interest. You have free reign of a certain level to go where you please, limited only by the required skills that you will probably acquire later in the game. Teleporters scattered around the level helps reduce the tedious backtracking and in keeping the momentum of the game going. The general goal is to reach the level's end and at this point, the game is mostly an endurance affair. Your goal is to go as far as you can, each time getting a bit stronger, be it in terms of newly acquired skills and weapons, or your own ability to play the game.

Death is only the beginning, cliched I know, but it truly is in Dead Cells. Much like Dark Souls, death is only the pathway to trying again. And trying again has never been more fun or addicting. This is mainly because of how tight and responsive the controls are. They make the game easy to pick up and play with an easy to use and tough to master type of deals with dodges, rolls and jumping being the cornerstone of what makes the movement so fluid which also translates to combat.

Dead Cells Preview Powaah
The more you play, the better you get and that's it. It's not all controls however, the gameplay features a bunch of weapons and abilities that complement your skill as a player. I say complement because you can, if you are skilled enough be just as effective with the starter sword and bow, provided you upgrade their damage for later levels. It's more fun, however, to switch it up a bit to find what suits the situation or your playstyle.

Swords, whips, bows, shields, turrets, traps, grenades and other can also be imbued with various elements such as fire, ice or electricity, and different enemies are often weaker to some of them. Learning the intricacies of enemy movement, attack patterns and abilities is what makes experimentation fun and although enemy variety is a bit lacking, they are made to perfectly fit the entire combat system.

Dead Cells Preview Unlockables
Going back to the death being an organic part of the game – every weapon or skill you upgrade or buy at your local merchant using cells and coins you get from enemies remain upgraded even when you start again. You don't have the said skill or weapon from the get-go, but once you get it, all the upgrades from a previous playthrough remain. The game is meant to be replayed and procedurally generated levels keep them from getting stale and prevent memorizing the layout to keep you on your toes.

VISUALS AND AUDIO

Despite the limits of side scrolling games, they have, as I mentioned had some great examples of rich, beautiful and creative ways to attract attention using visuals. Sometimes it's playing with light and shadow or beautiful usage of pixel art, hand-drawn graphics and other. Dead Cells brings a unique blend of 3D-ish pixel art from a sidescrolling perspective. The level design is well thought out, not just from a layout perspective, but also from a purely visual one. The beautiful backgrounds are supplemented with detailed foreground and a bunch of nice effects for good measure. Everything is clearly distinguishable and you will never make a mistake or lose your way because what you thought was a wall, was actually a piece of the background. 

Dead Cells Preview Beautiful
Visual effects and sound play a big part in how satisfying combat and movement are. Even something simple as breaking through a door feels impactful and very satisfying both from a visual standpoint with the screen shaking and debris flying, and from an audio standpoint with a forceful sounding thud. Enemies also react to your every hit, being pushed back and breaking apart into a bloody mess. There's some sort of awesome visual-auditory feedback from combat and just about everything else you do and it makes the gameplay insanely satisfying.

CONCLUSION

Dead Cells is in early access, but I personally had more fun with it than with some full-blown AAA games. Steam audience is very positive about the game and only 2-3% of players gave a negative feedback. If you aren't convinced that you should play this game with my review, surely this is a testament to how great it is. The features that are in the game right now synergize with one another perfectly and are extremely polished. Had this been a full review of a finished product, I would have to be real nitpicky to list some cons as Dead Cells is a hit in the making and I sincerely recommend you try it out.

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