The roguelike genre is absolutely booming with talent from independent studios. And about once or twice every year a new roguelike will come along to sweep away the rest of its competition. This year that game is Dead Cells, a fast and smooth action / platformer that is as elegant to control as it is beautiful to look at.
Dead Cells has been kicking around Steam Early Access for about a year now with steady updates helping to really bring the game to life. On August 7th the game will finally fully release across multiple platforms as it exits its Early Access phase. Typically I’d be the kind of gamer who would wait for a full release before jumping in and checking out what the game has to offer. But amongst all of the praise the game had received over the last year I found myself swept up in the hype and unable to sit patiently – I’m glad I didn’t wait.
Dead Cells plays fantastically. It’s a challenging game although any fault is always your own with the game giving you all the tools you need to survive as you progress. Opening areas are considerably easier than later levels although as you play you’ll pick up better weaponry and equipment and buff yourself up in 1 of 3 different fields. The Survival, Brutality, and Tactics trichotomy is an interesting one and it benefits the player to specialise in one of the 3 different fields. Early on I saw this as an issue because it meant I was pigeon holing myself into one playstyle and hoping for the gear I needed to support that setup. Although the more I played the more I realised that there was still a huge variety to your choices with multiple specialities even being a possibility.
The game’s design is just so clever. I still find myself preferring particular setups although experimentation always leads to surprisingly effective results. Some slight balancing will undoubtedly take place before release and probably continued after release as sneaky players continue to discover the more powerful combinations. Although this is just standard for the genre.
Where the game impresses me the most is in its smooth and controllable movement and combat. The animation quality to this game is unbelievable for a smaller studio which helps to elevate it above the rest. Add to this a beautiful and unique art style and you’re left with a genuine visual delight every time you boot it up.
Dead Cells is a roguelike game which means any death brings you right back to the beginning where your journey will start again. The game is tough so you’re likely to die a lot before ever coming close to finishing the final fight. Dead Cells understands this about the genre and embraces it, building it into its core design philosophy. You may die and restart the game from the beginning but rarely do you ever waste your time. This is because as you play you’re unlocking blueprints and obtaining new gear that becomes usable in a future run. This type of light progression really helps to keep you motivated and playing.
I view Dead Cells as a must play title. There’s a reason that the game already has so many people buzzing before it has even officially released. With a huge amount of variety and a surprising amount of depth the game is likely to hold your attention for tens if not hundreds of hours. That is assuming the difficulty of the game doesn’t finally get too frustrating.
The game will be available digitally and even physically on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One on August 7th.