Dead Cells First Impressions: Roguevania Finds it Genre-Defining Game

Dead Cells is the latest title to take Steam by storm. Developed by indie studio Motion Twin, the game plays as a rogue-like Metroidvania; some call it a roguevania. To start these impressions, I just want to get it out really quickly and say that Dead Cells might be one of the most fun, addictive, and well-crafted game in its genre.

That’s saying a lot as there a literally hundreds of games similar to Dead Cells, however, the way Motion Twin developed this game is exceptional. The pixelated graphic art style is just down right gorgeous. The way the game looks retro but feels like a modern game is truly spectacular. I personally love when a game nails that aspect on the head. Retro games a cool, they usually have pixelated graphics, strong gameplay, and a catchy soundtrack, but sometimes the ‘said’ retro games just feel dated.

That is when these new modern retro-styled games come really into play as it fills that urge to play something retro but at the same time something new. The animations are smooth and sleek. Acquiring new weapons, powerups, or abilities always look stunning.

Now enough about the aesthetics, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the game and that’s its gameplay. Dead Cells offer players a very simplistic fighting mechanic; playing with a controller players will acquire weapons like dual-wielded swords, long blades, and even electric whips and are just required to hit the X button. Mashing the button while dodging other enemies and killing foes in your way might seem easy at first, but Motion Twin makes sure that comes to a halting stop shortly after the first couple of stages.

The map is constructed by using semi-procedurally generated levels. They will always look slightly different, but the main base of the level will stay somewhat the same. Having this implemented not only keeps players on their toes, but it always keeps players engaged. There will be plenty of time when you get about 20-30 minutes into a playthrough only to die and restart, but restarting from the beginning won’t be so terrible due to the arrangements of the levels will always changing.

This is also a good time to mention that while scouring throughout different stages of the game, players will not only come across various amounts of enemies but also something called Elites. These Elite enemies usually have a powerup that will help you in the long run. Have it be a new mechanic, weapon, or power up these Elites will serve purposefully if encountered.

The best part about the Elite is that once you acquire whatever the Elite has, it will be a permanent unlock for the rest of the game. So coming across Elites will most definitely be a key factor in your playthrough.

Dead Cells has this unique feel to it. Not only because the gameplay is so addictive, but perhaps because the game keeps players intrigued and engaged the further they progress. While playing Dead Cells I would get about 20-25 minutes deep then die. However, I always managed to get to the next stage, keeping me intrigued to get to it again and see the level design and its unique enemies. I felt that with each run I would get better, learning the way specific enemies fight, somewhat of a general outline of the level, and getting naturally better at the game’s combat.

This feeling is not in every game, perhaps the last time I felt this way was back with Bloodborne or Dark Souls 3. It’s funny to compare the game to a FromSoftware title, but it has a lot more similarities that you think. Gameplay is phenomenal, enemies have unique attacks, and repetition on harder bosses shows you that anything is possible once you start playing more of the game.

Motion Twin has done an amazing job on Dead Cells. After playing about 8 hours of the game, I simply can’t find a strong enough negative to mention. If you want some good action gameplay, styled with modernized retro graphics then Dead Cells is for you. Simply, Dead Cells is for anyone who appreciates a well-crafted, fully thought out games, I suggest picking up the Dead Cells right now.