Dead Cells is roguelike game wherein the player takes control of a cell-like entity in a body of armour to dodge, dive, dip, duck and dodge their way through a myriad of maze-like dungeons, all the while slashing their way through various enemies that will attempt to eat, stab and cast spells on the player. It’ll remind you of early Metroid games, with a modern rogue-inspired twist.
During your adventure through the dungeons, the player will be collecting a few resources: gold, cells, blueprints. Gold is used during the levels to buy weapons, spells and stat increases. Cells are used at the end of each dungeon to permanently upgrade or unlock new weapons and spells. And the blueprints enable the player to unlock these new weapons and powers once they reach the end of a level also.
This is all presented in a pixelated art style, with a soundtrack to match. It’s an independently developed and published game, brought to the world by the studio Motion Twin. And we’re going to check it out, and give you our thoughts. This is MGN’s Impressions of Dead Cells.
Our MGN Impressions have evolved, and today we’re going to dissect Dead Cells from a variety of angles, we’ll give each angle a score from ten, and then give you our final verdict. We’re going to score Dead Cells on:
- Difficulty – is the game challenging enough to maintain your interest, without being so difficult that it is inaccessible to players unfamiliar with the genre?
- Appearance – Dead Cells is presented with pixels, which is really in right now. Is it cashing in on a fad, or is the pixilation done well, and adding something to the game?
- Sound – Is there voice acting, how is it? Do the sound affects of the parkour, and hack & slashing hit the ear well? How is the soundtrack, is it worth listening to, or is it simply just there?
- Story – Some games similar forgo a story, and let the game-play carry the game in itself? Does Dead Cells fit into this, and is the gameplay good enough to carry?
- Fun – Is the game fun to play? That is whole point here, making some gameplay that is genuinely enjoyable, and making you want to play the game more.
- Price – Is the game priced at a point where you get value in proportion to how much you spend? Is there longevity of your currency?
0 being too easy/hard, 10 being just right.
Dead Cells takes a little adjusting to. You will need to time your defence abilities well, in order to maintain your health through a dungeon. Once you’ve gotten through the initial level and think you have a grasp on timing your defence abilities, like jumping, rolling, shields etc – then you’ll have to contend with the platforming aspects of the game.
The game jumps quickly from having a variety of enemies to learn, to the platforming aspects of the game, then quickly jumps back towards introducing new enemies again. This can be a little jarring for players unfamiliar with the genre, but as there really isn’t a penalty for death, and each run contributes to your overall progress, trial by fire isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Dead Cells.
If you’re getting punished for a lapse during a run, well it’s something that you learn from and take through to the next, so there’s not real harm there. You don’t lose a great deal, you’ll lose some cells between levels, but overall the game doesn’t feel overly punishing in the learning stages of the game. I’ll be honest, these games aren’t my forte, but I feel like Dead Cells hit the mark in being a good educator to it’s gameplay, without making me frustrating when I didn’t hit the mark
Difficulty – 8/10
0 being hideous and painful to look at, 10 being gorgeous.
I’m not sure the decision to make Dead Cells a pixelated game was made to cash in on the success of pixel games lately, or if this is how the studio always and genuinely wanted to make their game. And to be honest their dedication has made the point actually really irrelevant. Dead Cells is amazing to look at. It’s gorgeous.
Each action your character takes, each action the enemies and environment takes is precise and crafted in such a way that there is no visual clutter, is easy on the eyes, and doesn’t get lost in the fast paced nature of the game. Achieving this when there is so much happening on the screen at any one time? Achieving this with the level of variety in weapons and spells, enemies and environments?
It would have been a massive exercise, one that is vitally key in the success of the game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the studio could achieve it. But they have, they’d knocked it out of the park. Not only is the game easy to follow visually, but the sprites and backgrounds are beautifully done.
Appearance – 10/10
0 being an instant mute, 10 being add it to your playlist.
Another tick for Dead Cells. There are so many actions that can influence the player and induce a sound effect, with this, you’d imagine that sometimes they can all feel the same and get lost in one another. You’d be wrong, and honestly, so was I. I was genuinely surprised that an independent developer could achieve what the team behind Dead Cells has with their sound design and execution. Plus, the little voices characters put on when interacting with one another are pretty cute, pretty cool, and I like them.
That just leaves the soundtrack. You can listen to it yourself here. Simply, it is phenomenal. And I’m come to this conclusion for a few reasons. The first is that it matches the game perfectly. It makes the epic, dungeon-like, monster slashing adventure that is Dead Cells. It nails that. It’s deep and brooding where it needs to be, and it’s blood-pumping and epic where appropriate.
The second point about the Dead Cells OST is that it transcends the game itself. The soundtrack makes an amazing listen in the background of every day life, just as it does with the game. You can absolutely use it in the background whilst studying, or playing other games, for an epic audio experience.
0 being non-existent, 10 being extremely drawing.
Rogue games like this often fall into the crutch of not relying or making an effort into telling a compelling story. Hades changed all this, and raised the bar in terms of what players can expect in terms of a story-telling experience in this type of genre. Whilst Dead Cells predates that revolution, it is hard not to hold it up to the same standard when playing in 2021.
Yes, there is some lore and some context to your activity if you really go looking for it, or if you fill in some of the gaps yourself. But there really isn’t too much to go off, especially when first starting the game. You’re not really given any context as to why you should be doing all the things you’re doing. They’re enjoyable, but they’re largely without meaning.
I don’t mean that there needs to be some huge exposition dump at the beginning of the game, with over-the-top cutscenes and a Silmarillion’s worth of lore and explanation to your character and their environment, but I would like at least some. There needs to be a little text scroll, or some other form of exposition that extends beyond your character and the first NPC you encounter before your run.
Story – 4/10
0 being actively painful, 10 flawlessly fun gameplay.
Dead Cells achieves what every game in the history of gaming has tried to achieve, it is fun. It’s an absolute blast to play. If you strip away all the other amazing elements of the game, like the satisfying progressive system, the amazing soundtrack, strip away everything else except the platforming and combat and you will still be left with an incredibly fun game. But, as Dead Cells has all those other elements done expertly well, it’s ridiculous how good the game is to play.
You can sit down for 20 minutes and have an absolute blast. You can sit down for 2 hours and have an absolute blast. The combat feels extremely responsive, the weapons and spells are all really cool and genuinely fun to use. You can play however you like. You like to be a sword and board gamer, go ahead. You want to be ranged, you want to rely on spells and powers. However you want to have fun, you’re given the option.
All of these feels super enjoyable, but on top of that you’re also making progress to the overall progression of the game. Each unique and fun dungeon run makes you more powerful than the last. It creates and extremely addictive paradigm, where you can’t wait to see what you’ll unlock and put together on the next run – for that I have nothing but praise to the developer.
0 being overpriced, 10 being an absolute bargain.
The progression in Dead Cells in made in such a way that you will for a very long time feel like that you’re getting something new out of each run. There are a lot of weapons to unlock and upgrade, and the same can be said with the abilities in the game. So, naturally that means that there is a lot to do. There is a lot of staying power, and this isn’t an indie game that you can experience in full in an afternoon.
That is a very good thing, because as I mentioned earlier, you’ll be having fun the entire time. So, the playtime that you get out the game is going to be quite good. How does that stack up against this price? Well, currently the game is $35.95 AUD on the Steam store and there are various packs that also include the DLC and Soundtrack. I’d suggest if you’re interested in Dead Cells to invest in the pack with the Soundtrack, because the sound team deserves all the love and support for what they’ve achieved.
So, where does that price stand up against how much enjoyment and time you’re going to get out of the game? Pretty good. Good, not great. I’d say somewhere in the middle. It’s a little on the expensive side for similar games in the genre, but it is of the highest quality, and not something you’ll regret purchasing.
Final Verdict – 8/10
That’s going to wrap things up for our MGN Impressions of Dead Cells, I hope you enjoyed our coverage and if you agree or disagree with any of the points we’ve made, we’d love to hear from you on our MGN.gg blog, and the YouTube channel. Be sure to keep any eye out on both for news, reviews, updates and all the things you love, on all the games you love.