Dead Cells – a combination of rogue-lite and Metroidvania, remotely resembling a source of inspiration – Castlevania. There are plenty of ledges, where you can’t jump for the time being, and there are plenty of closed doors in the game. As in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, we are given only one “life”. We’ll have to start from scratch, gradually fouling with teeth. Fans of the project were not in vain languishing in anticipation of the full release.
There is no plot in Dead Cells, only snippets from the work of George R. R. Martin (one of the bosses is called The Hand of the King) with very stupid and inappropriate violations of the “fourth wall”. When the main character drops something in the spirit: “Well, how will I upgrade my crossbow on a grindstone? What a curve game design!” it violates immersion, immersion in the atmosphere and world of the game, and testifies not so much to the advancement and irony of the authors as to the complete absence of text editing.
Actually, there is not even the main character here – only the player’s alter ego in baggy pants and a red tunic. Elements of the platformer and metroidvania proper are so rare here that they do not deserve mention at all.
The world of Dead Cells is mysterious and extremely inhospitable. Only a few things are clear from the environment. Firstly, we are in a castle on some isolated island. Secondly, our protagonist is one of the prisoners in the dungeon. Thirdly, our protagonist is a headless prisoner. We play for a lump of mucus, which somehow subjugates a dead body. Why is the mortal body idle?
Without much thought, we set off forcing our way to freedom. It is likely that in five to ten minutes you will again find yourself in the cell, looking for another body. Monsters roaming the dark halls do not know pity. Of course, Dead Cells are not Dark Souls, and in terms of combat mechanics, the game is very far from the creation of From Software. If only because there is no endurance strip here – swing the saber without a break even before the second coming. If you can control the surrounding enemies.
The visual component is undoubtedly a strong aspect of the Dead Cells. Pixel art with pre-processed animation of three-dimensional models by a pixel shader looks pretty attractive. Moreover, together with the musical accompaniment that emphasizes the specific locale, which was specially written for this platformer by Joanne Laulan, they create a gloomy, but alluring atmosphere. Each location, whether it is the bowels of the prison or the Clock Tower, has a unique visual and audio style, which also contributes to replayability.
Opponents at each level also almost never repeat, with some exceptions. Naturally, they differ not only in appearance, animation and sounds, but also in their behavior and unique types of attacks. Say, the Grenade launcher is powerless in close combat and only jumps away from the character, for that he can see and throw grenades through the walls. In addition, the Dark Intelligence is able to attack only in close combat, but at the same time he knows how to teleport to the Prisoner behind his back. In total, there are about forty species of enemies in Dead Cells, and almost each of them has its own more powerful – elite version. In addition, most often they are not limited to increased damage or attack speed, but fundamentally change the tactics of battle. For example, hitting the arrows of a Private Revived Archer can be avoided by squatting. Whereas with the elite Archer Revived, this will not work, because it fires simultaneously two arrows, one of which flies lower than usual. Elite creatures are quite rare, but some valuable loot is guaranteed to drop out of them.
At the beginning, the character in his hands has only an ordinary sword, and a bow and shield lie two steps from it. You can take only two types of weapons with you, and you will win in any case. Just a bow will allow you to shoot at opponents from afar, and the shield absorbs part of the damage, but can also be used for counterattack. Over time, the player will find whips that ignore enemy shields, as well as Spartan sandals (allow kicking) and much more. If in the early stages of development there were problems with balance, then now you can achieve success with almost any equipment.
There are two slots for additional weapons – these are special items with “cooldowns” after their use. You also begin to stumble upon them quite early, unlocking more and more options as you progress. This can be traps, forcing the enemy to stand still for several seconds, or a path from circular saws. There are also various kinds of grenades – one explodes and covers the earth and enemies with oil, the other freezes enemies, the third calls for small biting worms. You can throw daggers in different directions, causing your opponents to bleed.
There are many options in Dead Cells, and later you will thoroughly test everything and decide what to run with the most comfort. Although it is far from a fact that all the necessary weapons can be found during the trip, all the same, after death, the entire inventory is taken. Yes, and at first not too many things were unlocked – in order to gain access to new items, it is necessary to collect blueprints that are either well hidden or drop out of opponents and “bosses”.
Dead Cells at the same time rewards both for thoughtful exploration of each corridor, and for fast running around from one location to another. You can methodically destroy every enemy, admiring the magnificent animation, which varies depending on the weapon. Elegantly dodge attacks, reacting in time to exclamation marks over the heads of opponents and using the roll. To study the characteristics of opponents, understanding their weaknesses, and use the environment to defeat them – to lure the whole crowd to one point, throwing bombs, or to hit the ground when falling from the upper platform. Or you can quickly move to the exit using the same roll – then in the next zone you will be able to open the door with treasures, which closes a couple of minutes after the start.
Much in Dead Cells seems thought out to the smallest details and brought almost to perfection. The controls are very responsive, and the combat system is strikingly beautiful – the enemies respond to attacks and fall into spectacularly “pixels” while the protagonist masterfully dodges attacks, actively uses additional weapons and waves his sword or daggers. The runes, gradually received by the character, give him access to new rooms and corridors – first you learn to grow a vine in certain places, using it as a ladder, and then you begin to teleport from one tomb to another and bounce off the walls. In addition, procedural generation does not spoil anything – you can always shorten the path with these features or get to the secret.
Pros: Dead Cells – a successful mix of genres; spectacular and dynamic combat system; a wide variety of enemies and weapons; great style that makes the game unlike other “pixel” projects; understandable progress system with useful improvements; excellent location design, despite the procedural generation; nice soundtrack.
Cons: if the weapon unlocked with the help of the drawings was not pleasant, it will not be possible to get rid of it forever; lack of significant innovation.
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