Dead Cells - Metroidvania Roguelite in Early Access


It was in early access for a while so the excitement was distributed over time.

It was the RPS game of the year back in 2017.


How is there not more talking about this game? Best time I’ve had with anything in forever. Absolute genius, and I haven’t even sniffed the second boss yet.

Seconded. I came back to Dead Cells after checking it out in early access, and it is so incredibly good right now. I feel like it really raises the bar in the whole “Metroidvania” genre. Or at least it does for me. Really the only possible complaint I can make about the game right now is that the bonus scrolls you get for speed-running encourages you to just roll right past most of the combat rather than actually engaging in it. Other than that the thing is delightful. I literally can’t play any more since my thumb is out of shape, and hitting the space bar so much has caused some irritation around the thumb-nail. I’m looking forward to trying again in a few days once I have some callouses.


It isn’t that hard, once you play a few times against each enemy, and unlock several health potions. And in addition there are some weapons like turrets or bows that allow you to play more safely, without needing extreme reflexes in melee. And if you play on pc, you can use my mod to make it easier.

It’s notably easier than say, Enter the Gungeon.


The game is great. Perhaps the key for me is how they have done in a single game something that is usually mutually exclusive: great combat (both in pure raw feeling and in smooth, smart gameplay) and great variety of weapons and items. Usually if you put several dozens weapons in a game, they are going to be samey and only be different in stats, and/or they aren’t going to feel as good as a game that instead focuses on just a handful of weapons.
Not here, you are a badass with sword, lance, dagger, whip, fists, bow, etc. Even the ranged weapons are great thanks a a chunky sound design, it’s almost an old school id game in how everything sounds (and in reality, it has a xbow-shotgun, a xbow-machinegun and a xbow-grenade laucher, all great to use).
That’s the feeling, they are also superb in gameplay, in how each not only has different stats, but also different animation sets and different mechanics. From a bow that does crits if you release the arrow at the appropriate timing, to daggers that do more damage from behind, to magic that has to be channeled, to a weapon that crits if you interrupt an enemy attack, to a lance that does extra damage if you hit 2 enemies or more, or spartan sandals that gib enemies if you kick them against a wall.

You know what, it isn’t only other roguelites the ones which should borrow from Dead Cells, it’s other entire genres like Action RPGs. I would disappointed in the next Diablo if Blizzard don’t copy it and make every weapon has a gimmick, and instead it again is just slow weapon vs fast weapon, or melee weapon vs ranged weapon.


I suck at this game, having yet to beat the first (!) boss.

But I have played this for 10 hours so far and looking forward to spending more time with it. The hardest part is figuring out what the enemies do and fighting the elite enemies (worth it) and the boss(es). I got really close to killing the first boss on my last run, so I have no doubt I’ll beat him next time. It helps that the levels reconfigure themselves every time you play, that there’s some solid humour in here, loads of different weapons and gear, and so on. No two runs are ever the same.

The game gives so many tools to handle the enemies, you’re bound to find something that works for you. (For me, right now: turrets and freeze grenades all the way!)


I’ve only played a little, but my impression is that this is absolutely true. The main reason for this is that in Dead Cells you can make significant progress without killing bosses. In Gungeon, you can not (hell, you get basically nothing for the first boss after the first time, which is why I stopped playing). So with Dead Cells, even if you aren’t getting very far on a particular run, you can be working on unlocking more health potions, retaining gold for your next run, better starting weapons, etc.

And yes, there are weapons (like the slicers) that can do a ton of damage without needing to be in melee range, and you can build around them.


Yeah, Dead Cells is difficult, but in a completely different and much more enjoyable way to me than something like Hollow Knight. And also agreed that it’s easier than Gungeon


I was ignoring it in early access. I’m sure I’ll pick it up sometime after I’m back with my home computer. People here have really put on my radar.


I don’t think difficult is quite the word for Dead Cells. Except for the final boss it’s really only as tough as you choose to make it. So for example right now I’m alternating between survivability-based builds (with a core of Wolf Trap + Crusher). I can make that work only if I find a broadsword, or if the first boss drops a melee weapon. And even then it’s kind of tough going, the best I’ve done with that build is dying in the Sepulcher.

And then every other time I do a brutality build around the grenade cooldown reduction, and either 2x fire or fire+ice grenades. Doesn’t really matter what’s in the weapon slots, since the grenades combined one-shot everything but bosses, do AOE damage, and can be used again almost instantly. Last time during High Peak Castle none of the three elites got even a hit on me. It was basically just waltz into the room, lob the grenades roll a couple of times, lob the grenades again.


Damn the final boss is hard, the closer I got to kill him was him at 25% hp. After near 90 runs, that’s it.

But that’s ok, what I hate of getting stuck on hard games is thinking how I’m missing some content of the game I can’t experience because of the difficulty, but it’s not the case if I’m stuck on the last boss, the only thing I’m missing is a cutscene and the credits.


I was in a rush to reach a stopping point for Dead Cells so I “cheated” by reading a Steam guide that analyzed his various attacks. It helped me learn the patterns without having to do a 30 minute run to get there first. That was the only other thing that bothered me about the game structure, along with taking so long to unlock all the health potions.

As you can imagine, I’m pretty impatient when it comes to games.


After about that many runs, I finally beat the final boss yesterday. For me the build that worked was Brutality + damage mitigation. I had a shield I never used with -40% damage, 2 items I never used with -20% damage, and an amulet with -10% damage. I’m not sure exactly how those stack (if the mods just add up directly, it seems like you could have a build with 100% damage reduction?), but the practical effect was to let me survive long enough to whittle down the boss. An unexpected benefit of the build is that reducing damage also reduces how long you are stunned by enemy hits. So rather than being stun-locked and bounced around by large HP losses, you can react almost instantly after a hit and avoid further HP loss or being pushed into a spike pit or whatever. Ok, now for new game plus mode!


Dead Cells is very similar to Spelunky in my mind – tough but fair, skill matters the most, and those are the only two modern games I’d really like to have as an arcade cabinet. Oh, and I absolutely suck at both of them.


The damage reduction from item levels stacks additively up to a cap of 75%. Reduction from other sources (e.g. blocking with a shield) stacks multiplicatively with no cap.


I played several runs last night. I don’t feel like it is hard or punishing. I actually feel more like, “yep, that was on me, I should done blah blah,” each time I die. And each time you make at least some meta progress. The combat variety and tactics from weapons, monsters, and random map setup really add to the experience. It feels fresh with each restart as I try to work with what I find. Even if I have favorites, Dead Cells has a sort of Diablo style inventory/ loot modifiers so finding the same item is not necessarily the same. Above all that, I feel like I am learning and progressing as a player rather than just hitting a wall like an old school quarter eating game.

It is kind of a selling gimmick now so I hesitate to say it, but it feels like Demons’ Souls (or Dark Souls if that was your first Souls) to me. And by that I mean the way I felt when I first played that game and didn’t know all the systems. I find myself both tip toeing around to puzzle out encounters, but then also fully enthralled in the rhythm of combat. But unlike a souls game, you get to rebuild your build each death based off of random or unlocked finds. It’s kind of addicting.

In fact, another really over played statement is “one more game”. I really don’t experience that kind of feeling anymore. But… I was just setting up the Switch in my hotel room last night. I was actually into a movie, but during a commercial I switched over to try out my headphone setup (pro tip, PS gold headset for Switch travel is the bomb). Much to my surprise, I chained “one more run” (8 to 20 minutes at my current skill) over and over until well past the end of my movie.

Basically, Dead Cells is a darn solid game.


I did my first run with a Tactics build, and immediately got a win after failing half a dozen times with brutality.

Now, it was a pretty lucky run equipment-wise; got a legendary Whip, which took care of the melee weapon weakness of Tactics. Got a legendary shield which I pretty much never used but it was still a passive -30% damage. And to cap it off I found a legendary Knife Storm when my intended build from the start had been to go with dual Knife Storms. Going from a IV++ to V-L just before the final boss was really not something I’d been counting on.

Anyway, those Knife Storms were just melting the Hand of King, so winning was easy even though I got pushed to the spike pits like half a dozen times.

(Now, there’s supposed to be difficulty levels unlocked after winning on each previous difficulty, but I really couldn’t figure out where that’s done.)


It’s the long horizontal tube in the spawn room in the middle of all the jars with your unlocks.


I see that, but there’s no kind of interaction prompt.


I got to the 2nd level in Spelunky a few times. And once or twice I even got to the third level. I usually died on the first 1st level 90 percent of the time though.

From the sounds of it, Dead Cells doesn’t sound nearly as hard though, since you get weapons.


I find this much more approachable than Spelunky.