Finally, Dead Cells is out of early access (where I don’t touch things), and even better, it’s available on the handy roguelike-friendly Switch. Can it possibly live up to all the hype of supposedly being one of the greatest roguelike/Soulsvania games ever created? Wellllll…no, of course it can’t.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly fun game. It has well-designed pixel art, an enjoyable combat system with a ton of options in terms of weapons, and a decent amount of content for what it is. I enjoyed the majority of my 20-something hours with the game and was interested enough to seek out every rune and conquer every optional area hidden away in the convoluted branching structure. I mostly liked it and would still recommend it to people who like such games, but it’s more of a one and done than one of those games that you’ll beat over and over and over again to futilely try to unlock everything, at least not for me.
The first few times you visit each area, it’s quite fun exploring and getting used to the different types of attacks each enemy throws at you, but it starts to lose something after the dozenth or so time when there’s very little change in the game each time you play it. The level layout changes slightly, but still sticks to the same basic overall pattern each time, filled with the exact same enemy types every single time. There are also only four bosses in the whole game, one of which is optional. The only thing that really changes is what weapons you find in the beginning, but even that doesn’t last long when you can quickly find all the shops and drops you need to re-gear yourself in a more appropriate manner.
Again, still a fun game, but it’s almost entirely lacking in the variety of randomization and its boss pool and that makes me kind of wonder why they even bothered with the roguelike elements at all. I feel like this might have been better if they had just taken all the existing levels and put them in order, give you beginning of level checkpoints or save rooms or something, then thrown in some more bosses along the way, and it would have been an incredibly effective Soulsvania.
As it is now though, I started off having a ton of fun for the first ten hours or so, then my excitement started dwindling as I kept having to play through nearly the exact same levels over and over again just to keep getting back to the most current level that I was stuck on until I learned the patterns and inched my way forward again. I’d keep scouring each area for all the blueprints I could find, hoping to get something powerful that would help me out a little, but for all the weapon variety there was, it seemed like a good portion of the gear I’d end up finding wasn’t all that good or useful.
After hour fifteen or so I had done just about everything there was to do except beat the final boss, but I was beginning to lose interest because playing through the same entire game again and again just to get to that one fight who just slaughters me in 30 seconds really starts wearing me down. Part of me kind of wanted to give up at this point, but I’m too damn stubborn to quit so I looked up some strategies and ended up killing the final cheap bastard by being an ultimate cheap bastard with two status effect inducing ranged weapons, dual turrets, and a lot of running away.
And what do you win for all that trouble? The ability to play the game all over again, except everyone’s now harder. Uh, no thanks. Once was plenty. I love me a good Dark Souls game, but I never understood those “I’m on my 12th consecutive new game+!” people.
I don’t know, I’m probably not making it sound like such a good game at all with all this complaining, but it is what it is. It’s a fun game, but it’s also a flawed one, and in my opinion it can’t stand with the big boys like Binding of Isaac, Risk of Rain, or Hollow Knight. Overall I think I’d place it somewhere below Sundered and above Rogue Legacy.