Dead Cells

PC, PS4, XO, SWITCH | FROM $30.95 | DEAD-CELLS.COM Dy­ing re­ally is an aw­fully big ad­ven­ture after all.

APC Australia - - Downtime » Games -

You might think, not un­rea­son­ably, that a game which be­gins with your char­ac­ter al­ready dead ­— de­cap­i­tated, a con­demned pris­oner way past the point of ap­peal — might be ex­traor­di­nar­ily short. Yet each death, in­clud­ing the first, is a new be­gin­ning. You must com­plete the en­tire ad­ven­ture in one sit­ting, with no ex­tra lives or con­tin­ues. It’s a fa­mil­iar con­cept, one that’s never been ex­e­cuted so well.

A self-de­scribed roguelite, each stage’s lay­out is ran­domly gen­er­ated ev­ery time you play. The phrase ‘no two runs are ever the same’ may feel tired in 2018, but it’s worth re­peat­ing here. Ev­ery stage is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent ev­ery time. The rea­son this is im­pres­sive in Dead Cells is that the tem­plate of a tra­di­tional 2D plat­former is used, com­plete with locks, keys, lad­ders, and more, and each lay­out feels hand­crafted. There’s the oc­ca­sional dead end, but this is for­giv­able.

Any comparison to Dark Souls is ex­tremely mis­lead­ing. This is an ac­tion plat­former with fast-paced com­bat, where noth­ing can one- or two-shot you if you’re at max­i­mum health. In­deed, the longer you sur­vive, the longer your to­tal health bar will grow (for that run). You’ll oc­ca­sion­ally come across scrolls which si­mul­ta­ne­ously buff your health bar and the dam­age dealt by colour-coded weapons. This is where the first el­e­ment of long-game tac­tics comes in. For ex­am­ple, do you select the scroll that of­fers a 60% health bar in­crease, yet pow­ers up green weapons (of which you cur­rently have none), or the red one that of­fers less health, but buffs your sword by 15%?

Along­side your dodge roll you can carry two pri­mary weapons (choose from sword, bow, shield), and two cooldown-re­liant sup­port weapons. A shield al­lows you to parry with gen­er­ous tim­ing, open­ing up a whole new can of worms. A bow helps keep foes at a dis­tance, while a melee weapon al­lows you to deal dam­age with­out wor­ry­ing about ammo. It’s the distri­bu­tion of all th­ese items that helps make the ex­pe­ri­ence so com­pelling.

Need­less to say, luck plays a large part in which weapons you come across, and which ef­fects those weapons carry, in any run. But by col­lect­ing and spend­ing blue­prints and Cells from en­e­mies, you’ll slowly but surely un­lock per­ma­nent twists. A healthrestor­ing po­tion, new weapons, the abil­ity to start with a ran­dom weapon from your un­locked pool… th­ese are small but im­por­tant ad­di­tions that help keep things fresh.

It says much that the first time I get as far as de­feat­ing two bosses and five stages be­fore dy­ing, my in­stant re­ac­tion is not frus­tra­tion, but to dive back in with re­newed de­ter­mi­na­tion and con­fi­dence. You’ll keep see­ing the same hand­ful of biomes, yet it never gets old. Chances are, this game will never be dead to you.

Luke Kemp

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