DEAD CELLS

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Stephen Ashby

PUB­LISHER MO­TION TWIN / DE­VEL­OPER MO­TION TWIN / FOR­MAT XBOX ONE / RE­LEASE DATE 7 AU­GUST 2018

I don’t know what it is that makes Dead Cells so fun. It might be the crazily tight com­bat. It could be the smart level design. Per­haps it’s just the fact I want to kick the Hand Of The King’s ass into next week a few more times. What­ever it is, it’s made me sink 60 hours into the game in just over a month.

For some sprawl­ing, triple-A ti­tles – games like AC: Odyssey and Red Dead Redemp­tion II – you could un­der­stand it. But Dead Cells is a rogue-lite, 2D side-scrolling plat­former with a set num­ber of ar­eas and a fi­nal boss. If you die, you go back to the start with a lit­tle more knowl­edge, a cou­ple of ex­tra weapons in your ar­se­nal, and you be­gin from scratch again. So why am I not bored yet?

It all comes down to the pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated lev­els that mean you can follow the same path through the game and ex­pe­ri­ence new lev­els ev­ery time. It’s hard to get your head around un­til you play it, but the team at Mo­tion Twin has built a sys­tem that makes ev­ery playthroug­h fresh, and con­stantly chal­leng­ing.

“It’s a very unique way to cre­ate a game world be­cause we mostly cre­ate hand­crafted con­tent for the global per­spec­tive – by shap­ing the level lay­out – then we leave it to the ran­dom gen­er­a­tor,” ex­plains Se­bastien Bérnard, game de­signer at Mo­tion Twin. “Then we again cre­ate hand­crafted con­tent for the very low-level – ie the ac­tual room level de­signs.”

Build­ing blocks

It means that, while you might see fa­mil­iar land­marks, or recog­nise a room, it will be sur­rounded by plat­forms, doors and item drops in an or­der you’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced. You can’t learn the per­fect route through the game, or take the easy path. You’ve just got to git gud. That’s why I’ve been play­ing for 60 hours. I’m get­ting bet­ter, but I’m still nowhere near good enough. Sure, I’ve beaten the Hand Of The King a few times on the eas­i­est mode, but once you beat him once, you can push the dif­fi­culty up a notch. On ‘Hard’ I’ve reached the Hand maybe four times, and he’s em­bar­rassed me ev­ery time. I’ve got four more dif­fi­culty lev­els to mas­ter be­fore the game is ‘com­plete’. Bug­ger. Thank­fully, the weapons also keep things fresh. As you progress you’ll dis­cover blue­prints for new melee and long-range weapons, as well as abil­i­ties and throw­ables like gre­nades. Later lev­els hold more pow­er­ful weapons, so you’ll need to think tac­ti­cally about when to switch and what to keep. Find­ing a pow­er­ful combo feels awe­some, and ev­ery now and then I get a load­out that I know will take me to the fi­nal boss. And then I die be­cause I for­get to take a health po­tion and a bomb-chuck­ing ass­hole lit­er­ally blows my head off.

The best part is that, even af­ter 60 hours, there are whole ar­eas I’m yet to dis­cover. I’m cur­rently fight­ing my way to­wards the Cav­ern, a new area added as part of the free DLC a few months ago. On my way there I’ll need to pass through the Grave­yard, which I’m sure will be full of pretty flow­ers, a cou­ple of friendly groundskee­p­ers and the oc­ca­sional som­bre rel­a­tive. Along the way I’ve spot­ted at least three doors or ar­eas I can’t access yet, be­cause I haven’t beaten the Hand enough times, or I just don’t know how to reach them. And I’ve barely even at­tempted to explore all the chal­lenges on of­fer. Ac­tu­ally, I bet­ter get back to it…

“You can’t learn the per­fect route through the game, or take the easy path. You’ve just got to git gud”

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