Dead cells, a game where the protagonist smashes every door, is the latest Steam darling released on May 10. Although in its alpha stage the game looks complete with a polished combat system that is just plain old fun. The official release is slated for later this year, but anyone with some sort of Windows PC should play this immediately. Right now, it’s Steam only, but the developers have stated they would like it on all major consoles. It’s still early in the game’s life and many things will change, but I expect the fundamental aspects of Dead Cells to remain the same.
Aside from the exciting combat, there areas to explore and secrets to uncover. Motion Twin, the French developer, wrote recently in a blog post that the alpha is about 40-50 percent of the final product with more enemies, levels and weapons to be added in the coming months. As of now, the player can explore 11 levels and combat up to 20 enemies, including bugs, which I’ve experienced none of.
There is no sort of narrative in the game, instead opting to solely focus on gameplay, which I can’t get enough of. The loop is extremely addicting, kill monsters; and collect blueprints, weapons, blueprints and most importantly dead cells. Dead cells, the eponymous currency for unlocking new weapons and skills, are acquired by killing enemies. It might be a rogue-like game, but unlike the competition, every death toward something. Ending a level will require the player to spend their dead cells before moving on, but die mid-level will and all held dead cells will be lost.
After four hours I haven’t made it past the third stage but already I see a system emerging. This is a game that rewards experimentation, maybe you freeze an enemy with your bow and then throw a grenade, or maybe use a turret while hiding above. Staying with the same weapon can be comforting, but be too clingy and it’s certain death. I got backed into a corner because I had two range weapons and no melee, I died between a shield guy and that green mutant thing. Fuck those things. It can be a challenging game, but being patient and investing in the right skills can pay off immensely.
Because of its early stage there are some enemies that feel over-powered or weapons that may need some balancing. For example, the elite enemies, which are stronger and more aggressive than the originals, often spam the player with smaller enemies and powerful attacks that seemingly have no cooldown. The rewards dropped once a player manages to down one of these elites, at least in my case, have been far weaker than my character’s gear. This would be a great way to reward players with blueprints since they are already hard enough to find anyways.
Overall though, this game feels great when I play it and the time just disappears; always the sign of a good game. The combat loop is addicting, the progression makes me want to come back and the levels are begging to be explored. For $16.99 it’s a great addition to anyone’ steam library. I may be biased since some of my favorite games in the past few years have been Spelunky, Rogue Legacy and Enter the Gungeon, all rogue-likes and all indies. Finally, I’ve had more fun and experienced less bugs with this half-finished game than with most “finished” AAA games.