Dead Cells is a side-scrolling rogue-lite with a huge focus on enjoyable and deep combat. It’s a game made to challenge the player and provide many hours of entertainment for those who fall for. It’s also brutally hard at times.
But that’s par for the course in the rogue-lite genre. Dead Cells starts with the player waking up in a dungeon with a weak sword and being told to escape. Like many rogue-lites, the path is long and dangerous, and players will almost certainly fail. Each new run will give players randomized maps and new challenges. However the goal remains the same, the order of the levels, as well as the enemies faced, will similarly not change.
At the same time, players will have opportunities to unlock new weapons, upgrades (such as health restores), and features as they play the game. There are several unlockable permanent upgrades in the form of runes that will also unlock different abilities that open new paths.
Eventually, players will come upon bosses and the final boss, and with some luck and skill, eventually beat the game.
If this sounds mostly generic, that’s because it kind of is. The rogue-lite genre is one filled with games that are intended to be played over and over but have simplistic gameplay loops to keep players coming back. It’s similar to why arcade machines were so popular in the 80s and 90s. The difference is players aren’t just popping quarters to kill the time, but expect a challenging but interesting journey.
For Dead Cells, there’s a major change in that there’s not just one way to the final boss. Most stages have multiple different exits to different stages that each will provide new and different challenges. And after each stage, no matter which exit players choose, players also will go to the in-game shop where they can bank their currency to unlock new items.
But Dead Cells really stands out because of it’s combat and controls. It’s an extremely tight game that feels well crafted, and while the challenge is overwhelming, players are given as much agency as they can.
I think it’s a fair comparison to call this a 2D rogue-lite version of a Soul’s game. The level of combat and control in Dead Cells is exceptional, Dead Cells feels so spot in both of these categories that it’s at an almost unreachable level for game development. There’s also a huge selection of weapons and enemies, and each feels different but interesting. Of course, there’s also a dodge that feels like it can be used in almost any emergency.
Of course with a Souls game, players usually struggle against one enemy, section of the game, or boss at a time, and in Dead Cells’ place, it’s the entire run of a dungeon that will challenge the player. Any misstep and players will have to start over from scratch losing their weapons and upgrades.
But at the same time, that’s part of the fun. The randomness of the dungeon and what players will find in it adds to the desire to play one more round or one more game. With runs taking under an hour, starting over never feels that punishing.
Yet I don’t think everything is perfect with Dead Cells. I enjoy the experience but I also will admit the challenge in Dead Cells is severe. While players can get some general upgrades, Dead Cells seems to require a high level of player skill and memorization. Even with certain weapons unlocked, Dead Cells will be challenging for new players.
Players also will have to unlock new weapons, and that’s one area of Dead Cells I disagree with. Similar to SUPERHOT, Dead Cells has a system where unlocking certain weapons or upgrades adds them to a pool where players may not want those items to be in the pool. This occurs in roguelites, but I found it harder and harder to unlock new weapons when I already had access to weapons I was looking forward to finding. Basically, if there are ten items in a bag, and you want one, adding ten more items to the bag will make it harder to pull your favorite, not easier.
There is a custom mode to try to deal with this, but it feels like it was put there reluctantly, and locks players off from achievement at the same time, so it’s clearly not the intended way to play Dead Cells.
While Dead Cells is hard, that’s nothing compared to what players will run into after they beat the game. There’s additional difficulty to go deeper into the progression of the game, mostly based on restricting access to refilling health potions. But with the opening difficulty being suitably hard, I found the new difficulties discouraged me from going that much deeper into the game. I had a choice, either play for many more hours and really learn the game and the patterns of the enemies, or move on to something else, and admittedly I chose the easier path.
Still, with those criticisms out of the way, Dead Cells is a beautiful and interesting game. It’s a game that keeps the player engaged with it from beginning to end and I will admit I’ve returned to Dead Cells a few times even after giving up.
The experience of running Dead Cells’ dungeon is worth checking out and if you enjoy very challenging games, Dead Cells is going to be perfect for you.
I’m going to give Dead Cells an Arbitrary
But if you do love games like Hollow Knight, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and sothers, I would probably bump this score a point or even two. This game would be a 10/10 to fans who want a severe challenge. But I also would warn anyone else I recommend this game to, that it may be too challenging for them.
If you want to see more about Hades, or it compared directly to Dead Cells, check my video which is available at