It was an unconventional year 2018 in terms of games. One site even called it the Year of Metroidvania. And like the complete idiot I am, I asked on a Reddit sub what is Metroidvania. The response was....sarcastic...and mean, so mean.
But I truly did not know was Metroidvania was or what it involved. So I decided to google the phrase, and it popped up a list of games I had never heard of before. One of them caught my eye. It had a cool poster of red and orange and blue, the character shown with its head on fire. And of course its name, which at that point in time, I thought was a parody of a great horror game.
This game was called "Dead Cells" and I thought it would be fun, easy, cute game which parody's Dead Space. And I mean there were no red flags like those about Cuphead being Dark Souls in a Disney Motif. And this game was nominated in pretty much every gaming award ceremony and won many as well. So I thought lets try it.
THIS ********** GAME IS *******DARK SOULS IN 2D********!!!!!
Why must I be tricked like this? I mean I always make a good guy character so why have I got to die repeatedly again and again. At least Dark Souls has the decency to say its a hard game, that you die again and again, that the community can help you by writing hints. Dead Cells? It hands you a rusty sword and sends you off WITH NO HELP, ever.
Now that that's out of the way, the game itself is actually brilliant. Honestly, I liked it better than Dark Souls. Its much more fast-paced, involves a fair bit of grinding and the use of procedurally generated dungeons makes sure you are always on your toes. The graphics, even though its pixel art, is supremely gorgeous and its backed by an awesome score. The enemies are numerous and varied with entirely different attacks, health and buffs that offer a more than fair share of difficulty with exceptional boss fights (assuming you make it to them alive). Plus, while the boss is faced alone, if you happen to come across and ELITE (basically any ordinary enemy made into a mini boss) you have to face it along with the constantly spawning minor enemies. To top it all off, just like Dark Souls, the bosses and mini-bosses change tactics and pattern once their health goes down. Some even increase in size.
The game rewards both fast and slow styled gameplay. If you go fast, you can even enter time locked doors found across the levels that rewards you with currency, stat boosts, and even weapons. Or you can go slow and still be alive. Similar to Dark Souls, you lose everything upon dying. Unlike Dark Souls, there are no bonfires, so if you die you lose all upgrades, upgrade currency and equipment and end up back at the start line. You can over time upgrade and unlock the ability to retain some gold to purchase equipment, again assuming you can find the vendor on each level. So going slow also has its perks.
The weapons and equipment add a unique style of gameplay. Each class of weapons acts and behaves differently so you have to be able to adjust your game style. If you cant, you should understand what kind of equipment to not equip. For example, the Electric Whip is a homing weapon that ignores blocks, but its has low damage and though fast, does not stun at all which can be an issue, and is one for me. I prefer the thrown knives as they add range as well as place bleeding status that is cumulative. that with the Cudgel shield allows me to parry projectiles and maintain good distance as well.
In between each level is a transition safe zone, where you can spend your upgrade tokens, "the Dead Cells", to buy permanent upgrades or unlock equipment. Here you can also acquire mutations that give a slight edge, enough to be an advantage without mellowing out the difficulty. You can also restore your health and fill up on Estu- I mean Health Potions before moving unto the next stage.
The gameplay is pretty simple actually, as now I have learned, Metroidvania. As in its a side-scrolling platformer with nonlinear stage progression, limited health, power ups and perma-death. It truthfully seems a lot more complicated when explaining than it actually is in playing. And don't let the repeated deaths fool you, its very addictive, making you come back for more and more. So the entire gameplay can be summed up as JDAP (Jump, Dodge, Attack, Pray). See, not so complex.
The perma death however is, in my humble opinion, much more severely punished than in Dark Souls. Why you ask? Because in Dark Souls, you lose only the in-game currency, and respawn at the latest Bonfire with all equipment intact. In Dead Cells, you lose everything except the permanent upgrades, this includes currency, equipment, stats and items, oh and you go back ALL the way to the starting line. Thats right, there are no bonfires. The safe zone talked of earlier, yea its the same as the Divine Statues in DMC games, they (the safe zones) just serve as the upgrades vendor site.
I would honestly recommend this game. It was a real eye-opener for me, and a real treat. Whats more, the game is getting a free major DLC expansion so you can be assured that the game devs understand what the player base wants and are not becoming EA or Bethesda's apostles. Its also available on GOG DRM-free at almost $25, same price as Steam.