Dead Cells finally hits V1.0

Finally out of Early Access, the swashbuckling SOTN-esque roguelike does not disappoint
gamereleasedate: 
Monday, August 6, 2018 - 3:45am
"I am dungeon scum. And that is all I really am. Yeah. I am dungeon scum. And that is all I really am. Yeah." Rinse, wash, repeat. Forever.

For the better part of a year, I've been telling viewers of the livestream (www.twitch.tv/skookiesprite) that they must sing, lest I perish. The song is simple:

"I am dungeon scum.

And that is all I really am. Yeah!

I am dungeon scum.

And that is all I really am. Yeah!"

Rinse, wash, repeat. Forever.

Of course, this (usually) only happens while streaming my awesome mastery of "Dead Cells," the game that answers what would happen if "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" had a baby with "Prince of Persia," and was then raised by rogue-like parents (think the procedurally generated level design of "Duskers"). In short, the resulting game is a relentlessly difficult, endlessly replayable, 2D sidescrolling, platforming RPG suitable for many hundreds of hours of addictive punishment.

When I say "hundreds of hours," I mean just that: I have spent at least four hundred hours playing "Dead Cells" in Early Access as a flatpak title, then another hundred hours playing it for Windows (under Wine), with another 200 hours playing both the beta and alpha branches for the native Linux port of the game. That's damned near 7 to 800 hours of the game (which my Steam stats do not reflect, sadly), and yet I still have not managed to beat the son of a bitch.

This is one of my favorite games available for Linux, and one of the best and most innovative platformers in years.

So imagine my surprise when, earlier last week, I suddenly realized that DC was no longer in Early Access, but had reached full-release status. The 1.0 version of the game released across all platforms near-simultaneously - including Linux - on the 8th of this month, and it is something to behold.

The main strength of "Dead Cells" has always been its completely addictive blend of action, strategy, speed running, more action, upgradeable/unlockable weapons and skills, more action, and also more action (and still more strategy, along with even more unlocks/upgrades).

After these core qualities have been painstakingly combined (in just the right proportions) by indie devs Motion Twin (and with lots of help and feedback from the Early Access community), the result is one of those games that gets its hooks deep into you very quickly, and (between hurling your controller across the room as you scream "WHAT THE FUCK? FUCK YOU, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!") is almost impossible to stop playing.

The silky smooth controls, excellent and expressive neo-pixel style animations, the endless hordes of ravenous and endlessly-tricky enemies, the exceptionally tuned procedural generation algorithms (which keep every level fresh, yet uniquely identifiable in their geography as you move through stages), and the superbly tuned and balanced combat system are brutally guaranteed to leave all but the most hardcore of sidescrolling haters hopelessly mainlining "Dead Cells" into their veins like a refugee from rehab within an hour. Truly, it's that good.

It's the kind of game that erases not just hours, but weeks and months from your life, blissfully offered in sacrifice for those glorious 4 words, "Just. One. More. Run."

Personally, my favorite thing about this v1.0 release is the overall tuning and refinement of the difficulty of the game. Previous iterations of "Dead Cells" have all been absurdly, endlessly, ball-crushingly absurd in terms of the challenge-factor, easily requiring several hundreds of hours before discovering and unlocking all the major runes (which give your character permanent ability upgrades like wall-climbing, vine usage, teleportation, etc.). These were almost as painfully hard as it was to unlock and upgrade some of the choice weapons. Both of these issues have been re-balanced and smoothed out such that, after only 4 runs with a fresh save slot and starting from absolutely nothing, I found that I was able to get very far into the game on my (admittedly, ridiculously mad) skills alone.

This major re-calibration of the difficulty factor should make the game much more approachable to players new to the world of "Dead Cells."

The bottom line is simply this: the first V1.0 iteration of "Dead Cells" is almost certain to leave you singing...

"I am dungeon scum.

And that is all I really am. Yeah.

I am dungeon scum.

And that is all I really am. Yeah."

Rinse, wash, repeat. Forever.

-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")