Useless Cells Evaluation: Castlevania-inspired – Catrachadas

In my first Dead Cells game, I died after about four minutes. In my last one, it took me almost an hour. The time difference between these two attempts says a lot about how Dead Cells develops while playing and how you develop alongside him.

The first game went something like this: I started in prison as always. I took a crappy sword and a crappy bow and tried to escape. I rolled and jumped around a few archers, mutants and strange bomb-throwing pink creatures. I have included some scrolls that have increased my character's damage and hit points. I killed a few archers and mutants and then made the mistake of falling into a larger group of them than I intended. You killed me.

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My last game, 15 hours later, went like this: I started in prison as always. I took a mighty broadsword and an ice sheet that would freeze the enemies and tried to escape. I dodged and jumped around a couple of archers, mutants, and strange bomb-throwing pink creatures that I severed with ease. Within minutes I had gone through the whole level, picked up every upgrade material and scrolled in sight. With special skills that I had unlocked, I summoned magical vines to climb and localized vulnerabilities in the ground to fight my way through five other areas, from a toxic sewer to a creepy pirate city. I defeated a giant boss on a bridge. If I slipped and was damaged, I would heal thanks to my strong healing potion. I became more powerful and killed dozens of enemies until a fast-moving boss finally brought me down on a bell tower.

The more you play Dead Cells, the more it opens up to you. As soon as you become familiar with an area or group of enemies, new ones are discovered, with the layer geometry only being added at random enough so that each new encounter feels slightly different. And with all the permanent skills and item upgrades that I've unlocked between this first playthrough and now, my ability has changed the most with the game. It turned out that the cells were in me all the time.

Dead Cells is a Castlevania-inspired side scrolling action game by French developer Motion Twin. In addition to having unusually advanced salary guidelines, the indie studio is also very good at developing video games. Yes, Dead Cells is a winner, especially if you have the idea of ​​slowly rolling a boulder up a hill while regularly noticing that the boulder has just got a little lighter.

In Dead Cells, you play as a nameless prisoner who has to cut, pound and freeze from an ever-changing magical prison. Well … you're actually playing as a sentient blob that bubbled out of a sewer pipe deep in prison, saw a headless body nearby, and apparently thought, "Neat, one body." They sipped over and took control by placing your sticky self where the body's head should have been. And then you decided to flee the prison.

The prison island that serves as the setting for Dead Cells is not an inviting place. The monsters and guards blocking the prisoner's path hit hard. Traps and spikes are plentiful, and a single tactical slip can result in a quick and base game-over. Every time you die (and you will die), you have to start over without the skills, weapons, and special items you collected during your last run. Dead Cells is a rogue-inspired "rogue-lite" where death means pressing the big old reset button and taking it from above. Levels are procedurally reformed, routes are reconfigured and hidden secrets appear and disappear, although the overall structure and arrangement of the game remains static.

All of this may sound daunting – and it should be because Dead Cells isn't an easy game – but the designers are making things a lot softer by letting players work to unlock a variety of helpful permanent items and upgrades, each with the other works together to make the game a lot less intimidating. Some enemies you kill give you cells that you need to deposit for upgrades between levels. First, unlock a vial that you can use to fill the prisoner's health bar once per level. Then unlock a second load for this vial and finally a third and a fourth. You will unlock better starting weapons and the ability to move more gold between lives, making re-arming in shops much easier. You will unlock new and exotic weapons that will be added to the pool from which the game draws when you add one to your game. And you'll unlock permanent rune skills that will allow you to reach new areas that contain even more upgrades. A few hours after the game started, I flew through levels that initially caused problems for me.

However, even the earliest areas require a mix of careful strategy and quick reflexes. Despite all of its villainous elements and elaborate weapons, Dead Cells is an uncomplicated action slash em up that is closely linked to the classic Castlevania series. You'll pick up swords, whips, fire bombs, bows and arrows, traps, towers, grenades, spells, and more, each requiring slightly different tactics. Enemies each have their own sets of moves and tells, and most telegraph their attacks well before entering them.

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The fight in dead cells is aggressive and direct. The prisoner moves like a thousand pound cyborg, emerges over ledges and hits the ground with a heaviness that clearly distinguishes the action from the graceful gliders and swimmers found in other modern side-scrollers like Hollow Knight or Ori and the blind forest can be seen. I had gotten so used to the previous game last month that I found the movement of Dead Cells initially uncomfortable. The prisoner is more a terminator than an acrobat and is therefore more concerned with brutally cutting through dozens of monsters than skilfully jumping over spikes and traps. However, it is anything but inelegant. After I got used to moving quickly and taking advantage of the height over my enemies, each new room looked like an empowering climbing frame.

Regardless of which weapon the prisoner is holding, his two most useful steps are evasive roll and ground strike. The throw takes you straight through enemies and their attacks, giving you an empowering number of potential invincibility frames ("i-frames" in the parlance of this type of game) and allowing you to escape the hairiest situations unscathed. With the Ground Slam you can crash into the ground from any height and at the same time inflict damage on enemies that are close to your impact. Dead Cells' Ground Slam is fantastic and few things in the game are more satisfying than squeaking an enemy who has been knocked down by a perfectly targeted dive bomb.

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The randomly rearranged layers of Dead Cells are not as random as it first appears. After an hour or two, I was able to blur my eyes and view each as a constant mass of constants and variables: there is always a shop, there is always a treasure chest and there is always a timed door that opens when you can reach it fast enough. The toxic sewers always have these exploding poison bats, and the ramparts always have wizards that shoot at you through walls. The Black Bridge always comes after the ossuary, then comes the stilt village. Traversal runes gradually open up new ways to move through the game, but the order remains fixed.

The levels are numerous and varied, although there are only a handful of real boss fights on the way to the goal. This helps the game feel more focused, but I was hoping for a few more clear showdowns to mess things up. Given that Motion Twin is already working on free DLC, I am optimistic that the number of levels, enemies, bosses and equipment will continue to increase after tomorrow's release date. At the moment, the template on which the game projects its procedural level design is defined so that each playthrough feels more or less like the last one in terms of level layout and boss positioning.

The random upgrade and weapon drops from Dead Cells are far more effective. You can carry two weapons and two "tools" at any time. Your load on a particular playthrough depends on which weapons the game drops for you, either as pickups in the world or in stores. The further you progress in the game, the more weapon options you have unlocked and the more varied each play becomes.

Melee weapons range from stunning hammers to quick-stab daggers to heavy broadswords. Ranged weapons range from bows to ice bursts to throwing knives. There is also a whole green-colored class of shields that you can equip instead of a weapon that can block and ward off incoming damage, but in general I'm not nearly as effective as melee + range utilization. that's why I mostly avoided them. Tools can be remote-controlled towers, napalm grenades, and even rare magical abilities, such as a one-way vampirism spell that I can use to replenish valuable health when I do damage. Each tool combines different tools and weapons, and their randomly generated attributes – "Deals 50% more damage to frozen targets" or "Deals 100% more damage but you take 100% more damage" – cause things to do even change more. In a particular playthrough, you have to improvise and adapt to the equipment that the game has chosen for you.

In most action RPGs, I tend to choose a single loadout and rely on it to neglect all other options. This is double for a Souls game, where I invest in certain attributes that make certain weapons more effective than others. Dead Cells takes the opposite approach and drives you to new weapons at every opportunity and never makes you feel too bound to one sentence. While I was usually able to restore my chosen "Freeze + Fast Melee" charge within a few levels, I'm still regularly forced to be outside my comfort zone.

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Dead Cells' art style is the most striking attribute and what most closely connects it to the line of Konami's beloved Castlevaniaside scrollers. It has the lush, neon-soaked retro art style that has become popular through games like Hyper Light Drifter, combining modern dynamic lighting with classic pixel art style. The moon on an abandoned bridge moves behind you in parallax, illuminating characters and background objects with shimmering, changing beams of light. The prisoner will knock an enemy into a pile of gorgeous gibes, pixelated blood and guts that rain out in a colorful shower. The island is a bleak, deadly place, but often a beautiful one too.

I played Dead Cells on the Nintendo Switch and found that the handheld platform fits perfectly with the game's easy-to-read side-scrolling and bite-size game sessions. After playing the early PC version for a few hours before, I noticed that the switch version ran noticeably less smoothly than the solid frame rates I had on the PC, with frequent and noticeable drops in levels with lots of visual details or enemies on the screen in both handheld and dock.

The game has already received a pre-release patch and will no doubt receive more updates as it comes out. So I asked the developers if the switch version's performance could soon rise to a solid 60 fps. "We are satisfied with the version that is currently available," said Benjamin Laulan of Motion Twin in an email. "Although we are aware that there are moments when you drop to 40-50 fps with stacks of enemies on the screen at certain levels, we believe that the vast majority of people agree." He said if they hear from players that the current switch performance is not good enough they will go back in to make it more solid, adding that the only reason they didn't do it from the start was was that it was. We needed a lot of low-level tweaking that would have delayed the start of the game. He also said that they are currently focusing on the game's first game of free DLC and that they will then move on to further optimization.

Although it doesn't run as smoothly on Switch as I hoped, this could improve later. The drop in performance wasn't a big deal for me either. Although there have been a few rare instances where I felt slow performance made the game more cumbersome, the vast majority of my playing time didn't bother me. It really only stands out when I bounce and play a bit on the PC, where the extremely fluid performance and the additional visual information associated with it make the game easier to read. I can't just throw the PC version in my backpack and play in the park, so I'm sticking to the Switch version.

Dead Cells has almost no history worth mentioning, and the tiny narrative nuggets that can be found in notebooks and wall drawings are sardonically framed by the game and virtually released by the prisoner. The island is a bad place that has been aggravated by some kind of infection, and your consciousness, whatever it is, is ready to have an endless chain of corpses to get free. There is no opera narrative like in Symphony of the Night, nor are there any hidden sources of lore like in Bloodborne or Hollow Knight. Aside from a few sparse world constructions, the only story here is the story of moving forward, killing things and gradually getting better.

If a game is fine-tuned like Dead Cells, that tuning is all it takes. I've found that the punishing live die repeat rhythm without a narrative wrapper is so exciting that a story could be more of a distraction. The final boss, who I still haven't hit, although I've temptingly got close a few times, feels almost like a secondary target. At the start of every new game, I barely pause to think about where I'm going to land, and I don't hope that this will finally be the time I've got to finish. I am happy to dive into the dungeon again and drop the chips. My ultimate goal is less important than the ever-changing path ahead of me, and thoughts of the future are obscured by the spirit of the moment.

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