Dead Cells is described as a “roguevania”, a combination of procedurally-generated roguelike games and action-exploration-based metroidvania games. The player controls a mass of cells that occupy and control the body of a deceased prisoner at the start of each game. As they explore a series of dungeons and fight the creatures within, they collect weapons, armor, abilities, power-ups, and money. Some enemies will also drop cells when defeated, which can be used to obtain permanent power-ups such as additional health potions or new items that can be bought or found in later runs. These cells can only be spent at the end of a dungeon section; if a player dies before then, they lose all collected cells. Each level is procedurally generated by merging of predesigned sections in a random configuration along with random placement of enemies and items. The game’s combat is said to be similar to the Souls series, with difficult enemies with certain behaviors the player can learn, and where frequent player-character death is a fundamental part of the game. At intervals throughout the game, the player must also defeat boss enemies known as “Keepers.” Currently, there are four Keepers in the game—the Incomplete One, The Watcher, The Assassin, and The Hand of the King.
The heart of Dead Cells is its layered commitment to risk and reward. At its surface you’re a decapitated prisoner reanimated for some unknown reason to run through a dozen levels that are gorgeously detailed — even though they’re procedurally generated — only to die and use what you’ve learned and collected to get a little farther the next time. This loop is at the core of what makes progressing through Dead Cells so special. Each new zone you reveal, each new artifact or weapon or skill you uncover, it all spurs that bittersweet, rewarding sense you’re slowly peeling away Dead Cells great mystery.
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