Dead Cells: the Geometric Sequence of Metroidvania

Metroidvania, Rogue-lite, and Souls-like

The geometric sequence of Dead Cells tries to combine three game genres at once with not just Metroidvania. Metroidvania forces players to explore a large map full of mystery. There is rogue-lite, changing the level layout every time the player starts the game. There is also souls-like, force players to memorize every aspect. Apart from blending various genres, a small indie studio releases the first game on all modern gaming platforms. However, with the mature execution by Motion Twin, the genres merge into a challenging yet addictive whole.

Besides looking like indie games in general, Dead Cells is a new example of good execution. Random levels, generated by the procedural generation feature, make the level designer less dizzy. They do not have to spend much time on level design. It is a cheap trick to make the playtime of the game longer than it should be. As bad as it sounds, how beautiful it is from how good the execution is from the developer. The rogue-lite genre combines a variable gameplay design and rich content to keep players curious. It is making the game very rewarding yet addictive at the same time.

Kill, Die, Learn, Repeat

Dead Cells‘ main strength is not in the story it has to offer in the geometric sequence of Metroidvania. Instead of providing a narrative concept, it only provides the idea from various locations and objects the player finds. With minimal details, fun, dominated by gameplay, and difficulty levels, players will not object to such a style approach.

The player acts as a green blob, considering that the form makes it impossible to fight. The green lumps, or dead cells, absorbed the various headless corpses scattered at the prison’s bottom. The cell takes control of the bodies. It brings them back to life, offers fighting abilities, and displays a certain level of intelligence. The primary mission is not just to get out of the prison. But, it is also to kill those not responsible for the corpses at the prison’s bottom.

The Blob

This cell or blob itself can be immortal. Every time a player ends up dying, it will come out of the existing corpse and return to the bottom of the prison to get a new body. Again, it is trying to pursue the same mission. However, there is something unique about where the prison is located. The cell keeps regularly changing, displaying a new terrain every time the prisoner comes back to life. It, in turn, makes the challenges even more complex.

Despite the simplicity of the premise, the system of Dead Cells tries to break free from a dungeon. However, many obstacles would hinder the player’s efforts where the enemy soldiers all wanted to kill the player. The level constantly changes every time the player dies. The big deadly boss is the biggest obstacle that the player has to face.

Procedural Generation

Dead Cells always start the same as taking a sword as a primary weapon. There is also a shield or ranged weapon as a secondary weapon. Besides, each level’s layout is not always the same; here, the geometric sequence of Dead Cells implemented the rogue-lite and Metroidvania genre. Like rogue-lite games such as Nuclear Throne and The Binding of Isaac, the game uses procedural generation for level design.

The player will never find the same map layout even though the background and overall design of the levels have their repetition patterns:

  • the first level in prison;
  • the second level in the sewer or garden; and
  • the third level in the tower or ruin.

On the one hand, such a random design makes the game more enjoyable to play. However, on the other hand, the player has a great chance of being unlucky and getting trash loot which makes the game more difficult than it should be.

Motion Twin

Motion Twin makes many areas in each group inaccessible with the tradition of random levels from the rogue-lite genre until the player has a specific rune. Runes such as climbing vines, ground slam, teleportation, or separating the cell from the body will be obtained as progress is achieved. Even if it is randomized, each level in the game always has a specific area where it cannot be accessed without runes. In short, the player must survive as much as possible to get runes if they want to explore specific areas.

Besides, death is common and natural; like other roguelike and Metroidvania games in general, Dead Cells builds a better geometric sequence system. It is due to the blue cell system in the game. Every enemy the player kills has the opportunity to drop the loot like a souls-like game. However, Dead Cells can drop items of gold, diamonds, healing food, and, likewise, blue cells. Blue cells are used to upgrade permanently at each new level transition. The game upgrade starts from insignificant such as opening unique weapon access to increasing potion healing capacity. Each playing session does not feel like being wasted because it will be a little easier to get new upgrades from the previous playing session.

The Replayability

Apart from the replayability of Dead Cells comes due to the procedural generation of each level; what makes the game interesting is the gameplay. It encourages the player to continue to act and take advantage of all abilities of the main character. Unlike most rogue-lite games limiting the player to the ammo system, Dead Cell has gadgets and weapons where the player is determined by cooldown alone. It indirectly forces the player to exploit the trick just now because the gameplay is designed for the fast-paced player.

Every enemy the player kills will give the main character a DPS boost, movement speed, or agility, making the player feel like continuing to kill monsters even though it should not be obligatory. Fast gameplay and rewarding combination with smooth animation and attractive enemy designs with geometric sequence make Dead Cells a Metroidvania game capable of making the player play one more time every time they die. Reasonably, the exploration of Dead Cells becomes a fun element because it will always be rewarded with specific items to take the risk of entering the territory.

The Sensational RPG

As with other roguelike and Metroidvania games, there is a bit of an action RPG sensation in Dead Cells. Most of the player’s missions will be focused on fighting and surviving while looking for more potent weapons and equipment in solving many things. With a few random elements from both item drop and level design, there is nothing to be sure of such gameplay as reading the nature and animation of enemy attacks and predicting what the player will do to survive. Just, not one of the most stressful gaming experiences ever. However, it is also most frustrating.

The gameplay time of Dead Cells is honestly not long. Motion Twin has one strategy, making Dead Cells able to make the player addicted. There is an expletive at every turn. It is present without a checkpoint system where the player must finish the game in one go, from start to finish, without ever dying. The autosave process will occur at the point where the player exits the game. However, Dead Cells does not allow the player to perform manual actions, even if it is a checkpoint system. Once killed, no matter how far the player’s progress, it must start over from the beginning.

With death inevitable, the player repeatedly went through the process of dying, coming back to life, passing through the same level, until over and over again for a very long time. On the other hand, Dead Cells ensured that regardless of the various branches of the route the player chose, the player would move in the same linear line as the last boss. Irrespective of the branch route, the player will meet with challenges and not let the player walk freely. For example, the player will fight bosses at a specific point, making the journey even more difficult. Given a high risk, where the player has to restart everything from scratch, the tension level of each battle is always consistent.

The Dead Cells

Death is inevitable, and the player will often start the game from scratch with random stages, making things change and different. However, Dead Cells injects a unique system, making every copyright death present as a progression. Slowly but surely, the player will feel if the character grows more potent, more resilient, and completes various challenges more easily. The key is a permanent upgrade.

Cells can be distributed for various things and can only be allocated via specific merchants, usually waiting for the player to transition between levels. The player could use it, for example, to increase the number of recovery potions, make the savings after death higher, increase the chance of getting weapons, arrows, or shields, or make other upgrades. It can also be used to buy and fulfil other permanent elements, namely blueprints.

Blueprints

Like cells that serve as an essential resource for permanent upgrades, character reinforcement will also be determined by other gameplay elements, no less critical than blueprints. Blueprints are item designs, cannot be used directly, but require a certain number of cells to be redeemed. It can end up being a melee, arrow, or trap weapon. On the other hand, it can contain other elements such as mutations. Mutations is a character buff where the player selects at each level transition to mixing an effective playstyle. With the player’s character as a passive skill, mutations can make the player get health points based on the number of enemies the player kills, strengthen the damage, or make a more deadly attack.

Blueprints can also contain a variety of more potent weapons, which will make the weapons appear in front of the player for the player to use immediately. However, it is not the leading role. Every blueprint for weapons, shields, or other equipment, these weapons now exist in the world of Dead Cells. It is a chance for the player to get randomly during the dungeon exploration process. The more blueprints, the more variants of equipment the player will randomly find. There are also more opportunities for the player to use more robust weapon variants for travel.

Speedrun

Every death the player swallowed up from Dead Cells was not in vain, with both upgrade systems continuing to appear permanently. No matter how small cells the player deposits, the player’s blueprint from boss battles or elite enemies contributes to making the next life journey more straightforward. Slowly but surely, the player will start to feel if each death occurs, where the player has to repeat everything from the beginning, will feel the level of lower difficulty. The first level takes five minutes or, if you are playing speedrun making specific bonus items, it only takes two minutes.

The battle system rooted one of the fantastic things about Dead Cells, requiring the player not only to think, anticipate, or act but think and plan things more tactically. Priority is the right word in this feature. With each area usually carrying a different enemy variant, the player will begin to learn which enemy the player must finish first to make the battle safer. The game created the priority scale and will move to make the enemies the target first. In addition, the player will begin to learn whether or not a variant of the enemy can anticipate movement.

Re-roll

Dead Cells‘ most essential strategy element is thinking about and planning to build the player’s character. It does not act as an action RPG game with the attributes that the player controls or, in other words, a leveling system. However, along with the exploration process, the player will find an upgraded scroll, allowing the player to increase one level of three characteristics such as Brutality, Tactics, or Survival.

Each level will usually give the player additional damage or a different percentage of the number of health points. Depending on how many points the player distributes in each category, it will also affect the previously selected player. If there were two of the three mutations based on Survival and the effect would be strengthened if the player upgraded via scrolls, it would usually have compensated for a higher health increase than shifting the points to Brutality, a low attack.

Tactical options slide from the status effect system and the weapons and equipment the player gets during the exploration process. The players will usually find that weapons typically come with a specific status effect. With so many status effects, from Frozen, Poison, to Bleeding, each of them can affect the player’s weaponry, strategy, and status effect. The player must also rearrange the combination strategy and build accordingly depending on the player’s style of play. Most of the weapons also have random ends where the opportunity to re-roll using a certain amount of gold is the best solution to get a combination. Dead Cells is not just a hit and run but requires a style depending on the player itself.

Opinion

Thus, Dead Cells is not a game that provides any exceptional innovations compared to other existing games. Regardless of which, it achieves one definite goal, making it a game worth playing and fun. Dead Cells is one of the best indie games, released in 2018, and it is a big compliment to see how fantastic indie games were throughout 2018. Dead Cells is the game the player is looking for if you want to find challenging indie games.

Bibliography

About the author

Salman Al Farisi is the owner of Calxylian and is an elitist who has enjoyed and studied various mediums. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2020 from the Haluoleo University, Indonesia, where he studied English Literature, Film Criticism, Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, and Literary Criticism. He lives in Kendari in his mom's basement, now unemployed and ghostwriter, life with his cats, and is looking for the future.

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