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Review – Dead Cells (PC)

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I have to full be upfront here. When I first started playing Dead Cells, I hated it. Well, I liked it, but grew to hate it. I reminds me a lot of Rogue Legacy in it’s presentation, but it’s quite a bit faster and more difficult than Rogue Legacy is. I really really liked Rogue Legacy. Dead Cells also feels a lot like a Metroidvania title, though many will argue it’s not really a Metroidvania game, it has a very similar gameplay feel, even if the actual loop is different.

It’s closer to being a Roguelike platform game than a Metroidvania game, I’ll accept that. You do revisit areas, but not out of necessity to collect missed items or areas by using new skills, a Metroidvania hallmark, but because in Dead Cells, you live, you die, you live again. Actually, I’m not even sure you’re ever really ever alive, or maybe just you’re never dead. Your ACTUAL character is basically just a big sort of, blobby fungus thing. You start the game and possess a body and go from there.

Each iteration through the game, the levels are the same, but the layout is randomized. The route is also somewhat randomized, in that you can often choose where to go next. The choice can come at a trade off though, as the game gives bonus rewards for speed. Your equipment is also randomized. You get an assortment of initial drops to choose from and enemies drop items, but the secondary abilities and stats are all randomized out.

Between lives, you can unlock some permanent perks though. Which will help with progression as things get more and more difficult. This is where my chief problem with this game WAS. I’ll address it, but I do want to emphasize the “was”. The progression, really does not keep pace with the skill leaps on each stage. And dying at certain point in each run can mean losing any chance of progressing your ability at all, which results in a LOT of repetition and feeling of going nowhere. The ability to unlock skills only comes at the end of a stage. There is also a larger upgrade option for drops that only occurs every few stages. When you die, you lose all of your collected souls, which are used for upgrades.

You can unlock the ability to keep some of them, but it’s such a small amount it’s almost worthless. It also means the only incentive you have to spend early on, is on the ability to save souls between lives. So you never actually GET stronger for a while. It also doesn’t help that some of the unlockable items are kind of worthless and only serve to pollute the potential pool of drops.

After throwing myself against the first boss a few dozen times, then the stage that comes after the first boss, I completely shelved this game. It was fun, but not, THAT fun, to play essentially the same 2 levels over and over endlessly for a minuscule boost in power.

The game was eventually patched to add a difficulty adjustment slider, which brought me back and suddenly, the game was super enjoyable. Funny enough, this isn’t the first game this sort of thing happened to me with, Control did the same thing with the same results. Some of the more “hardcore” people complained, but it really doesn’t affect anyone else to play on an easier difficulty.

With the new ability to slide things to be less brutally difficult, the game was suddenly incredibly enjoyable. It meant going much farther long, beating more bosses and the game, and actually being able to progress along with unlocks. This also meant that the progression system was meaningful and the difficulty could be raised a bit as things became too easy. It honestly felt a lot more how the game was meant to be played.

Gameplay aside, the graphics use an interesting dense pixelated style that, despite it’s pixelatedness, really shows off all of the motion and environment well. Everything stands out well and looks pretty nice, in a slightly gross and morbid sort of way. The enemy variety is alright as well, each zone has it’s own sort of stable of enemies that show up, though some of them do get repeated.

There are also some more difficult enemies that only show up on higher difficulty levels. In addition to the difficulty sliders added in the mentioned patch, the game itself has a mechanism to increase the overall difficulty based on how many times the final boss is defeated. In order to unlock the “true ending”, the final boss must be defeated several times on increasing difficulty levels.

There are also several mini games and additional time attack modes that can be played for some extra challenge if that’s your jam.

The core gameplay loop is still a bit repetitive, and there is a lot of repeating each level, which may not be for everyone. There is still some trickiness to the difficulty as well, even on “easy mode”, which can be a turn off. Still, it’s a fun and fast platformer that plays a lot like traditional Castlevania/Metroidvania types in it’s mechanics.

What I’ve Been Playing Recently

It’s been a bit, so it’s been a bit busy I suppose. I’m going to mostly push off my current “regular games” a bit with Fortnite and Sky. just for some discussion about what else I’ve been playing.

Death Stranding

Funny enough, this isn’t the only game I’m playing at the moment with “dangerous rain”. Sky has a zone of rain that harms you when you’re standing in it. Though, they call it “Time Fall” in Death Stranding, and it’s a Hideo Kojima game, so it’s full of weird unexplained shit that may or may not eventually be explained.

The core gameplay is nothing like I expected. You’re in this weird dystopian future with rain that makes you grow old if it touches you, and dead bodies explode or something within a few days of dying and then turn into these weird invisible monster things that only show up when it rains and then there is this baby in a bottle for some reason. And so far all of the game play has been, “Deliver things on foot by walking through the wilderness.” Like no joke, there is a balance mechanic to weight distribution that has TWO dedicated buttons on the controller.

I really just, don’t know. But it looks pretty. Also I am told that eventually you can make grenades or something from your poops!

Bayonetta

Speaking of weird but highly acclaimed games. I also picked up Bayonetta. I’m… not sure I have the patience for this style of weird anymore. The gameplay is kind of button mashy and the plot is full of “ZaNy AnImE” style shit. Like the intro scenario has this dude just throwing guns at your character going “guns guns guns” and it’s just like, too much odd for the sake of oddness.

Like Death Stranding is weird, but I feel like eventually most of it will eventually be mostly explained by some sci-fi related world building. Bayonetta is just over the top for the sake of being over the top.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

I’ve been playing a lot of random stuff on the Retroid lately but I’m going to stick with what I played significantly. I’ve beaten Mario Land 2 a several times, but decided to play through it again, which took like 2 hours, maybe. And I beat it again.

The biggest stand out is just how many unique enemies are in this series. Plus it’s weird how much the recent LEGO Mario sets seem to be designed entirely around one world in this universe. The LEGO Mario looks kind of like the Mario Zone robot and the Mario Zone itself even includes a LEGO like level.

Wario Land 4

After defeating Wario in Mario Land 2, I realized I had never really played any of the stand alone Wario Land games. So I loaded them up to play through. I’m not sure why I started at the end in Wario Land 4 but I did. I think mostly because it’s a slightly more polished GBA title, so it was more appealing.

I also completed it. It’s not a very lengthy game. The levels also feel like they are intended to be played repeatedly, but most of them are pretty linear despite the interweaving/multiple paths of them (Wario Land 3 is quite literally the opposite).

Also apparently Wario has his own princess now too.

F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch

I could have sworn I had wrapped this one up in a post. I mentioned FIST Last time, and I have since completed it. I also finished it 100%, which wasn’t actually that hard to do. The last few bosses are really really rough though the second to last boss, the big sumo pig, is a lot more difficult than the actual end boss.

The most amusing thing about this game, a lot of the plot revolves around this super powered crystal, “The Spark”. It’s weird though because there are at least two of these things, and more importantly, you fight three enemies powered by this “ultimate force”. The first is a rock monster empowered by it to retrieve it. Then later you get betrayed and have to fight a dude in power armor powered by the Spark, which destroys it, then SURPRISE there is another one, which you retrieve but it’s stolen then you get to fight the end boss, powered by The Spark.

It doesn’t really feel all that impressive honestly. I kind of defeated “The Power of the Spark” repeatedly. Not that impressive.

What I’ve Been Playing Recently

I wonder if those titles should be more distinct or if it even matters. Anyway, I “completed” one game this week. Actually I sort of “beat” two games, but I forget how I have counted the Fortnite Battle Passes. Let’s call it one for now. The Fortnite BP technically goes to Level 200.

F.I.S.T: Forged In Shadow Torch

Man, that acronym. Someone really wanted it to stand for FIST. This was one of the free games from Epic over the Holidays that they push every year. It looked interesting from the animal characters and Steampunkish design then I noticed it’s a Metroidvania title, which is probably my favorite game genre. So I decided to jump on playing it. You play as a sort of, grizzled ex soldier rabbit, armed with a giant robotic FIST from his old war days mech. The game play is pretty smooth and it’s definitely a Metroidvania style title.

My main gripe so far is the slight unevenness of the enemies. Most of the bosses I have encountered are super predictable and almost too easy. Dodge Dodge Dodge Strike. It’s a pretty regular pattern for all of them so far. One large biped mech was particularly easy to confuse because it didn’t move and you could just jump from it’s left to it’s right, meaning it would miss miss miss, then turn around, so you move again, and repeat. But the regular enemies, are often tougher than the bosses, and feel like they have just as much health. There is also this really annoying bit where you can stun them out of an attack animation, but not ALL attacks, and often you can’t stop your slightly sluggish attacking, until it’s too late to dodge away. And the enemies often have huge attack arcs. If that makes any sense.

It’s not awful, but it’s annoying, especially with packs of enemies. The game feels like you should be able to “juggle” the enemies, but you really can’t. It’s particularly bad with the samurai looking dudes and worse with the axe throwing shield guys. The game is still fun, but it feels like it could use a slight bit of tweaking to it’s regular enemies and maybe a slight beefing up on the actual bosses.

Fortnite

I finished the main part of the Chapter 4 Season 1 Battle Pass. Which means reaching level 100. The game is honestly, starting to feel like a chore. I’ll keep at it for now, but at this moment, I have no desire to continue to Season 2 unless things seem really good. There have been a LOT of complaints about the new weekly quest system. They expire now, instead of just stacking until the end of the season, and they are almost always incredibly grindy. Like, “you must do ONLY THIS all week” to complete the top tier. The map also was neat at first but it’s gotten really stale. It also hasn’t really changed at all. It felt like in Chapter 3 the map was constantly changing every week or so. The weapons pool also has not really changed.

Sky: Children of the Light

Now that the Season of Aurora has ended and I’m not worried about maximizing my Candles each week, I decided to just go for it at take a swing at The Eye of Eden, the end zone of this game. man, you want a game that is bipolar on its own game play. I kind of want to do a separate write up of Sky, so I won’t go into a ton of detail, but let’s just sat this. The base game play loop is about as non confrontational as it gets. You mostly just, fly around lighting candles and collecting wax balls and occasionally doing little spirit stories. The final zone, is literally an endurance until you die.

Your health is represented by these Winged Light bits that you collect, which strengthen your overall ability to fly and explore. I was up to I think 76 before entering Eden, which is pretty close to max on regular basic Winged Lights. The first zone is a slow climb up some cliffs through winds and rock storms. The second zone is stronger wings and bigger rocks, but now there are Krill dragons patrolling around. The third zone is where the action is, it loses the dragons, but instead there is a constant barrage of lava rocks splattering all over the zone that will basically one shot you destroying some of your Winged Light. You can hide behind some rocks, but for the most part, you have to run around the zone depositing your Winged lights into these little statues to save them. You give up your health, to save these other entities.

You do this, until you die.

And then you get reborn at zero. Though for each spirit saved you get some special candles to use to buy some more permanent Winged Lights. It’s not 1:1 though. I earned I think 13 Ascended Candles. I restarted the game at around 8 Winged Lights I think.

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile

I still jump around a bit on the Retroid Pocket but for now I have settled on playing the first Klonoa game on Playstation 1. I am not sure how far I am, maybe halfway? The game reminds me of the style of Donkey Kong Country, but not nearly as fast paced. It’s a neat little game, though I’m not entirely sure of the ins and outs of some of it. Like occasionally there are clock items to pick up, but from what I can tell, the game has no timer. I’m not too concerned, I am not trying to master this one.

What I’ve Been Playing Recently

# What I’ve Been Playing Recently

I like the idea of this sort of regular, generic post, but I don’t really want to give it a schedule, so I’m just going to throw em out whenever, for now, I think.  Considering this si the “first” one, it’s also not clear what “Recently” should mean in this context.  It’s my post, my blog, my rules, so I’m thinking, whatever I want to mention really.

Fortnite

Roughly a year ago, I decided I wanted to give Fortnite a go.  It’s been popular for years, and i was looking for something relatively mindless to play as a filler game to fill the void left by Overwatch.  So I decided to try Fortnite.  I had no idea what I was doing, though I managed to win my first match, which felt really cool, until (much later) I learned that all the matches for the first ten levels or so are against Bots.  It was Christmas season, so I got a few free cosmetic items, and I even enjoyed it enough to buy a few skins.  i also opted to go for the Battle Pass, which I completed to level 200.

I’ve taken a few breaks, but I’m still playing a year later now.  Chapter 4 just started, which means a fresh new map to play on.  i am pretty sure the new map is a lot smaller than the last one.  Honestly, in general, it feels like Epic really wanted to try to break people out of the “Run around and hide” all match mindset.  Everything is righter and faster and you’re forced into more encounters.  I’m not sure I like it honestly.  I usually moved around the map a lot, but I also generally would avoid conflicts.  I’ve actually been playing a lot of Bot Matches just so the games are more chill and less stressful.

Something that’s a bit annoying, I actually kind of prefer playing random, NON Battle Royale maps and modes.  I played a TON of their Among Us Clone, in the Imposters Mode.  Though that got old because groups, completely break that mode.  Groups will just tattle on who the Imposter is to their friends.  I also do a lot of “Death-run” Obstacle course maps, though there are a lot of these that feel really uninspired these days.  Probably my favorite are the Musical Soundwave Series events.

Sky Children of the Light

This one is a super chill “Relaxing” movile game, though it recently came to Switch and Playstation.  It’s made by the same folks who made Journey and definitely FEELS a lot like Journey.  You float around this world collecting candle wax and meeting people and doing little Spirit Quests.  There is only one zone in the entire game where you can be harmed, outside of The End zone.  I have not been able to bring myself to attempt The End yet.  I hear it’s really hard, plus you lose everything, by default, and start over, after completing the game.

Currently they are having an event themed around the singer Aurora, which was part of why I started playing the game in the first place.

Retroid Pocket

I want to do a proper write up on my Retroid eventually, but I’ve been playing old games on this as well.  Nothing in particular yet, I’m still kind of in the “Mess around and see what it can do” phase.  Mostly I’ve been playing Genesis and PlayStation Titles, with a few PC Engine games thrown in.  I am trying REALLY hard not to fall into my usual Emulation Trap of just playing Zelda and Mario…. again… for the ten thousandth time.

Overwatch 2

File this one under what I’m NOT Playing.  I got so tired of Overwatch and it’s unbalanced mess.  I quit a year or so ago and every attempt to come back failed within days or hours of every reinstall.  I came back more hardcore for the end of Overwatch 1, hopeful that Overwatch 2 would be a fresh, new beginning.  I even bought the Battle Pass.  Oh boy I was disappointed.  I expected nothing and it was worse.  Every single match, almost without fail, is a complete steamroll win or loss, and neither is fun.  Experience is a slow pain int he ass as well, I gave up on the Battle Pass around level 50 I think.  I was not having fun and I didn’t want to grind out 30 more levels.  I don’t even care about winning, I just want the game to feel enjoyable  I never win in Fortnite and I always enjoy playing.  Overwatch should be like that.  

It should be fun!

Fortnite Fracture Event, Quite Disappointing

Every so often, Fortnite has these big “Event” moments in it’s story line. They are essentially just an excuse to destroy the island and revamp it, at least from a game play perspective. These often happen at the end of the Chapter, but sometimes also between Seasons. (The game is Chapters, subdivided into Seasons). For the end of Chapter 3, Fortnite had an event called Fracture. Compared to the Collision Event for Chapter 3, Season 2, this event felt incredibly lack luster.

The way the events work, a half hour or so before the start time, it becomes the only game mode you can queue for, at which point, you get dropped into a holding pattern lobby with 3 other players. For Collision, this was the cockpit of the giant Voltron Like Mech, for Fracture, you just get stuck on a small island floating in space.

Waiting for the event to begin watching the TV countdown

There wasn’t much to do on the island besides run around and emote. There were no weapons and it wasn’t particularly large. The only thing really there was a TV with a countdown. Slightly disappointing, I believe due to the slight slop of the island itself, it was difficult to use the “Emote Together” emotes where two players can interact. Eventually the count down ended and the TV lit up bright and the event itself began. There was a brief little movie bit where the Herald attacks the Reality Tree before the entire island is overrun by the Chrome that has been slowly consuming everything all season. After-which it explodes. Or I suppose, more accurately, it Fractures.

Fortnite Fracture Title

After the fracture, you find yourself simply floating in space alone. Before The Paradigm starts narrating about the Zero Point reassembling the world…. or something. Eventually you are roped in and pulled to a small floating island in space, along with your squad and some other people, maybe 50 or so players total, at least I assume they were all other players as well, it wasn’t real clear.

At this point, the actual game play starts. And it’s… ok, at first, but lasts for like, 40 minutes, and is extremely repetitive, and not very clear on what needs done exactly.

Basically, you are collecting these little zero point Orbs. Some are just laying around the island, others are gotten through doing various mini quests and tasks. There is no shooting, or Battle Royale, or even any weapons, you just, run around randomly, doing random shit. Some of these things include, doing “bounties” of throwing a snowball at a player, or finding hidden props hidden around the island, or apparently fishing, though no one seemed to have figured that one out, or spotting things floating in space, using a telescope. These were the easy ones. Others, like assembling the snowman, or throwing a chicken into the Zero point (WHICH SOUNDS STUPID EASY) were not clear on the goal. I probably tossed 20 chickens into the Zero Point and didn’t once get credit for that one.

Fortnite Fracture, The Zero Point

Every 5 minutes or so, The Paradigm would talk about the Zero Point reacting and it would pull another piece of chuck from space and more activities would unlock. More of… the same activities. Just in a new little chuck of island. It honestly wasn’t clear if the activities of the players were causing this, or if it was just on a timer. There was no meter or anything that players were working to fill by collecting Zero Point orbs, which would have at least helped a bit with how pointless it all felt.

Eventually, the thing just unceremoniously ends, The Paradigm says she is going to sacrifice herself to save the island and then the island gets reformed a new as a bunch of promo teasers of locations and characters for next season come flying in to form the new island.

The whole event was kind of dull, and judging from other reactions I have seen online, I am not alone in this thought. Here is hoping the next season is better, but I’m already thinking I may take another break like I did for Chapter 3 Season 3. Doomguy is probably in the next Season Pass, which is kind of cool, but I’m not sure if I really want him that bad. I would be a new island at least to mix things up a bit.

Final Shot as the game went offline until tomorrow.