|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|Release||August 7, 2018|
Dead Cells is an upcoming roguelike-Metroidvania hybrid video game being developed by Motion Twin, and currently is in early access testing for Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux, with its full release, alongside ports to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, on August 7, 2018.
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 plot of Dead Cells is minimalistic, only giving bits of information to the player. Taking place on an unnamed island, the player character is referred to as the Prisoner, a humanoid with a smoky flame in place of a head. The Prisoner is a silent protagonist, but occasionally shows some personality traits such as confusion or frustration (giving the finger on several occasions). The Prisoner is immortal, as every time he or she dies their "head" manages to lurch it's way back to the starting prison. According to a guard, the Prisoner is said to have been executed for some crime, but the nature of the crime is never specified.
Every time the Prisoner dies, the island reconfigures itself, which serves as an explanation for the rogue-like mechanics. In the game, the reason for this is specified as the island being a living organism that evolves over time.
Dead Cells's developer Motion Twin had been developing games for the browser and mobile gaming market since 2001. The studio found that competition in the mobile market required more investment to make viable games, and decided to switch focus to develop what they considered their "passion project", a game that was "something hardcore, ultra-niche, with pixel art and ridiculous difficulty" that they knew would be a potential risk in terms of interested players. Motion Twin's producer, Steve Filby, said that The Binding of Isaac was a significant influence, as there, the way the game proceeds "is entirely based on the choice of items that you get. That’s the fun of the game."
Initially, Motion Twin had set out to include more elements of tower defense in the game, having the player drop turrets or similar traps to defeat monsters, but found this was not interesting. They took inspiration of the Engineer class from Team Fortress 2, where the use of turrets and other buildable items helps to strengthen the character's abilities, and took Dead Cells into an action platformer where the player used weapons along with a variety of skills (including some elements they had developed for the tower defense approach). They did not want players to get used to having a single weapon/skill combination that they used indefinitely, and arranged the roguelike elements as to require the player to try out new combinations of weapons and skills as they progressed in a given run to defeat newer foes, and keeping what items they would get in a random manner every time they started a new game. To give the player enough options, the developers crafted about 50 different weapons, avoiding having too much duplication in how each weapon worked so that there would be unique gameplay possibilities with each. The team used an iterative process in gameplay and graphics and art so that each of these weapons also exhibited unique animations or behavior so that the player would get a sense of a tactile response and the special nature of each weapon.
Motion Twin opted to use Steam's Early access approach to both gauge interest and to get real-time feedback from players on game features and the balance from procedural generation. The early access period was launched on May 10, 2017 with support for Microsoft Windows, and released macOS and Linux versions in early access on June 26, 2018. In November 2017 the game was also released on GOG.com as part of their drive to provide an alternate way to purchase games that are in development. In January 2018, Motion Twin also stated they are planning on console development for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with a planned release in August 2018 to correspond with the Windows' version leaving early access.
Dead Cells is scheduled to launch its full version on August 7, 2018 for computers and consoles. Retail editions of the game are expected to also ship in August 2018.
About a year from its early access release, Dead Cells has sold over 730,000 units.
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