Tired of hearing phrases like “Metroidvania” and “rogue-like”? Can’t take one more pixelated indie gem cluttering up your games journalism newsfeed? No, you say? Well then, we’ve got exactly what you asked for and might very well need: a guide to surviving Dead Cells, the internet’s new favorite Metroidvania-style pixelated indie rogue-like of the week. It’s a neat game (available for Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) that’s nails-tough, as one might expect from its genre descriptors. Thankfully, as bona fide hard-core gamers™, we know exactly how you can survive Dead Cells’ challenges and overcome this digital harbinger of death. And, as a bonus, we promise we didn’t plagiarize this tip guide.
Just die. Beat the game at its own, er, game. All of Dead Cells’ tension comes from the reality that if you die, you lose everything. So swallow your pride, expect that eventuality and try dying a few times just for fun. This will acclimate you to the game’s particular brand of brutality, and once you stop fearing death … well, that’s the first step to becoming Batman. The moral of the story: Expect to die, restart and struggle until you die again. If that doesn’t sound like a hot Saturday night to you, Dead Cells might not be your kind of game.
2. Hunt for secrets.
Nothing’s better than a good secret, like the kind your best man kept from you until hours before the wedding. What do you mean, “She’s already married in a different country,” Jared? Anyway, Dead Cells has lots of secrets (including items such as scrolls, blueprints and gold). Some are hidden inside walls, revealed only by whacking said structures with your fancy battle stick. Others are hidden inside enemies with stars over their heads. Wherever you look, there might be a new secret. So look everywhere!
3. Get crafty.
The key to winning any fight, be it the one you’re going to fight in the parking lot at 5 p.m. or the many, many encounters Dead Cells propositions you with, is to know your enemy and know how to cheat. When it comes to knowing your enemy, Dead Cells is pretty straightforward: Enemies hit hard and can wipe you out in a few blows, so memorize their attack patterns, roll around a lot and be wary of when they telegraph their moves (indicated by a big ol’ exclamation point above their heads; you can’t miss it).
As for cheating, this one’s pretty simple: Use weapons like the game’s sentry crossbows, which you can place and lure enemies into their firing radius. Foes will be dead before they can shout the classic Admiral Ackbar line, “It’s a trap!” and you won’t even have to get your hands dirty.
4. No fight, all flight.
There will come a time when your health is low and the bad guys with pointy sticks have you outnumbered. In these instances, it’s best to run away. While you can’t do this for every encounter in the game, there are many times when you can avoid an unnecessary death (and the subsequent loss of all your acquired goodies) by noping the heck out of there and turning the other way, all while enemies chase after you and poke at your behind. Because, remember: You can’t always take an “L” like a warrior. Sometimes, you have to find a different way.
5. Unlock wisely.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Great American Experiment, it’s that the burden of freedom, and the unlimited choice that comes with it, is a heavy one. In that sense, Dead Cells forces you to carry a heavy burden, as it presents you with a plethora of possibilities for potential upgrades on which to spend your cells.
To make things easy on yourself, always go with general upgrades whenever possible. They’ll amp up your ability to recycle meaningless loot (a true godsend), boost your health potion supply and give you extra gold. If all of those upgrades sound über-essential to survival and success in a rogue-like, that’s because they are.
With these five key tips and tricks, life in Dead Cells should be a bit easier. Though it’ll never be a cakewalk, that’s not why you play this game. You play it to satiate your inner masochist and hard-core gamer — two polar opposites that require a hard-to-strike balance. We hope these strategies will make that tightwire act a little easier to manage and keep you picking up the controller long past your first Dead Cells rage-quit. And the ones after that.
Credit: Motion Twin