It’s safe to say that Dead Cells is more alive than ever. First released in 2018 for PC and consoles, the excellent side-scrolling roguelike casts you as a reanimated soldier. You wield randomly chosen weapons, which you use to kill randomly spawned enemies as you roll through randomly generated biomes. It’s delightfully chaotic.
Developer Motion Twin has continued to breathe life into the game by releasing a steady string of extra content and diversifying the platforms on which you can play. Today sees the release of the latest expansion, Fatal Falls, a $5 bit of downloadable content that adds new areas, new weapons, and a new boss to the game. Pretty good reason to play, if you ask me.
Dead Cells was initially available on Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. These days, there are mobile versions for both Android and iPhone players. It’s also part of the Game Pass library and is streamable on PS Now (well, for the next week). Like Fortnite and Minecraft, Dead Cells is practically everywhere. Personally, I prefer it on Switch.
Over the years, Motion Twin and its Dead Cells-focused label, Evil Empire, have released three major expansions for the game. They are:
Rise of the Giant: This one’s free, and adds a stage called the Cavern to the game, plus allows you to take on a new boss called the Giant.
Bad Seed: Last year’s expansion, the Bad Seed DLC, added two new biomes, the Dilapidated Arboretum and the Morass of the Banished. These serve as alternative routes for the second (Promenade of the Condemned, Toxic Sewers) and third (Ramparts, Ancient Sewers, Ossuary) stages, culminating in a boss fight against a gigantic, 90-eyed monstrosity called Mama Tick, an alternate mid-game boss for the Concierge. All told, it’s a terrific way to shake up the early segments of your runs. Five bucks.
Fatal Falls: Today’s Fatal Falls expansion also adds two biomes. The first, Fractured Shrines, is meant to serve as an alternative to the Stilt Village and Slumbering areas. The second, Undying Shore, diverts players away from the Clocktower and absolutely dreaded Forgotten Sepulcher areas. It culminates in a boss fight on a stage called the Mausoleum. (All those who hate that frustrating bout against the Time Keeper, rejoice!) This one’s five bucks, too.
All told, following the expansions, there are more than two dozen biomes. With both expansions downloaded, your runs through the game’s procedurally generated biomes will be far more varied than they would with the base version.
Dead Cells’ story isn’t nonsense. It’s just extremely pared down. You play as a bodiless entity known as the Beheaded. Your goal is to escape prison, which you do by overtaking a headless body at the start of each run. The whole world is afflicted by a vague illness called the Malaise, which appears to have reanimated a bunch of corpses into monsters of various sizes and strengths. When you die, you’ll take over another headless body in the starting area.
The Rise of the Giant added a fun wrinkle to the overarching plot by revealing that the Collector—he’s the guy you give all your earned cells to in exchange for new gear and powers—turned out to be the game’s big bad. Apparently, the Collector had been trying to work on a cure for the Malaise, the Panacea, but drove himself mad in the process. You can only reach him with five Boss Stem Cells activated, a laughably daunting task that I haven’t even considered tackling.
Boss Stem Cells
These little globules of... blood (?) are Dead Cells’ approach to difficulty levels. You can activate them in the starting chamber—each one significantly ramping up the challenge more than the last—and have to beat each difficulty level before you can unlock the next.
At the end of the day, you play Dead Cells for the slick combat, the tight platforming, the irresistible feeling of incremental progression, the eye-popping pixel art, or that deliciously crunchy sound design. For better or worse, the story exists in the margins.
Yes! Go, go, go! Dead Cells still freakin’ rules. You heard it here first.