Just A Quick Go: Dead Cells

After my 20-25th death in Dead Cells, I thought I’d take a break and explain why I keep chucking myself at deaths cruel embrace. I’ve had my eye on Dead Cells for a while now but always been hesitant to fully jump on the hype train. The graphics looked amazing, the combat looked fluid and fast. It looked like a fantastic game but I kept hearing that word being thrown around, which kind of put me off it. That amalgamation of two brands, Metroidvania.

Before you brandish the pitchforks, I don’t hate those games. I prefer Metroid Prime to the 2D games though. I tend to fall off the 2D Metroid games at a quick rate. Except for Metroid Fusion, that was a brilliant game. Castlevania I haven’t really played except Castlevania on the N64 which, even in my 10 year old mind, I knew that was a dud rental. After that I never touched it again until the DS games, which I liked. But with both series there is always a point, where after hours into their respective labyrinths I think ‘Where do I go now?’. These games are designed so that you’ll find a pathway but will need a certain tool/key/skill to go that way. The problem is I always end up forgetting where that was and I just lose interest fast when I’m finding dead end after dead end. Dead Cells alleviates this issue for me by not only having a map that has pictures for my dumb brain but also by being a rogue-lite game. A fantastic one at that.

In Dead Cells you play as……….I’ve no idea actually. You are a blob that rolls into a corpse, controls that corpse and then heads off on his adventure. There isn’t much in the way of story here. It’s mostly filler text, scribblings on walls and observations your character can make. These help to fill the world but so far I don’t really know what this world is. Does that matter in a rogue-lite? Not really. There may be a story I’m missing or a reveal at the end but I’ve not even beat the game yet so I can’t explain the world. But that works in Dead Cells favour. As you control this blob controlling a body (I’m a bit of a blob myself so I know how that feels), you venture through different areas on an island, fighting your way through people and abominations. On your travels you will gather a bounty of resources including better weapons, stat boosts, blueprints for new gear, traps, money and the all important cells. Cells are the name of the game both figuratively and literally. Sure on your quest you may find a fantastic sword and astonishing bow but as soon as you die though, you lose all your gear. Cells however, are used to make your next journey easier.

Dead Cells Jars 3
The more you play, the more these blueprints will fill the jars. It’s a visual treat at the start of each run, to see how much you’ve progressed.

As you progress and slay enemies, they will sometimes drop cells. Once you reach the end of the area you are currently in, you go to a hub between areas. Here you can retool your gear, refill on health, enhance your character through mutations (more on that later) and most importantly; spend cells on eternal upgrades. For example, on your previous area you found a blueprint for a slick looking bow. On arrival at the hub space, you speak to a character who trades cells for game wide permanent buffs. Say I had 40 cells and the new bow blueprint I found costs 30 to create and to put into the game’s rotation. I put my cells into that and unlock the bow. Now that bow can appear on all my future runs. Consider it an investment. Now I have 10 cells left. I’m sure you didn’t need me to do that math for you but there it is anyway. What to do with that spare 10? I could put it toward a sword that poisons enemies, an extra health flask on top of my other 2, a perk that allows me to carry over 3000 of my gold to my next run upon my death. There are tons of ways to increase your arsenal and better your odds on your next go. There are lots of ways to increase your chances as you play. You will come across shops, find chests with goodies inside, find cursed chests that offer tantalising surprises for those who are willing to risk it for a biscuit, secret areas and be able to utilise up to 3 mutations.

Mutations are basically buffs for that individual run. When you first start playing Dead Cells, you have a dozen of so to choose from. As you find blueprints though, you will expand that list of possibilities. Do you go attack heavy and increase your damage for 15 seconds after an enemy kill? Go defensive and increase your HP? Increase your damage when you deploy bear traps, turrets or any of the other throw-able tools? The choice is yours but the best of players will choose a mutation that combos with the gear that they have.  All the above is why Dead Cells works for me. I don’t need to retain map data to know where to go. Dead Cells has branching pathways but you will always find an exit you can use. As you progress through the game you will encounter foes that once defeated, will leave a new power up for you which, will help you enter previously unreachable areas and will carry over after you die. It’s this continually satisfaction that keeps me coming back to Dead Cells. When I first played it, I couldn’t do the first area. Now I’m lasting close to an hour before getting my butt kicked. But even when I die, I know that all those cells I collected in the other areas, have all gone towards my goal of beating the game. It doesn’t matter that when I died I lost 26 cells because through the other areas I must have put over 100 cells into permanent upgrades and weapons. The more you play, the better you become. Not only that but your understanding of how the enemies fight improves. And on top of that! For all you speed runners out there. In a lot of the levels you will find doors that are only accessible if you get there within a certain time limit. Through the door you will find a stat increase, money and a stash of cells. So you always have a choice of going through the game at your own pace, or bombing it through the level like a mad man.

DeadCells Ramparts
Ramparts is my favourite location so far, There a very Prince of Persia feel to it when fighting enemies on the rooftops. It looks amazing too.

I realise I’ve written over 1000 words and barely said how I feel about the game. I’ll give a quick summary here but hopefully you found what I’ve described as interesting. This is a great game and thoroughly recommend you check it out. Besides its lavish environments and addictive gameplay, the one thing I love about the game is how it plays. It flows so well. It’s hard to describe except just to say that it plays really good. To compare it to another game, I would say it plays as good as Super Meat Boy. By that I mean, the sense of control and precision. The movement and combat in this game is on that level. Even when things are out of control on screen, I never feel out of control. Besides one or two times when I meant to jump down a narrow gap between two ledges. My character kept grabbing onto the ledges and pulling itself up. I died there which was annoying but on a mostly randomly generated game like this, that stuff is bound to happen. But that was a minor incident in my hours of game time. It didn’t stop me from immediately starting another run. If you’re looking for an addictive, expansive and combat heavy side scroller, look no further than Dead Cells.

Gaming and Your Partner

If you’re reading this, you more than likely have an affinity for video games. With something that you enjoy, there’s always the desire to share it with you SO. But in the situation where your partner hasn’t had much experience in gaming, then finding the right games can be tricky. In this article I want to talk about co-op games and just games that offer a more basic approach. So first person shooters are out of the question. Maybe you’ve had better luck. But usually when I give a new gamer the controller to an FPS or over the shoulder perspective, they continually run into walls or run sideways into gunfire. The games I’ve selected are games that tend to not involve camera control. As novices seems to have issues with connecting the left stick to movement and the right stick to viewpoint. Lets delve in.

Overcooked (PS4, Xbox ONE, Switch and PC)

Make sure to play this only if your relationship is sturdy and ready for conflict. You have been warned. In Overcooked you and your partner take control of chefs in a kitchen. Orders come through and it’s up to you and your partner to prepare, cook and serve each order hastily. If a customer doesn’t receive their order in a set time, they’re out the door and you’re down a tip. Sounds simple enough so far but as you progress the kitchen place becomes more and more ludicrous. These kitchens range from the basic setup of a standard kitchen to a more challenging fare. Ice levels ensure a slippery time whilst lava levels spew magma which if touched, eliminates that chef for several seconds. You won’t know fury till you’re about to serve a meal and a stray fireball destroys you and your plate. It starts out as chop lettuce, chop tomatoes, BAM, salad done. Next order! The game ups the ante continuously by introducing new meals and new gimmicks. One challenge can see 3 different meals needing to be served, requiring intense co-ordination and communication to receive top marks. Another level might have the prep station on one moving lorry, while the hobs are on another lorry. The basic controls and isometric view means that the control scheme is simple and easy to learn. The game is easy to learn too, just hard to master. While some games like Mario Party can cause angry glares from your adjacent couch seat, Overcooked could potentially lead to some fiery words when someone (not naming who) burns the kitchen down. But the sense of accomplishment you and your partner will have when you 3 star a space mission, after the 8th try. You will definitely release a sigh of relief and a smile on both your faces.

Overcooked
As an added bonus. This game can be played with up to four players. Making it an ideal double date night game.

WarioWare Smooth Moves (WII)

The Nintendo Wii was an immense success. Everyone and their cat had one. And while nowadays the Wii is looked back on as more of a gimmick console. It still had some stand out games. Nintendo really knew how to market it and get the ‘console for the whole family’ brought to reality. WarioWare Smooth Moves shows this to the fullest. With Wii remote in hand and a visual prompt card on the screen, what follows is an absurd mini game which needs to be completed within seconds with the action shown on the prompt card. If completed successfully, a new prompt card is shown and a new weird mini game lined up. As you complete each mini game they get more difficult and faster until you complete them all or fail. Usually because you chugged the water too quick and drenched your characters face. It always gets me that mini game. With a multitude of modes such as Survival where each person is an angel soaring through the air. You take turns at the random mini games and if you fail one, you descend lower and lower each time until you’re out the match. Or All Mixed Up where all mini games are up for play and you see how long you can go before you lose all 4 lives. This mode in particular is a great; pass the controller party game. I can’t recommend this enough for your SO or even a house party. The simple motion controls and absurdity on screen make for lots and lots of laughter. Here’s a video to show its uniqueness and it speaks for itself.

The Binding Of Isaac: Afterbirth (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

The Binding Of Isaac Rebirth, Afterbirth and Afterbirth+ are all fantastic versions. I’ve just listed Afterbirth as that’s the one I’m currently playing on PS4. They’re all great and so if you fancy getting it just get whichever version is available on your preferred platform. Afterbirth+ is the latest and has more content than the others so that’d probably be the best version to get. This game is primarily a single player game. It does have a couch co-op option but it’s more of a help option than a 2 player mode. This game is quite dark, has lots of gore and religious themes and so you yourself will have to gauge if this is an appropriate game for your situation. Isaac is a twin stick shooter. Left stick moves and right stick shoots. There are a few other buttons such as ‘use item’ and ‘use a bomb’ but you’ll figure that out when you play. The basics are you pick a character, start a run and are dropped into a randomly generated floor. You then control your character as you battle rooms of monsters and puzzles until you get to the boss of each floor. Defeat the boss, go down another floor and repeat until you either die or you succeed. Along your travels you will find money, keys, bombs to help you on your descent. You will also find items that not only offer new gameplay styles but also visually change your character. Sometimes into a grotesque, demonic child. As I said, the game is randomly generated. Each run is different but pertains to the same structure. And there lies the fun of The Binding Of Isaac. Every time you play is a different experience and although at the start it can be very difficult and confusing. With practice and time you learn the game mechanics and enemy patters. You learn which items to take and which to leave. This is why I recommend this game. To novices Isaac can be very daunting. There are over 300 items in the game and so many mysterious things that even after dozens of hours of playing you won’t have seen them all. Which is why this is the perfect back seat gaming game. Set you SO on a run and provide help. Tell her/him to save that key for the shop. Tell them that Isaac’s Heart is one of the worst items in the game and don’t pick it up.  Let them know the secrets to completing a run that you yourself have learned or are currently figuring out. It’s a great game and topic for discussion. Walking in from work and being told ‘I had a great run as The Lost today. Got to Hush and picked up Bob’s Brain by accident’, that means nothing to you if you haven’t played it. But to me that warrants a ‘Oh. Unlucky. Next time though’. It’s like talking in a secret code and it’s great. Highly recommend as long as it’s themes don’t cause offence.

TBIDINGOFiSAAC

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is an isometric, action RPG. You and your partner will pick a class, name your character and begin your quest. With 6 classes to choose from (7 if you get the DLC) you get a myriad of roles to play. Do you be a wizard and attack enemies from afar. Or go the barbarian route and get up close and personal to your foes. With this, a story mode, rare loot drops, randomised rifts to explore and a great online experience. Diablo 3 can keep you engaged for a long, long time. When you’ve levelled up your character as much as you want and got all the gear you’ve hunted for. You can start as a new class. See how that class’s style differs. When you level your characters you unlock access to new skills. What skills you choose is up to you. Communicate with your partner and choose skills that compliment her/his style. As a wizard I would slow enemies down while my partner rushed them as the barbarian. It’s this versatility and range that makes Diablo 3 a great couch co-op game. With tons of difficulties too, which the higher the better as it yields rarer loot. There is even the terrifying (to me anyway) hardcore mode. Which means that if your character dies, then that’s your character gone. Deleted from the system. If you and your partner wish to try this mode then you’re braver than we are. Diablo 3 also has a story which in of itself isn’t anything special. But it’s nice to be able to play a game with your SO that isn’t just mini games or a funny game. This is a fully fleshed game and with its easy to grasp controls and camera view, it makes for many hours of fun co op dungeon crawling.

diablo-3
This game can be played with up to 4 players. Couch co-op, online or a mixture of the 2.

Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4, 3DS, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, PlayStation Vita, Switch)

Tetris! Released in 1984, this series has retained it’s addictive quality and basic concept. Shapes fall from the sky and you have to rotate, move and line them up to form rows so that they can disappear and you can rinse and repeat. The game gets speedier and you go until you can’t go anymore. This latest edition combines Puyo Puyo with the chaos for an even more frantic mayhem. Add in competitive multiplayer between friends/SO’s/AI and you have a great party game. Prior to this game I never played Puyo Puyo before but understood its concept. Connect 4 or more Puyos of the same color in a row, vertically or a combination of the 2, to make them disappear. Basically like Tetris except, in Tetris if you clear a line, nothing else happens to your playing field. Puyos on the other hand fall if the ones below them vanish. Which leads to strategies and forward thinking to win.  If you create chain reactions and cause multiple Puyo colors to disappear this sends obstacles to your opponents. Ruining their lavish design that would have rained hell on you, if they got that particular color they needed. With an ample choice of modes you can’t go wrong with this game. Simple controls and mechanics, but a lot to master. Not only do you have Tetris and Puyo Puyo modes but you also have the new Fusion mode. Which combines to the 2 elements for a confusing at first, but addictive mode, if you can grasp the concept. If you aren’t a competitive couple, then you can always team up and take on the computer. Or take turns in seeing who can last the longest in a certain mode. If you like puzzle games then I really recommend checking this game out.

Puyo Puyo

I think that’ll about do it for this post. I have other games in mind but will save them for possibly a sequel to this feature. Thank you for reading and if you wish to suggest any games ideal for discussion then feel free to leave a comment.

Darkest Dungeon Review

Oh, Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. What am I going to do about you? There’s something about a game that gives me heart palpitations that I love. And not the good heart palpitations either. This isn’t a holding hands with your new love speedy pitter-patter. It’s that feeling of your foot plunging to the ground when an unexpected drop or declining step appears. But prolonged at times and less sudden. You put yourself in this situation. And you will do again and again and again. You love it. I know I do. I am enraptured with this game. And yet I find myself unable to play it for long stretches. The sheer wave of relief after completing a taxing run in one of Darkest Dungeons……well dungeons, is always a welcome feeling but also a release button. ‘I’M OUT! That’s it, I’m done. I need to relax and unwind. This leisurely hour of Darkest Dungeon wasn’t relaxing it was strenuous and cruel. But I’ll be back. Maybe an hour later or the next day but I will return for me delicious punishment’.

Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike, turn based combat game. You are given a brief explanation of the happenings, 2 party members and a quick tutorial dungeon. Then the rest is up to you to decide. You have a combat phase and a micro-management/upgrade phase. You assemble your team of up to 4 members per expedition, their skills and their position in combat. There are over a dozen different hero types. Each with different roles in combat. As each character type is different, they all have different skills and preferred positions. The Crusader prefers to be up front where he deals the most damage. Whereas the Plague Doctor prefers to hang out in the back, chucking ailments at the enemies and buffs for your team. You venture out into whichever dungeon you subject them to and then at the end you pick up the pieces and tend to them. Each dungeon will have several options to choose from. Some of these include; a quick skirmish where you have to complete all the room battles. Explore, where a set percentage of rooms need to be passed through. And even Kill the (insert foul being for killing) which act as mini boss and boss encounters. These missions will require more planning as they tend to be longer but offer better rewards.

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This will become a sanctuary to all who play this game. Take a breather and get the kettle on.

After your mission, you’re automatically transported to your estate, in which your party recuperate and prepare for the next mission.  The central hub of this game is a town under threat from neighbouring dungeons. It is here that you’ll decide the down time for your team. Do you go to the caravan to recruit new members? The blacksmith to upgrade your heroes gear? Or maybe the pub or brothel for your weary warriors?  There is no time limit or AP gauge here so you can go at your own pace and think your choices through. It’s a nice, calm lull that offers relief for the player as well as your team. Once you’ve made all your choices it’s back out to the dungeons for another round.

There are 5 dungeons in total. With the titular Darkest Dungeon being the end goal. Each dungeon is randomly generated. Although the same, in corridors connected to rooms, each offer very different experiences and aesthetic. The Ruins offer Unholy beasties that attack your team’s sanity just as much as their health whilst the Weald’s enemies tend to inflict ailments such as blight and bleed upon your party. It’s these differences that require planning ahead, as picking a team willy-nilly will result in bad times or even death for your team. And in this game; when someone’s dead, they’re dead, Jim. Prepare to get attached and have your heart broken as your Highwayman, Greg gets shanked to death by a butcher in the Ruins. When an enemy dies, unless by blight or certain situations, their body will remain on the ground and in the spot they were standing. If you want to attack an enemy behind them in the line-up, your best option may be to get rid of that corpse as soon as. That way your close quarters Crusader can end him swiftly. This feature requires extra thought but can be switched off in the options, as well as a number of choices to make the game easier or harder for yourself.

I mentioned enemies attacking sanity before and that is a key feature of this game. When you enter the combat segment, your team each have a health meter and also a sanity meter. As you progress through the corridors and enemy encounters your team’s sanity will deteriorate. Sometimes because an enemy specifically cast a sanity affecting attack. Other times because the enemy landed a critical hit and now your hero’s confidence wavers. Even progressing through the dungeon puts a toll on your heroes. The light is your friend in this game. If that starts to fade so does your teams spirit. Luckily before each expedition you get to purchase provisions before you set off.  The usual antidotes for blight (this games version of poison ailment), bandages to stop bleeding and buff potions. Food can be purchased and eaten any time out of combat. This’ll heal your selected member a smidge. But don’t get greedy! As you progress through the dungeon your team may get hungry and require a piece of food each. If you’re short on rations, well too bad, your team take a hit to sanity and health for your lack of planning. Torches can be purchased too before you set off. The light provides another gameplay element, play it safe or go bold and daring. Your screen lit like a beacon will provide ease for your party and a less stressful venture. It may also provide mapping possibilities and a chance to startle an enemy team, giving you the upper hand. With less light though you have a higher chance of earning more loot and landing critical blows. But be afraid of the dark, as it can give the enemy the jump on your team and will cause their stress levels to rise quicker. If a character’s stress level is pushed too far they will have a moment of resolve, where they’re tested to see if they’re strong enough to power through their fe ars or if they’ll crumble and become a detriment to your team. They might power through though. Then they become stronger than before, able to hit harder, heal themselves randomly and increase morale among your team lowering stress for all. Should they fail though, then you might want to chuck them as soon as you get out that dungeon.

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My first death. Immortalised in a trophy screenshot. Go quietly into the night.

They will gain an affliction, such as Selfish, Fearful or Irrational. These may cause your worrywart to freeze up on their turn or switch places with one of your other party members. They can even run from combat and that’s them gone for this dungeon, you’re one man down now.  It’s not just the enemies out to get your team either. The corridors are littered with traps that’ll sneak up on you if the light is dim. Obstacles will appear such as a mound of bricks that you will need a shovel to dig through. ‘What, you didn’t bring a shovel or find one in your travels? Tough.’. You take so long clearing the way that the light goes dim and your team each loses sanity. The hallways are littered with temptations too. Curios they’re called in this game. Your team stumbles upon random stack of books. The choice is yours to make and for which member of your party. Do you let them investigate or play it safe and walk on? A quick glance can’t harm your Grave Robber, Gael much surely? Whoops, she reads and gains the quirk Night Blindness and so now if the light is below a certain amount, she does 10% damage less to opponents. And honestly that’s one of the better negative quirks to get.

Yes, you heard that right. Quirks. Each hero has a random set of quirks when you recruit them. These can be positive or negative.  A positive quirk can ensure that they fare better against certain monster types or have increased HP among other things. Negative quirks could mean that a particular hero is nerfed in a certain dungeon or under certain conditions such as low light. Sometimes they’ll have a quirk which makes them instantly investigates certain Curios if found, possibly gaining them another negative quirk. Or Flagellant, which means in town they’ll only go to the Penance Hall to de-stress, which may be occupied by the roaming caretaker who randomly takes up spots meant for your heroes to recover mentally in. And if quirks weren’t bad enough, there are also diseases that your team can contract. Diseases are rarer but can be gained through combat and Curios too. A party member might get afflicted with The Red Plague which decreases HP, critical chances and bleed resistance. It’s these possible pitfalls that make every dungeon venture a gamble and a constant assessment of your situation whilst exploring. Dread is the name of your friend when playing this game. ‘Hello Dread! My that’s a nice urn there. Mind if I have a cheeky peek inside?’ “Of course! Go right ahead, watch for syphilis though.”. ‘Sorry Dread, I didn’t quite catch that. Did you whisper syphilis? Am I going to get syphilis from this innocent urn?!’. And that’s how Reynauld the Crusader contracted that disease.

Thankfully the town offers cures and treatment for diseases and negative quirks. For a price, obviously. Treatment isn’t free and sometimes that Grave Robber you’ve had since your first real dungeon, who was always in your prime line-up.  Sometimes the damage of Darkest Dungeon is too great or costly and you have to make the choice. Spend your hard-earned money on fixing her up, back to beautiful Gael. Or dismiss your loyal member and recruit a new, less tainted by the harsh surroundings, hero.  Darkest Dungeon isn’t all evil though and does offer help too. After completing missions you’ll gain money, trinkets and upgrade material. The trinkets can be given to individual party members. Each member can hold 2 trinkets and some trinkets are classed based. They range in rarity and also effectiveness. Some will be great but others not so much. Sure, one may raise your characters HP by 10% but it’ll also reduce their speed by 2. But, aha! Find a hero with 0 speed already and suddenly that trinket doesn’t seem so bad. You can’t miss what you don’t have. The upgrade materials you earn can be used in town to upgrade the surrounding buildings. Upgrading the caravan will increase roster size or selection of heroes after each mission. Upgrade the blacksmith and he will allow you to buff your party members weapons for more damage, among other things. But establishments will only take certain upgrade material. And certain materials will be more available in certain dungeons. Thus, encouraging expeditions into the more unfamiliar dungeons.

Plague Doctor
One of my favourite classes. Blight the back 2 enemies and watch them wither away.

If this all sounds rather complex, it’s because it is. Darkest Dungeon isn’t an easy game. And there are lots of nuances to get used to and you will learn from mistakes you make.  I am playing the PS4 version and although the team, Red Hook Studios have done an admirable job porting a complex game to console. It does suffer from confusing controls. Something I have got used to but because there is a lot to manage on screen, it requires a lot of different inputs. And that can take some time and errors along the way to ingrain into your memory.

Overall, I would recommend Darkest Dungeon. But I would also recommend looking it up on YouTube or other game sites and watching some combat gameplay. If you like the look of it, can handle stress and won’t fling your controller across the room at the sometimes seemingly biased RNG then you’re in for a rewarding, gorgeously pleasing game that’s chock full of great visuals, animations and sound design. Text doesn’t do justice to the transition when you or an enemy performs an action. And there is a narrator of your quest who is ever present in town and in combat.  Wayne June is his name. He does a fantastic job of setting the mood and boosting your confidence. When you critical hit an enemy into the ground and you hear the powerful “Crush. Them. All” be commanded, you can’t help but feel riled up, imposing and ready to conquer the Darkest Dungeon of them all.