‘Dead Cells’ Review: Carefully Crafted Combat Meets Random Levels

While many games today seem to release and then (hopefully) get fixed later, Dead Cells has been functional and fun for so long that it’s almost as if developer Motion Twin forgot to hit the release button. Marrying gorgeous pixel art with skill-based combat and cleverly randomised levels, this is a dangerously replayable action game that you can gorge on in long stretches or just in 20 exhilarating minutes before work.

Take a deep breath, because we’re about to say the name of the genre. Dead Cells is the latest in the 2D pixel art metroidvania Soulslike roguelite action platformer to hit Steam. Video games, eh? It’s a subgenre of a sub-sub-subgenre that actually manages to define more than a few other games on the horizon. It turns out people just can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet, Soulsy combat.


Dead Cells player and enemy swing at each other

Still — seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? How can a roguelite with randomly generated levels also be a metroidvania, a genre known for its meticulously crafted and explorable worlds?

The solution, like most of what Dead Cells offers, fees like a greatest hits of other games that’s somehow evolved into its own unique thing.

The Random Worlds of Dead Cells

Dead Cells achieves this by splitting everything up into different biomes. From The Sewers, to the Black Bridge, to the Clock Tower, these areas all have their own tilesets and enemies. The content within each is randomised every playthrough, but there are reliable constants. When you arrive at The Ramparts – a section of rooftops and towers patrolled by archers and mages – it’ll always be a lower level area with appropriately scaled gear.

As you’d expect from a roguelike, players have a degree of control over which biomes they visit. Once you’ve obtained the ability to climb vines, or use statues to teleport, or even wall climb, these permanent skills let you access the previously inaccessible. Find the shortcut, and these abilities effectively effectively let you skip a few biomes.

All of that spells more variety — though hell, even the repetition is fun in this game. Even going through areas we’ve beaten hundreds of times before, we didn’t get bored of them. It’s easy to lose yourself into that Soulslike flow when you’ve mastered an area and spend hours cutting through its enemies like so much butter.

Whether you’re exploring the new, or dominating the old, it’s just a different kind of fun. In Dead Cells, the latter becomes about beating each area quickly, as opposed to just beating them. Why? Because timed rewards are waiting for those who go from slow to flow.


Dead Cells randomised island game review
Every time we look at the island it seems different. Almost random…

Combat to Repeatedly Die For

We’re still playing this game a year after its Early Access launch, and that simply wouldn’t be the case if it didn’t rest on a rock solid combat system. Based on the “Souls roll,” hitting the dodge button here will grant you a second of invulnerability.

Each weapon has its own moveset but importantly, these carry different systems for critical attacks as well. It’s a unique system that gives each weapon an interesting playstyle and individual flavour.

Take the rapier for example, which crits after dodge rolls. Or the War Spear, which crits if it hits two enemies at the same time. The Twin Daggers crit on the third hit in their combo, and the Whip only crits on targets at the maximum thwack range.


Dead Cells early game boss fight
Did you just pull a Morpheus?

You may have noticed each of these has a nugget of risk/reward baked in. They also have different timings, such as a slightly longer attack animation on the Twin Daggers’ third strike. On top of this, all gear will come with randomised modifiers, which will be music to any Diablo fan’s ears.

Players will balance weapon moveset familiarity with stats and synergies, each respawn an opportunity for ad-hoc theorycrafting. It satisfies cravings for both action and strategy in each playthrough.

Perhaps you’re more comfortable with the Balanced Blade’s moveset, but that slower Oiled Sword might couple nicely with the Fire Grenade you just picked up? Every level has a series of interesting decisions for you to make while the clock is still ticking.

Floodgated Content

It’s also a game that has a surprising amount to do. There are new biomes and bosses waiting for you as you get further and further into the island, but it doesn’t stop there. Beyond the main game and its copious unlocks, the developers have been adding different ways to have fun.

For those who want to show off – or perhaps just need to catch a bus – Dead Cells is built from the ground up for speedrunning. Though “official” speedrunning rules would operate differently (Dead Cells pauses the timer in between levels while you upgrade), it’s neat being able to see how long each level has taken and each biome comes with a treasure room that can only be opened before a specific time.


Dead Cells start of game unlocks display
That is…a lot of unlocks.

There’s also the daily challenge, another randomised gauntlet with a unique scoring system. This mode incorporates how many enemies you can take out while also keeping an eye on the clock. Seeing yourself at the top of the daily leaderboards will require you to keep that kill combo speed buff going for as long as possible.

It’s hard to even talk about Dead Cells without sounding like a midnight shopping service – “but wait, there’s more!” – and just a few days ago Motion Twin threw a bunch more shiny new features onto the stack. Support was just added for modders which is always great for longevity, and expect Twitch streamers to be using fun gimmicks like requiring the chat to issue commands to open chests for them.


The Watcher boss in Dead Cells
Limbo as much as you want, I still see you.

Is Dead Cells Good?

We’ve seen Motion Twin add new bosses, levels, weapons, enemies, items, modifiers, and more over the last fourteen months. There’ve been redesigns, balance updates, and even a few less popular features removed outright to make sure the game flowed nicely.

It’s mainly a result of listening to its community — a practice that Motion Twin might be uniquely placed to do, given its novel structure in which every employee owns the same portion of the company. “Same pay, same say” for everyone, according to Motion Twin.

This is one of those titles we would’ve been happy with even at the start of its Early Access period. You could easily squeeze tens of hours from it back then, and over the course of fourteen months it’s just added more and more. Motion Twin could’ve flipped the “1.0” switch at any point to rapturous applause from its community.

Lucky you then, dear reader, if you haven’t yet dipped into this insta-classic. Dead Cells is an example of how to do things right in so many ways. How to do Early Access. How to listen to your community. How to take inspiration from games while growing into your own style. It also happens to be the best time to jump in and ride the content train that’s sure to keep rolling for a long time to come.

‘Dead Cells’ Was Supposed to Be in a Different Genre

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Rare Cancer Carefully Tracked and Treated

Cancer of the testes is considered a “rare” disease, occurring in fewer than 10,000 men between 15 and 40 years old in the United States annually.

About 150 of those cases are diagnosed across Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Region. The cancer is so rare that each of the region’s urologists may diagnose just one case in any given year. That doesn’t mean the disease is any less devastating to those who have it.

Now urologists and medical oncologists in Northern California have teamed up to ensure that they are all providing consistent, expert care for every single case of testicular cancer.

The effort began in 2016, when medical oncologist Andrea Harzstark, MD, and urologist Joseph Presti, MD, both based at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, spearheaded the establishment of a regional multidisciplinary Testicular Cancer Review Panel, which convenes four urologic and medical oncology specialists twice a month to review new cases.

“We are identifying patients as quickly as we can to make sure they are all on the right treatment path,” Dr. Harzstark said.

During its first year, the panel reviewed 131 new diagnoses, according to research presented by Drs. Harzstark and Presti earlier this year. The panel requested the re-review of pathology or radiology in 20 percent of the cases.

“I was on the phone with the mom of a patient, and she said, ‘I cannot tell you how comforted I am to hear that a panel of experts has reviewed my son’s case,’” Dr. Presti said.

Research and technology make panel possible

Drs. Harzstark and Presti received critical assistance to form the review panel from Lisa Herrinton, PhD, research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, and Yi-Fen (Irene) Chen, MD, associate executive director of The Permanente Medical Group.

First, Dr. Herrinton used an analytical technique called natural language processing in Kaiser Permanente’s comprehensive electronic medical record, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, to create spreadsheets of all new and ongoing testicular cancer cases, called a miniregistry.

“We were able to quickly give the testicular cancer panel the analytical tools so they could design a miniregistry that was exactly what they needed,” said Herrinton, whose team has created about 20 such miniregistries for other rare diseases, such as melanoma and sickle cell disease.

Then Dr. Chen’s System X team — a multidisciplinary group of TPMG technology, health care and quality leaders — piloted a powerful new clinical tool in Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, which allows the panel to access the complete lists of testicular cancer patients at all stages of treatment.

“Think of it as a spreadsheet on steroids,” Dr. Chen said. “We are supporting clinicians with very powerful system tools with dynamic data that allow them to efficiently and effectively take actions to close the care gap.”

With access to the tool, members of the panel can ensure that all appropriate follow-up imaging and laboratory tests are being done in a timely manner, specific to the type and stage of the testicular cancer.

Mark St. Lezin, MD, chair of chiefs of Urology for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, said the review panel “puts together true national experts who determine what is ideal care and use a marvelous computer system that assures that every man gets consistent, expert-level care.”

“That means a young man avoids chemo he doesn’t need, or gets the chemo that may prevent recurrence.”

The post Rare Cancer Carefully Tracked and Treated appeared first on Kaiser Permanente Share.

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