Monday, July 1, 2019

Eric Vs. 365 - Day 1 - Dead Cells

Kicking off our year of posting a new video and blog for a different game every single day is Dead Cells. We already loved the game when we reviewed it in Fall 2018 but after being hopelessly addicted to it all over again lately it felt like a perfect place to start this fun new adventure. Continue reading as we gush praise for one of our favorite games and share a little story about how the video ended up the way it did.

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Dead Cells is fascinating to me because I was bad at it for quite a while. Even though I started playing it last Fall I never actually beat it until much later. It took about 80 runs on normal mode before I beat it the first time. In this way it was very similar to my experience with the first Dark Souls. With Dark Souls I knew it was good and something special way back in 2011, but I was bad at it and didn't ever beat it until 2017. Once I beat Dark Souls the first time, however, it was off to the races and I've beaten it a dozen-plus times since. Dead Cells was exactly the same way. Once I got over the hump and figured it out, I tore through normal mode with multiple builds and went on to beat hard, very hard, and expert along the way. Nightmare mode is, uh, still a nightmare.

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Dead Cells has pretty much perfected the dying and trying-style of gameplay but with a unique twist. Because it is procedurally generated you don't learn level routes and layouts but instead enemy and trap behaviors. In this way you're always prepared for what is coming even if what you're seeing is random and new. This gives the game a very satisfying feeling of progression as you're actually learning and applying skills rather than just memorizing a level. You have to think on your feet and be fast and clever in order to recognize and act and survive. 
The game also deserves credit for constantly getting refreshed via free updates. At some point, regardless of how organic the design may be and how varied things are, you do eventually figure out how everything works to the point where it gets all too familiar and easy. Then the developer, Motion Twin, comes out with a new update that totally changes everything. Enemies behave differently. Weapons work differently. Your favorite build suddenly isn't as good as it used to be. Level generation changes and stuff isn't where you expect it anymore. With each new update Dead Cells feels like a brand new fresh experience, which just gets you addicted all over again.

Today's video for Dead Cells was recorded before the Giant update hit Xbox One. This is significant because this new update gave the ice shard, my favorite ability, a shot limit which totally changes how it works and kind of ruined my favorite build. Like I said above, however, I just have to start over and figure out a new play style, which will be fun. Just keep in mind that how I play in the video isn't really a viable strategy anymore.

In the video I opted for a Hard mode playthough, which I was fairly confident about. I've beaten the normal and hard modes dozens of times up to that point, so I figured it would be "safe" while also being a lot more interesting than normal mode. I was too overconfident and cocky, however, as evidenced by all of the obvious death flags - noted by the little skull counter in the upper-right corner of the video - that I kept raising constantly. Yeah, I choked and died right on the cusp of victory, but it was a fun ride while it lasted and is still entertaining to watch. That result also ended up with a fun moment where, after a fit of cursing and wallowing in self-pity, you can hear my cat, Mughi, on the audio trying to comfort me, which is kind of hilarious and wonderful. He's such a good boy.