I’m going to be honest with you folks. I love Dead Cells. I might love Dead Cells more than I love my dog — and I LOVE my dog (I hope he never reads this). It was two years ago that French development studio Motion Twin officially released Dead Cells out into the world following a lengthy residence on Steam’s Early Access program. It finished as a runner up for Shacknews Game of the Year and was my personal favorite among all nominees. Depending on when you ask me, I’d even go so far as to say it is my top game of the 2010s.
Lofty praise, no doubt, but Dead Cells has the goods. Entering 2021, the development team has readied an all-new DLC pack going by the name Fatal Falls. It expands the total level collection by two, as well as a new boss encounter. The Fatal Falls content is seamlessly integrated into the existing game structure in a way that makes it feel like it was always there.
Paths less traveled
The showcase content in Fatal Falls is undoubtedly the pair of new environments. Fractured Shrines and Undying Shores provide two new palettes for the game’s randomized level creator to work with and are nestled into the branching path system that players may take on their journey to slay The Hand of the King. These new levels are situated towards the middle of the pack.
It is rather difficult to paint a picture with words that describes how the level progression in Dead Cells is structured and if you attempted to draw a diagram, it would end up looking like Charlie Kelley’s conspiracy whiteboard. To explain it in the simplest terms for Dead Cells veterans, Fractured Shrines can be entered from either the Black Bridge or The Nest boss encounters. Clearing Fractured Shrines will dump players into the Clock Tower unless the Cultist Outfit Blueprint is discovered and then the outfit is later purchased from the collector on a subsequent run. In this case, players can move on to Undying Shores.
There is the option of decoupling your head from your body and possessing one of the cultist corpses. This will also allow passage from the Fractured Shrines to Undying Shores. Should players already have the Cultist Outfit equipped, Undying Shores can also be entered from the Stilt Village and Graveyard. Clearing Undying Shores drops players into the new boss encounter with The Scarecrow. Surviving here then leads into either High Peak Castle or the Derelict Distillery.
Speaking of the new boss encounter, The Scarecrow is a wonderful addition to the roster of top dudes. He sports a giant scythe and is extremely perturbed by any intruders that dare step through his flower garden. Spoilers: You enter the Scarecrow’s den (also known as Mausoleum) by trampling his flowers.
Along with new levels comes new enemies to slice, dice, impale, clobber, or bombard, depending on which items players have acquired and equipped in a given run. Each area also gets its own musical accompaniment — both being really good, but still unable to usurp the Clock Tower theme as my personal favorite. I had taken a break from Dead Cells for a giant chunk of 2020 and missed out on several patches and content updates, so I got to experience Fatal Falls along with some weapons, mutations, and other goodies I’d yet to experience. The new katana was a standout, allowing me to go full samurai. It has the expected quick slices but also offers a lunging stab that gives it some polearm versatility. Like all Dead Cells weapons, its usefulness varies depending on upgrades and mutations. I also enjoyed the new-ish backpack that allows players to store some weapons for later use (and a mutation that grants weapon damage from stored weapons when you combat roll through them).
Like Rise of the Giant and The Bad Seed before it, Fatal Falls succeeds at expanding and enhancing the original Dead Cells formula. It is a perfect excuse to return to the game for veterans and integrated so smoothly into the base game that newcomers would assume it was always meant to be included. Motion Twin even added a new type of cheese to munch on (they know what I like). Fatal Falls comes with my highest recommendation.
These impressions are based on the Steam version of the game. A product key for the DLC was provided by the publisher for coverage consideration. Dead Cells: Fatal Falls is available today for all versions of the game. It sells for $4.99.
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Dead Cells: Fatal Falls DLC impressions - Embellishing excellence
The best thing about new Dead Cells DLC: the animated trailers: