Quick Start Guide: Dead Cells Tips & Tricks

Dead Cells is the kind of game that really wants to kick your ass. “Kill, die, learn, repeat” has been the game’s mantra ever since its very first days in Steam’s Early Access.

Not unlike its roguelike influences, Dead Cells keeps the explanation to a bare minimum in favor of players figuring things out for themselves — which can make things even more difficult for new players with little or no Metroidvania experience.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to round out your early knowledge on the game and start your headless protagonist off on the right foot!

Smash and stomp

As you familiarize yourself with the controls and start running around the prison block, you’ll see that there are plenty of wooden doors and platforms everywhere. These can be turned to your advantage: rolling into a door or hitting it with a weapon will smash it open, stunning any enemies behind it and allowing you to cut them up quickly and safely. You can also drop through most platforms, and pressing down+jump again during a fall will give you a powerful descending ground-pound.

Get in the habit of using these moves whenever you can to make traversal faster and get the (literal) jump on your enemies. But watch out for unseen traps below you when dropping (unless you’re after that weird achievement that unlocks only after you land in a trap during a ground-pound).

Get aggressive to get faster

Mobility is a crucial part of Dead Cells, and you’ll quickly discover how important it is to keep moving in a fight.

If you kill a few enemies in quick succession, you may notice a little arrow above your head. This signifies an overall boost to your movement speed, and it stays active as long as you can continue dodging and killing enemies at a fast rate. This is a major advantage in a battle with multiple monsters or in confined spaces, so don’t be afraid to go on the attack as soon as you see a group. Dead Cells is at its best when you’re fighting offensively, chaining kill after kill together.

Prioritize exploration

While the sheer speed and control of Dead Cells can enable you to tear through each level in an incredibly short time, that doesn’t always mean you should. There are certainly rewards for speedy progress (each new level has a timed door that can have cells, money and more behind it) but the benefits of exploration outweigh them, especially early in the game.

Taking the time to explore each level’s multiple routes often leads to more level-up scrolls, weapons, items, and secrets to discover. It also means you’ll find shops and encounter more enemies, and killing monsters is always the best way to make more money to spend at those shops.

The need to cheese

In addition to primary and secondary weapons, you can also pick up stationary weapons and traps, which the game broadly refers to as “skills.” These deployable items will shoot or stun your enemies independently, as long as you’re within a certain distance to them. They can provide a lot of help in direct combat, but they can also be thrown out to fight your battles for you.

If you’re dangerously low on health or run into an enemy (or group of enemies) that you might not be able to take on, just perch yourself out of their reach and toss out your turrets in front of them. Then sit back and cackle with glee as they try to fight while being ripped apart by buzz saws. Or arrows. Or both.

Spend your cells on the essentials

Those big blue orbs that you keep picking up after killing all those enemies are cells, and they’re the only currency that goes towards permanent upgrades.

Unfortunately, you lose all the cells you had every time you die, along with everything else you were carrying – and you can’t get them back. At this point in the game, the only way to cash in your cells is by talking to the Collector between levels. He can put them towards an array of upgrades, but it’s important to know which ones to get first. You should be dumping your early cells into the Health Flask, Gold Reserves, Recycling, and the Random Starter weapons.

  • Health Flask: This will allow you to heal more often as you work out how to fight various monsters and traps.
  • Gold Reserves: These will let you keep a portion of your money each time you die doing that.
  • Recycling: Gives you the ability to turn unused items into more money.
  • Random Starter upgrades: This gets rid of that rusty sword and starter bow you keep spawning with in favor of a random weapon from your pool of unlocked weapons, allowing you to experiment and figure out your own setups much more quickly.

Extra life

Normally, dying in Dead Cells would mean losing all your stuff and being sent right back to the beginning again… but not with Ygdar Orus Li Ox! If you’re wondering what those four words could possibly mean, it’s the name of a mutation – a mutation that can save you from death a single time per run.

Mutations are modifiers that can be accessed in the same area as the Collector by talking to Guillain (the little green guy with the huge backpack) in the next room over. Ygdar Orus Li Ox is available from the start of the game and is one of the best mutations for survivability. But take note, if you don’t choose it as your very first mutation after finishing the first level, it will be locked for the remainder of the run unless you pay to reset all your mutations.

Oh, and Ygdar Orus Li Ox can only bring you back with 25% health left — so be ready to heal. Such is the price for cheating death.

Dig around the “lore rooms”

The final version of Dead Cells includes a number of “lore rooms” that weren’t in the Early Access version. These are randomly placed in each level and are always distinguished by the blue candles that burn around them.

At first, you might think that they’re only good for a tidbit of information about the world and a corny joke from your protagonist – but you should take the time to look closer. Many of the lore rooms contain buried items or hidden passages that lead to treasure, so be sure to inspect, roll, and jump around them for a bit. Not all of the rooms have a whole turkey leg hidden in their walls, but it pays to check every time, especially since their rewards respawn even if you find the same lore room again in future runs.

Beware the curse

Arguably the worst thing that can happen to a new player in the middle of a run is to be afflicted with the “curse” status. Being cursed will get you killed in a single hit, no matter how much health you have. The only way to lift it is to kill 10 enemies in a row without taking damage, which can be an unreasonably tall order for anyone still getting used to the game.

Fortunately, I’m here to tell you the two ways that you can be cursed and how to avoid them.

The Golden Rule

The first is easy: just don’t break the golden doors. That’s right, those golden doors that demand a “tribute” of gold in order to get at their rewards can be broken open instead… but only if you’re willing to get cursed in return. So, pony up the cash or leave these well enough alone.

Mim-ick

The second is a bit more tricky; there are sentient treasure chests in the world that will literally beg you to open them, and indeed, they sometimes contain great rewards. But whether you get something useful or not, you’ll still get cursed just for opening one. My advice? Don’t. It simply won’t be worth it if you’re not absolutely confident in your setup and your skills yet.

Kill, Die, Learn, Repeat

Now that you’ve got the general know-how on what to exploit and what to avoid, get out there and apply it! It’s still not going to be easy (the pile of your corpses in Guillain’s room can attest to that), but it will be less frustrating and more fun to die over and over again with these pointers.

Good luck!