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Kill. Die. Learn. Repeat.
Dead Cells is a 2D roguelike metroidvania developed by Motion Twin. It was released for open beta on May 10, 2017 on Steam's Early Access, GOG on November 13th, 2017, and was formally released on August 7, 2018.
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In the game, you control a clump of cells that possesses a decapitated body in a dark, dank corner of a forsaken island prison. Questions like "what are you", "how did this great castle come to ruin", and "who are all these other people" are all important questions that are answered through the scenery and various notes should you choose to look for them as you race down the shifting pathways of the fortress, slaying your enemies and exploring new areas.

Combat is extremely fast-paced and frenetic, taking place in sprawling randomized zones. The game features numerous weapons and bits of gear to unlock, each providing a new way to play and adding items to the potential drop pool. Most weapons and gear require Cells from defeated enemies to drop, which can be given to an NPC between zones to permanently unlock. The combat has many small facets and nuances, but chief among all is a small speed buff you get from killing enemies that stacks, allowing you to blitz through the level at high speeds if you can keep your kill chain going.

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  • A free DLC, "Rise of the Giant" was released on 2019 March 28 for PC and May 23 for consoles, adding one new biome, the Cavern, one new boss, the Giant, as an alternative to the Time Keeper, a Five boss cells mode, the Astrolab, a new level after beating the Hand of the King, and the True Final Boss the Alchemist.
  • A second DLC (paid this time), "The Bad Seed", was released the February 11, 2020, adding two new biomes (the Arboreum and the Black Morass) and Mama Tick as a new boss as an alternative after the Prisoners' Quarters.
  • A third DLC (second paid), "Fatal Falls", released the 26 January 2021, adding two new biomes (Fractured Shrines and Undying Shores) and one boss (The Scarecrow) as an alternative path after beating the first boss.
  • A fourth DLC (third paid), "The Queen and The Sea", was released the 6 January 2022. It adds two new alternate end game Biomes (Infested Shipwreck and the Lighthouse, which replace High Peek Castle and Throne Room), and a new Final Boss, The Queen.
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This video game provides examples of:

  • Ability Required to Proceed: You will run into paths where you're unable to get any further without a particular rune to help you along. The only one that's strictly mandatory is the Vine Rune, which is required to access the second half of the Promenade of the Condemned, and thus the rest of the game after that point.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Played with. On one hand, the Toxic Sewers and Old Sewers levels are vast, filled with creatures and deathtraps. On the other, they are also full of poisonous water, and (for the Toxic Sewers) of low hallways.
  • Achievement Mockery: Several achievements are awarded for having embarrassing things happen to you like getting killed by an elevator or diving into a pit of spikes.
  • Achilles' Heel: Shieldbearers can only be damaged from behind, unless you have a whip.
  • Action Bomb:
    • The appropriately-named Kamikazes, which look like grenades with wings, fly towards you and explode.
    • Ugly Worms, found in the sewer levels, also drop explosive eggs when they die.
  • Always Accurate Attack: Throwing Knives, Electric Whip, and Magic Missiles always target the closest enemy; if it's in their ranges, it will hit them.
  • An Axe to Grind: Shrapnel Axes are a pair of axes that fire ranged projectiles with each swing. The Boy's Axe is a throwing axe that immobilizes enemies. The Oven Axe is just a big axe.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: As of the 1.2 update, there are numerous outfits to be collected. Most are palette swaps, but some actually change the Beheaded's clothes, and in the case of the Time Keeper's outfits, their gender (or at least the gender of the body they're using). 2.6 adds Flawless, pure gold versions of boss outfits for killing them with no hits taken.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If you use a melee attack and are not holding a directional button, the game will turn you around to hit an enemy if you're not facing them already.
    • Enemies can sometimes drop Scrolls of Power. These enemies are denoted by a unique icon that appears over their head, so you can identify which enemies hold Scrolls before you engage them.
    • Elite Mooks have a unique teleportation ability that they use so that you can't just cheese them by sniping them using projectiles. However, it'll only kick in once you deplete enough of their health, though, so you can still pick and choose your fights. This even extends to enemies who have this ability by default, such as Phazers and Worms. No longer the case once you start putting in Boss Cells; the Elite enemies start teleporting the moment you hit them.
    • There are three main stats: Brutality, Tactics, and Survival (Red, Purple, and Green respectively). Items on the ground have colored auras corresponding to which stats they benefit from.
    • Certain doors will lock if they're not opened before a specific time, measured by the run timer in the bottom right. Said timer will pause in treasure rooms and in shops, so you're allowed a few moments to take a breather and judge if you should pick up the new equipment. As of Pimp My Run, the timer doors have been moved into the rest area, so they can't be missed if the player is scraping in under the limit and can't find the door in the next stage's first few seconds.
    • If an enemy is killed by fall damage, any loot they drop spawns at the top of the ledge so you don't need to dive after them to pick it up.
    • Upgrades in the Dead Cell shop can be paid incrementally, allowing you to chip away at expensive powerups even though Cells are lost on death.
    • The 1.5 update adds the Explorer's Rune. Once you have it, the entire map, as well as the locations of all items and enemies, is unlocked when you've explored 80% of the area, making it ideal for finding scrolls you may have missed or hidden items.
    • Also included in the 1.5 update is the Recycling Tubes upgrade. Once it's activated, rather than a single melee weapon, ranged weapon, and a shield, you have your choice of four sets of items containing a melee weapon, ranged weapon, shield, and two abilities, dramatically increasing the chances that you'll start with something useful.
    • Once you unlock a route, it stays unlocked in later playthroughs.
  • The Artifact: invokedAccording to Word of God in a PC Gamer interview, the turret-type skills are this. Dead Cells started out with strong tower defense influences before evolving into its current iteration.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The game appears to look quite serious in visuals and setting except when you interact with anyone that isn't intending to kill you, or read some of the background objects. When you do, the game reveals itself to be more goofy and tongue-in-cheek than it would seem at first glance.
  • Audience Participation: Streaming mode allows Twitch viewers to add modifiers to the streamer's run; options range from simply allowing players to type messages displayed in-game to putting one viewer in charge of healing.
  • Automatic Crossbow: Multiple versions, some handheld weapons and others as deployable turrets. The Repeating Crossbow and Ice Crossbow play this trope the straightest; both will continue to fire as long as the attack button is held down and there is ammo remaining.
  • Back Stab:
    • The unlockable Assassin's Dagger always deals critical hits from behind.
    • The Blowdart is a ranged version, inflicting critical hits if hitting enemies in the back.
    • There is also an affix on weapons that can increase damage if hit enemies from behind.
    • Trackers will try to do this, inflicting massive damage if it actually hits.
  • BFS: The Broadsword, a high-damage, slow-swinging weapon, is the archetypal example.
    Broadsword description: Slow and heavy, but looks badass. The best way to compensate.
  • Bilingual Bonus: According to the lore for Valmont's Whip, the full name of the wielder this whip was named for was "Baron Valmont du Cul", which is French for "Baron Valmont of the Ass".
  • Black Out Basement: The Forgotten Sepulcher, where magical lamps keep the darkness at bay and to linger too long outside their light is death.
  • Bonus Level
    • The Caverns, accessible in The Graveyard after beating the game for the first time.
    • The Prison Depths and Corrupted Prison both act as this, being placed in between the second and third levels of each run. They have a cursed chest at the start and are much shorter than the other levels.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The Infantry Grenade is a grenade that deals light damage to enemies but is very quick to use, with a 4 second cooldown. While its damage isn't super great, it's still enough to take a good chunk of health from most enemies and becomes even deadlier with cooldown reducing mutations. It's not very good against bosses however.
    • The Wolf Trap is essentially a deployable bear trap, which prevents an enemy from moving for a while once it's stepped on. Its damage isn't too great, but keeping an enemy from moving, even if only for a fraction of a second, can be incredibly helpful, as it gives you time to reposition yourself to attack better or dodge incoming attacks. It works very well on bosses, especially ones that are incredibly agile or like to stay very close to you. Cutting their mobility with a Wolf Trap gives you much more room to maneuver.
    • The Multiple-nocks Bow is a bow that fires 3 arrows at a time. While it has no other gimmick, it has above average DPS that doesn't rely on crits, and if you defeat an enemy with 1 or 2 arrows, the remaining arrows will keep travelling and damage other enemies.
    • The Double Crossb-o-matic is a deployable turret that can attack two enemies at once. While its DPS isn't too great, its multiple targeting is invaluable when fighting multiple enemies, especially with an affix that lets it pierce enemies.
    • The oil grenade covers a large area with oil. Doesn't sound too glamorous, but its area of effect is huge, much bigger than what the explosion visual suggests, and oil is used in a number of beneficial interactions. It, of course, makes the burn status effect stronger, but a number of weapons will also crit on enemies covered in oil, and there is an affix that increases damage on oiled enemies as well.
    • The Oiled sword is rather simple in its effect of doing critical hits during the ten seconds following striking a burning target, but even without the criticals, it still has very respectable damage and swing speed, meaning that you could end up using it even without burning your opponents.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The Bow and Infinite Arrows works on this.
  • Bottomless Pits: The Ramparts level has these below the titular ramparts, and the Fractured Shrinesis a series of platforms above an endless void. The Astrolab has these too.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The Symmetrical Spear dropped by the Hand of the King the first time you defeat him has two affixes that appear on no other weapon: "Can break shields!" and "+300% damage to all enemies!". Of course, there are no enemies left to kill at this point, and the only option is to start a new run which causes you to lose the spear. There is, however, one exception. After you've beaten the game with five boss cells the first time, the Hand of the King will drop this again, which you must use to break the shield on the King. This time around, you can take the weapon to the Astrolab and fight the True Final Boss with it.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The player character does this infrequently, noting that using only a millstone to reforge items like bows or grenades is "shoddy game design", for example.
  • The Bus Came Back: In the earlier days of Early Access, at the end of a run, the Fisherman is standing by the pier, who is there to kill you and send you back to the beginning. He was replaced when the Hand of the King was added to the game with a "Coming Soon" sign and a pipe to travel back. He gets re-added years later in The Queen and the Sea DLC, who guides you to the new area.
  • The Caligula: The King took a homicidal approach to containing the Malaise while also putting most of the responsibility on his staff and keeping to himself. The Beheaded is rather Ax-Crazy, but he seems to at least be more competent than before.
  • Censored Child Death: No children are present in-game, but that doesn't mean they were spared the Malaise.
    The Prisoner (upon seeing various hanged people): That one's fairly small. Either a 10-12 years old kid, or a dwarf... let's say a dwarf.
  • Chest Monster: These appear in the Bank in the guise of merchants. They behave as normal until you buy an item, at which point they reveal their true nature and devour the item you just bought. Defeat them, and you'll get either twice as many items as you would have gotten (if food), or an item two levels higher than what you bought (if a weapon or skill).
  • Chaos Architecture: As is common to Rogue Like games, the strange castle and environs the player fights through all are in the same places relative to each other and have consistent themes, but the exact interior arrangement of them changes with every new death the player undergoes.
  • Clock Tower: The, well, Clock Tower area. According to loading screen blurbs, time around and in it is weird.
  • Continuing is Painful: Part and parcel of the game. If you die, you lose everything you had on you, and go all the way back to the beginning of the game. It can be slightly alleviated with upgrades that let you retain some of the money you had, but you'll never keep very much.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: The bosses are immune to the stunlock effect of the various kicking weapons, so as to make beating them an actual challenge. And while they're not completely immune to freezing, they become more and more resistant to it the more you freeze them, until eventually they become immune to it (the diminishing returns do reset after a set time, however).
  • Cool Gate: There are teleporters scattered through each area that fulfill this role. There's also a door right at the beginning of Prisoners' Cells marked with runes. It opens after you beat the Hand of the King once and contains the key to The Caverns.
  • Cosmetic Award: You can get blueprints that unlock custom outfits for the Prisoner from all of the enemies and even bosses. Only one has some effect beyond simply changing how the character looks: the King's outfit changes a few lines of dialogue with the Giant and the Queen and modifies the ending one gets upon beating the Collector.
  • Crapsack World: The first half of the game takes place in and around a huge prison complex, where the king sent everyone suspected of infection. The guards were implied to have cruelly tortured and executed prisoners for fun, and the king eventually forbade them from allowing anyone to leave even if they'd served their time. Despite the prison, almost every last person on the island was eventually killed by the Malaise and/or the undead. In the secret ending, the Collector finally creates a cure for the disease, only for the Beheaded to kill him and take it for himself.
  • Creepy Crows: The Slammers are massive heavily mutated crows, who lost most of their feathers, have a collar around their necks and syringes stuck on their backs. they attack by slamming the ground in front of them very quickly, creating an unblockable shockwave.
  • Critical Hit: Most weapons will deal critical hits when some condition is met, greatly increasing their damage output.
  • Critical Hit Class: The "Instinct of the Master of Arms" mutation will reduce the cooldown of your skills for each critical hit made.
  • Crossover: The "Everyone Is Here" update adds various new weapons, skills, and player skins based on the following games: Hollow Knight, Blasphemous, Hyper Light Drifter, Guacamelee!, Skul: The Hero Slayer, and Curse of the Dead Gods.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Why is there a corpse of a dead giant in your cell at the start? It's a mystery. As of the Rise of the Giant update, it turns out it's a powerful boss that comes to life and heads for the Caverns after you beat the game for the first time. And it’s apparently very far back since at first it looks twice your size, only for the fight to show his FIST is twice your size!
  • Cutting the Knot: Meta example. Early in development the AI that randomized levels would frequently produce levels that were unable to be completed. The designer tasked with figuring out how to fix this realized he could manually churn out enough levels in a short period of time that it would seem randomized, leaving actual randomization for item and enemy placement.
  • Dark Reprise: The theme of the final area not counting the 5 cells-exclusive Astrolab, High Peak Castle, contains bits of the themes of other levels.
  • Deadly Lunge: The Zombie enemy archetype can absorb a fair amount of damage and moves slowly, but when it spots the player is capable of doing a long-windup followed by an extremely fast forward leaping attack.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • The Broadsword. It hits hard and feels awesome to use, but it swings incredibly slow compared to other melee weapons and has bad range for its speed. Using it requires a lot of thinking on whether or not it's safe to commit to an attack. With the update allowing to keep the combo in-between evasive rolls has made it slightly easier to manage.
    • The Cursed Sword has the highest DPS value in the game. The catch is that the Beheaded is permanently inflicted with curse while carrying it, so every single attack in the game is lethal.
    • Similarly, the "Deal and receive 2x damage" item modifier, and its close relative, "Restore 1% health on hit but take 2x damage". Taken even further with the rarer "deal +300% damage, take +300%".
    • There's also the Frantic Sword, which always deals Critical Hits while you're under 50% health.
    • Valmont's Whip in its first iteration, which dealt obscenely powerful crits on enemies that were right at the end of the whip's hitbox. This was easier said than done.
    • Parrying requires good reflexes, proper spacing and timing, knowledge of every enemy's individual attack windows, and is extremely punishable when done wrong; however, mastering it allows you to interrupt almost every attack, reflect projectiles (including bombs) back at enemies, heal yourself on the go (with right mutation) and obtain ridiculous post-parry buffs like 300% damage or 3-second invincibility. Mastered parry skills combined with properly picked shields can break some bosses in half.
    • The Great Owl of War is a powerful skill that summons an owl that attacks any nearby enemies automatically, and can be enraged to do even more damage. When you have two of them and synergize them with good affixes, they can do incredible amounts of damage. However, if you get hit, they vanish and you can't summon them again for a very long time. They're a powerful skill, but they require you to avoid getting hit to get the full benefit of their power.
    • The Claw-Scythe. A very powerful Survival weapon that can easily do two millions of damage by the later levels with critical hits and has a great range. The catch? Each hit has a wind-up during which you're vulnerable, and equipping it takes your two weapon slots, so you can not get a shield or bow at all.
      • After "The Update of plenty", this also applies to all crossbows, who have become two-handed weapons. They deal a lot of damage, but leave you utterly defensless (save for your dodge).
    • Flawless is a spear weapon that, as the name suggests, rewards playing perfectly, by dealing critical hits as long as you haven't taken damage in the last 15 seconds. The moment you do, its damage plummets to one of the worst weapons in the game.
    • The Acrobatipack mutation makes it so that rolling and then making a ranged attack within a few seconds will fire a ranged weapon stored in the player's backpack (with reduced damaged and a lesser penalty for a high Tactics stat), with a limit on how frequently it can trigger. While this seems narrow, combining it with certain weapons (for example, a crossbow with Fire Breath in the backpack) can produce staggering DPS every few seconds.
  • Diminishing Returns for Balance: Scrolls loose about 9% of their upgrade potential as you use them. In exchange, they gradually upgrade your Mutations as well.
  • Disc-One Nuke: It's possible to get a particularly good weapon or skill simply by luck in the early stages of the game. Shopkeepers also occasionally sell high level items.
  • Double Jump: The player has this ability by default. Equippable amulets can boost this further to even a triple or quadruple jump. However, the maximum height of each subsequent jump quickly diminishes after the first, so this is less useful for scaling and more useful for controlled placement.
  • Double Unlock: Unlocking new stuff involves hoping a blueprint for it Randomly Drops and then surviving to bring it to the end of the area. Then you have to pay Cells to actually make it available to use.
  • Down the Drain: The Toxic Sewers and Ancient Sewers, as the nams imply. Noticeably, they are the only levels where the water found in other levels is actually poison.
  • Driven to Suicide: Multiple npcs are found hanging in their cells and homes. One of them even killed her family first.
  • Drop the Hammer: The Nutcracker and Flint. The former deals critical hit against enemies with a crowd control status effect applied, and the latter can be charged up to unleash a Ground Wave.
  • Early Game Hell: In higher difficulties (indicated by how many Boss Source Cells you implement), The Prisoner's Cells can be this, with the heavy amount of damage done by enemies, the inclusion of Inquistors, and later Rampagers and Failed Experimentsnote , and a potentially weak loadout. The 1.5 update introduces the Recycling Tubes upgrade, however, which gives you a choice of four sets of items to start with, each including a melee weapon, ranged weapon, a shield, and two abilities. This greatly increases the chance that you'll start with something useful.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The ability to use two items of the same kind was disabled in Normal Mode relatively early in the game's lifespan to help remedy Complacent Gaming Syndrome. It can still be re-enabled in Custom Mode. It's generally acknowledged as a moderate Game-Breaker, since any build that synergizes with one instance of a weapon or skill will synergize with both.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • Monsters can appear in special rooms as "Elite" versions of themselves, with greatly increased abilities, health and damage. They drop a weapon or skill upon defeat.
    • A few can be found in special rooms that disappear once they're beaten: an Undead Archer in the Promenade of the Condemned, a Slasher in the Toxic Sewers and later in the Ossuary, an Orb Caster in the Slumbering Sanctuary, and two Trackers in the Forgotten Sepulchre. The former four drop the Vine, Teleportation, Belier and Spider Runes respectively, while the latter must be defeated to access the Hayabusa Boots.
  • Exact Words: The door behind the Collector will only open after you spend all your cells. It doesn't say you can't break the door.
  • Faceless Eye: Conjunctivius, the boss of the Sewers path.
  • Falling Damage: Downplayed; falling a fair distance doesn't hurt the protagonist, but they do become stunned for a few moments. Slamming into the ground doesn't have this consequence, though, unless you do it from an extremely high distance, such as the long shaft leading from the Ramparts to the Black Bridge.
    • Exaggerated with enemies, who are very allergic to drops that wouldn't even stun the player.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The player character is almost completely faceless, as they are inhabiting a headless body.
  • Female Monster Surprise: The Rampager, of all things. The game's patch notes continually refer to the monster with feminine pronouns. Conjonctivius as well.
  • Flechette Storm:
    • Downplayed with the Throwing Knives which resemble kunai and can be tossed much more rapidly than arrows can be fired. Individually they do little direct damage, but often cause bleeding in targets, making them suitable for throw-and-run tactics. And if you find two Throwing Knives with affixes complimenting each other (Creates a trail of fire behind the projectile + 100% Damage Bonus to Poisoned enemies, Projectile bursts into a cloud of poison + 100% Damage Bonus on burning enemies), just mash both Weapon buttons together for a Knife Machinegun.
    • Exaggerated with the appropriately named Knife Storm ability, which launches several such projectiles as above radially around the player.
  • Flipping the Bird:
    • Done by the Beheaded when refusing to give the Teleportation Rune to another prisoner, when the aforementioned prisoner reacts with anger.
    • Also done by the Giant whenever you kill him.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: In the Clock Tower, there are four massive bells as part of the ominous landscape. They can be hit to make a sound, and will often be struck accidentally during combat. If you strike them in order from lowest to highest pitch, you get a key to find a hidden item.
  • Foreshadowing: A retroactive example happened after Rise of the Giant was released. The music for High Peak Castle, the King's home and the final level, is a remix of the music for Prisoner's Quarters, the first level and the place where the Beheaded always starts his runs. The Giant reveals, and is later confirmed through certain runs, that the Beheaded is the King.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: A frying pan is a Brutality-scaling melee weapon. It's fast, and does critical damage to enemies facing the player, with overall strong damage output, but it's very short-ranged compared to the more conventional swords and daggers.
  • Full Health Bonus: One of the random attributes weapons can have is a 50% increase in damage while at full health.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Ygdar Orus Li Ox seems like an anagram of something, but that serves only to distract you from the fact that it can be shortened to "YOLO", which itself stands for "you only live once".
  • Gainax Ending:
    • The default ending. After slaying the Hand of the King, The Beheaded takes his weapon and uses it to break the barrier protecting the king, who's in a vegetative state. He then impales the king, causing him to levitate in the air and explode, destroying The Beheaded's body. And then...nothing. The Beheaded crawls out of the rubble without his body and uses a fountain's plumbing to return to the beginning of the game, where nothing has changed despite the death of the king. Even The Beheaded has no idea what's going on.
    • The true ending isn't much better. After you defeat the Hand of the King with five boss stem cells active, the Beheaded uncovers the Collector's hidden Astrolab, where the Collector reveals that he has been using all the Cells the Beheaded has been bringing him to create a Panacea to cure the Malaise. After sampling the Panacea for himself and subsequently mutating, the Collector suddenly turns on the Beheaded, determined to keep the loop of the Beheaded dying and collecting Cells going on indefinitely. The Beheaded defeats the Collector and the Panacea causes his body to evaporate...but his main cell body remains. At the start of your next run, the Beheaded is suddenly confronted by the Time Keeper, who angrily tells him that his actions have caused the infection to spread further than before. She tries to reset the loop, but something goes wrong, and the new state of the island becomes "glitched", with the Tutorial Knight suddenly alive again and repeating her introduction speech ad nauseum.
    • And then there's the true true ending, obtainable by defeating the Collector once, then going through the game and possessing the King's body before entering the Astrolab, which manages to be both this and a Mind Screwdriver. The Beheaded finally remembers their past: They are in the fact the King's mind, separated from his body (which explains why the King makes no struggle whenever the Beheaded "kills" him). The King returns to his body and confronts and defeats the Collector once again. Afterwards, the King returns to his throne, convinced that his journey is finally over...only for a new, "glitched" Beheaded to suddenly appear before him. The two prepare to square of, with the game cutting to credits just as the two engage.
    • The alternate ending added in the Queen and the Sea DLC carries on the tradition. After the Beheaded kills the Queen and lights the beacon, a ship on the horizon approaches. It seems that the Beheaded finally has a ride off the island, only to reveal that the ship is crewed entirely by skeleton sailors. Roll credits.
  • Genius Loci: Heavily implied with the Slumbering Sanctuary. The biome seems rather tame at first, but then you find an altar that "awakens" it, changing its color scheme from blue to orange and making a bunch of enemy statues come to life. One of the loading screen quotes straight up says that the villagers claimed this place is alive, and then ironically dismisses it.
  • The Ghost: The royal alchemist. His notes can be found in every level, telling of his attempts at understanding and then cure the Malaise, but he's nowhere to be seen. He's heavily implied to be the Collector, though you don't find this out until very late in the game.
  • Giant Spider: Hammers (previously named mechanical spiders) are this to a T.
  • Glass Cannon: The item modifier "Deal and recieve 2x damage" turns the player into this. Up to Eleven with the quadruple damage mod.
    • Tactics has mainly long-range weapons, but give the lowest HP out of the three stats, eventually giving nothing at high levels.
  • Grimy Water: In the Toxic Sewers and Ancient Sewers.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The entire Clock Tower area (and maybe the entire island) is stuck in one, as that was the Time Keeper's attempt to contain the Malaise.
  • Ground Pound: You can perform a dive attack which damages enemies in a small area around you and can potentially stun too if you dive far enough.
  • Guide Dang It!: Obtaining the Explosive Crossbow schematic. It's hidden behind three locked doors in the Promenade of the Condemned, which require one Gardener's Key each to open. The first two keys are behind areas that are signposted pretty obviously with "rune-required-to-progress-here" landmarks. The third? Stomp a potted rose three times. The rose looks like just another random background element and it always spawns uphill in an area that rarely has enemies, so it's very unlikely that a player would find it by playing normally. At least the rose responds when it's stomped on, so a random or accidental stomp might reveal that it's important.
    • The Acceptance schematic is even tougher, by proxy of requiring the three Gardener's Keys. To obtain it, obtain all three Gardener's Keys then go to the Ramparts, Graveyard, and Forgotten Sepulcher, all of which have one hidden Moonflower keys locked behind doors that require one Gardener's each. On a normal run however, one cannot access the Graveyard from the Ramparts - you need to inject three Boss Stem Cells to access the alternate path.
  • Hailfire Peaks: The Cavern, a biome unlockable once you have at least one Boss Cell active. It's an enormous mining complex, with a combination of frosted surfaces and bubbling lava pools, where the Power Crystals seen elsewhere on the island are extracted. Even the loading screen tips don't know how the hot and cold can exist in such close proximity without reaching a kind of equilibrium.
  • Hard Mode Perks: The Hand of the King drops Boss Cells upon death. Inject them, and the game will become harder but will also provide bonuses; most notable increasing the level of the Legendary Forge, which makes a portion (or all) of items spawn with a certain quality. On 4 and 5 Boss Cells, every item will be S-rank if you sink enough cells into it. More Boss Cells will also unlock doors in level with various bonuses behind them, such as shops, cell containers, chests, and alternate exits.
  • Heroic Mime: An interesting example. When examining objects, The Beheaded describes what he sees and gives his comments on them. When communicating with others, however, he never speaks, instead communicating only with gestures. He's surprisingly emotive. This implies that The Beheaded cannot speak, and what you read when examining objects are his thoughts rather than his words.
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner: The Beheaded draws Hattori's Katana this way for its Charged Attack.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Normal, Hard, Very Hard, Expert, Nightmare, Hell.
  • Impossible Item Drop: One wonders how all these monsters drop blueprints.
  • Instant Chucks: In the animated trailer for The Bad Seed DLC, there's one point where the Beheaded wields frying pan-chucks.
  • Jerkass: The protagonist has moments of this, usually when desecrating corpses to loot items. Some of the NPCs, like the Recorder, also makes rude remarks towards them.
  • Killed Off for Real: Most of the characters and bosses in this game do not stay dead because the Time Keeper keeps rewinding time with every run. However, there are two notable exceptions: the Tutorial Knight at the beginning of the game, and the King himself. However, they both come back after you kill the Collector. Sort of.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • "Fire" is a damage type, often part of a Damage Over Time burning effect. Some enemies take extra damage from this, some randomly generated weapon and skill attributes do extra damage to burning foes, and sometimes an "oil" effect can be added which magnifies fire damage.
    • Firebrands, an equippable ranged weapon, which drops flaming embers on the ground in a short arc in front of the player.
    • Incendiary Grenades, a skill the player can use, which throws a grenade that bursts into flame.
  • Lamprey Mouth: Worms and worm-based enemies sport this, as do a number of the humanoid enemies in later parts of the game.
  • Lethal Joke Item: The Vorpan is a frying pan that you can smack enemies with, like the one in the animated trailer. It also deals critical hits to enemies facing you, making it the easiest weapon to get crits with and giving it a surprisingly high damage output.
  • Lightning Lash: the Electric Whip, which auto-targets a nearby enemy, deals splash damage, and deals shock damage over time.
  • Long-Range Fighter:
    • All of the ranged weapons make the player this to some extent, but a special mention is reserved for the Hunter's Longbow, which deals critical hits on long-range shots. Its slow draw speed makes it terrible in close combat, though.
    • One of the Tactics mutations that's available by default, Tranquility, grants a damage bonus if there are no enemies nearby.
  • Luck-Based Mission: As inherent to the roguelite genre, but particularly with the random Starter Equipment on higher difficulties. If you don't get anything with some synergy it can make the Early Game Hell much worse.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Shields negate incoming damage if blocks are timed properly; unfortunately, this works for both the player and the enemies. Just having a shield equipped will also give the player some damage reduction.
    • Shields no longer give passive damage reduction, but they do return enemy attacks back at them, making them an Attack Reflector.
  • Macrogame: The Dead Cells you collect are used for general upgrades like more health flask uses, unlocking new items, and upgrading some items for your next run.
  • Magical Weapon: Many weapons have some magical property, with the most interesting being Serenade, a talking flying sword that can wield itself or by wielded by you. Most oddly, it marks enemies for a critical hit after hitting them, which in only triggered by using the weapon in its other mode.
  • Metal Slime: Elite monsters are this. They're rare, they're tougher and stronger than their regular counterparts, they have unique abilities, and they always drop a piece of gear and a fair bit of money.
  • Money for Nothing: Oddly enforced on the highest difficulty. At 5BSC, you don't get to spend the Cells you've collected. The Collector is gone and he steals all your Cells before his boss fight, and unless you for some reason decide to end your run early after killing Hand of the King, you don't get the carry them to your next run. This was addressed in a later update where the Collector's Intern takes over his functions in his absence.
  • Money Spider: All monsters (save for the monsters from Mook Maker enemies) drop money.
  • Mook Chivalry: Normally, Dead Cells averts this as multiple enemies can all attack you at once, but there is one specific exception in a class of "sniper" enemies that shoot you through walls. Inquisitor (single projectile) enemies can have an unlimited number attacking you, but their upgraded form, the Arbiter, has a Spread Shot. To avoid them clogging the screen with too many projectiles, only one Arbiter can attack the player at a time.
  • Mook Maker:
    • Death Spitters, found in the Ossuary, create little bloblike monsters to attack.
    • In the Prison Depths, the mechanical spiders serve the same purpose, but for bats.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Some of the areas have these. Most notable are the Ossuary and the Forgotten Sepulchre. In non-English versions, Conjunctivius' special area is this, but in the English translation it's called The Insufferable Crypt.
  • Neck Lift: Done to the King by the Beheaded before fatally stabbing him.
  • Ninja: The main character has quite a few shades of this archetype, from the Ninja Run when powered up, to some of the weapons it can use, to the insane speed and acrobat ability it has in general. The player can also eventually get a rune that allows them to run up walls.
    • And the third boss, the Time Keeper, if only because of the shurikens she throws.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game is a classic Metroid Vania, which guarantees lots of opportunities for mistakes to be punished even at the lowest level of difficulty. Every boss cell added adjusts the population of each biome to include deadlier enemies, scales enemies up to higher and higher levels (while leaving player equipment unmodified unless cells are spent to upgrade the Cell Forge), and reduces opportunities for healing in between levels.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: One of the loading screen text for the Astrolab is "No animals were harmed in the research for a cure to the Malaise, promise!". Considering some of the monsters you face and a lore room that can spawn in the level itself, this is blatantly untrue.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted for the player, who has to contend with projectile falloff for arrows and throwing knives, but played straight by enemy archers who have no arrow falloff.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: The Slumbering Sanctuary. Once it is awakened, the statues will become actual monsters.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist has no name. The only thing they are referred to is as "the Prisoner" or "Mr. Prisoner". He's officially known as the Beheaded.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: While there's a lot of lore to be uncovered, there's no actual story to speak of besides "run through these enemy gauntlets to challenge the bosses".
  • Notice This: Special areas that contain unique lore items are marked with crates and bright blue candles. In case their unique colors don't immediately catch your eye, they also sparkle and play a distinct noise when they are seen the first time.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Single-slot weapons can be stored in the backpack with the sole exception of the Giantkiller to stop players from only using it for boss fights.
  • Off with His Head!: The body the player inhabits is always the corpse of a condemned soul, left rotting next to the headsmen's block and ax, the head itself nowhere to be seen.
  • One-Hit Kill: While cursed, any hit at all with instantly kill you. Taken to the extreme with Cursed Sword which turns you into a constant One-Hit-Point Wonder.
  • Only Mostly Dead: The Ygdar Orus Li Ox is a mutation that lets you cheat death once. It only works once and doesn't restore you to full health afterwards, though.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Taken to its logical extreme with The King, as not only does he not appear at all until the end of the game, he offers no resistance whatsoever, even after you kill his bodyguard and destroy the force field that protects him. The reason for this is simple, he is merely the King's body, while the protagonist is the king's head/sentience.
  • The Plague: From the little story tidbits scattered throughout various biomes, A "malaise" began to spread through the kingdom, which involved reanimated bodies and aggression in the citizens. More specifically, the prisoners in the catacombs you start in were especially contagious, and were forced to stay in the Prison, even if their sentences were up.
  • Play Every Day: You can take on a Daily Run each day, and clearing certain numbers of them awards you with blueprints for the main game.
  • Power at a Price:
    • Cursed treasure chests. They give a high tier weapon, a lot of money and a Power Scroll to upgrade on of your three stats, but they inflict the cursed status aliment. This curse can be lifted by killing ten enemies, but until then, any hit at all will be fatal.
    • Some of the possible weapon mods. One doubles damage and another restores health with every hit, but they both greatly increase damage taken.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The player character is a slime piloting a decapitated corpse.
    • There are parasite zombies in the Stilt Village area. They spawn an army of maggots on death.
  • Purposefully Overpowered: Aspects were added in Version 2.5, which lets you equip one very overpowered passive effect, ranging from reversed poison damage, doubled damage dealt/taken while cursed, extremely low deployable cooldowns, and instant kill out of invisibility. Using an Aspect prevents you from unlocking Boss Cells and achievements for no-hitting bosses.
  • Random Drop: Most of the blueprints are randomly dropped from the enemies you defeat.
  • Rolling Attack: Thornies do this as their main attack. The player can do this with the Porcupack mutation, which deals damage with the melee weapon in your Backback when rolling through enemies.
  • Rotoscoping: Though it may not appear like it at a glance, the Beheaded and most enemies are derived from 3D models while everything else (backgrounds, NPCs, terrain, special effects) are sprites. The pixellated filter given to all the rotoscoped models is impressive, to the point where some have mistakenly called this game retro.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The King at least tried to contain the Malaise somehow. He also retroactively slices his way through the Kingdom to (unknowingly) kill himself as the Beheaded.
  • Scenery Porn: The art is simply beautiful and the backgrounds are incredible.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: Downplayed. While the levels progressively get harder overall, the random nature of them may cause this to an extent, depending on what the game decides to generate and where.
  • Shield Bash: All shields deal a little bit of damage upon successfully blocking an attack. However, the Assault Shield takes it one step further, performing a short charge forward while blocking, while the Spiked Shield does enough damage to one-shot many enemies if it blocks.
  • Shock and Awe: Lightning, Electric Whip, Thundershield, Tesla Coil and Wings of the Crow all have electric damage as a base part of their effects.
  • Shockwave Stomp: One of the game's bosses, The Concierge, has this effect, although it isn't a stomp per se. Another of the game's bosses, The Hand of the King, has a much straighter example. In addition, Golems in the Slumbering Sanctuary can do this.
  • Shoplift and Die: Through many of the areas there are rooms containing items protected by a locked door; payment is necessary to get past and take the item. The doors can be destroyed to steal the item for free, but doing so inflicts you with a curse.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: The Infantry Bow will deal a Critical Hit if used on an enemy up close. The Point Blank mutation gives bonus damage to projectile hits at close range.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: The Heavy Crossbow operates on this trope. If all four arrows hit, most enemies at its level will instantly die; however, they also cover a nearly 80-degree angle of spread and fall to the ground outside of a short range.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shovel Strike: With the Shovel, of course. It's a Brutality/Survival weapon, and can knock bombs away, being slightly less powerful but with a faster swing speed than the Broadword.
  • Skill Gate Characters: The Eletric Whip automatically targets enemies on different levels than you, and ignore the shieldbearer enemy's shield. And... that's pretty much it. Its damage output is very low, its range isn't that big, and just about every other weapon in the game has something that makes it a better pick once you know how to properly play the game. It's one saving grace is its ability to electrocute enemies standing in water or poison, but even that is dependant on biomes and not all that common in the first place.
  • Spin Attack:
    • Spinners in the Forgotten Sepulchre employ this. Guardian Knights in the Castle create tornados with theirs.
    • The Collector does this in his boss fight with his syringe. The Collector's Syringe, added in the Who's The Boss? update, lets you replicate the attack.
  • The Spiny: The Thorny, a creature that appears in some areas with glowing spines covering its back. It uses a Rolling Attack and Wolverine Claws offensively, and defensively it will damage players that hit it from behind.
  • Spit Take: During the True True Ending the Beheaded, having reclaimed his original body and resumed his role as the King, takes a large sip of wine only to spit it out in shock when a glitched version of himself as the Beheaded approaches the throne.
  • Starter Equipment: The starting equipment is a rusty sword, a wooden bow and a wooden shield. However, if you unlock the "random starter item" upgrades, these can be any one of the items you've unlocked.
  • Status Effects: Poison, bleeding, burning, freeze, stun... you get the picture.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Nobody ever really outright explains everything, but there's a lot of lore to piece together from special rooms in the different areas. The lore seems to be that a deadly plague known as "the malaise" formed in The Sewers from dead bodies disposed there, eventually contaminating the waters surrounding the populated port residence of the Stilt Village. Here, the outbreak exploded, between the village's large population and the popularity of fishing as a pastime, and to deal with this the king ordered anyone suspected of being afflicted to be sent to the prisons as quarantine. Despite this and a focused effort to find a cure, even High Peak Castle fell to the disease, leaving few survivors, and even fewer who haven't been driven mad by its effects.
  • Tactical Door Use: Doors can be open, closed, or outright destroyed, and enemies can hear the player through closed doors, so one can kite foes back and forth this way. Breaking doors down will stun foes directly on the other side, and if you have the crowbar it'll even give you a few second of critical hits
  • Teleport Spam: Both Phazers can do this to ruin your day, and can move between different elevations in doing so. Hello Darkness My Old Update introduced the Trackers who do that in groups.
  • Three-Stat System: The items and mutations of Dead Cells scale with three different stats: Brutality, Tactics, and Survival. Some items scale with two stats (using the larger of the two for damage calculation), and all items can drop as an alternate Colorless and Legendary tiers (the former scales with whichever stat is the highest, and the latter with the combined sum of your two highest stats).
    • Brutality weapons tend to be close-range weapons with above-average DPS, while Brutality skills are either short-ranged grenades or items to promote moving into close range. Brutality mutations incentivizes melee combat. Examples include the Assassin's Dagger, Oil Grenade, and Phaser.
    • Tactics weapons allow for attacking at a distance up to mid range (and, infrequently, long range), and Tactics skills include all types of turrets and some powerful, but mildly unconventional spells. Tactics mutations prioritize ranged combat. Examples include the Bow and Endless Quiver, the Double Crossb-o-matic, and the Death Orb. Tactics gives the lowest HP bonus on level up.
    • Survival weapons include all shields, in addition to denoting anything that swings slow, but hits hard. This also applies to their Skills, in addition to including any Skill that heals the user. Survival mutations revolve around either parrying with a shield or passive improvement of survivability. Examples include the Cudgel, the Broad Sword, and Vampirism. Survival gives the highest HP bonus on level up.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: The player can do this with grenades, as can grenadiers and bombardiers.
  • Time Crash: If you kill the Collector, at the start of your next run the Time Keeper teleports you directly to the Clock Room to berate you for killing the only person capable of creating the cure for the Malaise and resets time before kicking you back to the start of the game. However, something goes very wrong this time around. When you return, the Tutorial Knight is alive again, but heavily glitched and repeating her opening speech ad nauseum, and certain parts of the game are glitched as well. The King even returns to life, allowing you to possess his body.
  • Timed Mission: Certain doors lock forever if you take too long to get to them.
  • Tin Tyrant: The King is heavily implied to be this, as his solution for containing the Malaise was to throw anyone suspected of having the disease in prison and/or execute them. His statues also reveal that he wears a lot of armor, with the protagonist questioning how he can see anything through his helmet.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Weirdly enough, cursed chests fulfill this purpose. They're pretty masochestic and want you to kick their face in.
    Cursed Chest: I've been a naughty chest. I deserve to be punished.
  • Tuckerization: Valmont's Whip shares a name with the composer of the game, Valmont de Ragondas.
  • Turns Red: Bosses become faster and more aggressive as you deal more damage to them.
  • Underground Monkey: There are a couple different kinds of bats that all work pretty much the same.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll:
    • The player can roll a lot with no negative effects. It's even necessary in some areas to advance, or to dodge enemies' attacks!
    • Enforced when using a Rapier which guarantees a Critical Hit after rolling.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Though you can get a couple kinds of shields from shieldbearers, the Slashers' swords are not usable in the game so far. The closest to using the Slashers' swords is the Seismic Strike, but even then it's not exactly the same.
  • Victor Gains Loser's Powers:
    • Beating the Hand of the King for the first time will unlock the Symmetrical Lance, a large weapon which resembles the Hand's own oversized one.
    • The Who's The Boss? update adds weapons based on each of the game's bosses, that you gain upon beating them for the first time.
      • The Concierge drops the Flint, a chargeable weapon that deals a critical hit and replicates the Concierges shockwave attack at full charge.
      • Conjunctivius drops the Tentacle, a... tentacle that can drag you towards walls and enemies and deals a critical hit if you attack again.
      • The Time Keeper drops Light Speed, a skill that allows you to dash forward and back, damaging all enemies on the way.
      • The Giant drops the Giant Whistle, a skill that summons the Giant's fist to deal massive damage to the most dangerous enemy on screen, based on a number of factors like if the enemy is an elite or not, their health, or if they detected the player.
      • The Hand of the King drops Telluric Shock, a skill that lets you jump in the air and slam down to damage all enemies with rocky spikes, as well as the Symmetrical Lance, which can hit enemies both in front of and behind you.
      • The 5BC secret boss The Collector drops the Collector's Syringe, which lets you spin around, damaging all enemies in your path. Uniquely, you can spend Cells to extend its duration.
      • Mama Tick gives the Left and Right Claw Scythes, a weapon that uses both weapons slots, and has two different attacks, doing critical hits if they are used one after the other.
      • The Scarecrow gives you Scarecrow's Sickles, a skill that throws two sickles at both directions that return to you. If you keep avoiding catching them, they'll continue to hit enemies and gain increased damage with each hit.
      • The Servants drop their weapons; Calliope has the Wrecking Ball, Euterpe has the Gilded Yumi, and Kleio has the Bladed Tonfas. Which weapon you get depends on which Servant you defeat last.
      • The Queen drops the Queen's Rapier. When it strikes an enemy, it tears through reality and strikes a second time, dealing a critical hit.
  • Wall Jump: The Spider Rune lets you climb and jump off of walls.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The woman you talk to in the beginning hub goes out and dies next to the door to the Promenade after a few runs. You can actually see her body decompose over the course of the next attempts.
    • The Practice Makes Perfect update brings her back (now undead) as the NPC who runs the training room added in the update.
  • Wham Line:
    • Should the Beheaded possess the King's body...
    The Beheaded: Woo, look at that... My body is so well conserved!
    • Earlier than that, defeating the Giant will have him call the Beheaded "my King".
  • Whip It Good: There are a couple of whip items in the game. Though their damage is low, they have higher range than most weapons and can attack in multiple directions rather than just to the sides. The Wrenching Whip and Valmont's Whip also ignore shields and Thornies' spikes.
  • Wolverine Claws: Thornies, enemies in the later areas, use these for their melee attack.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The bodies that the protagonist inhabits are always the decapitated heads of prisoners, left out to rot by the chopping block.
  • You Will Not Evade Me:
    • Corpse Worms found in the Sewers and Weaver Worms found in the Stilt Village will magically teleport to the player if they cannot otherwise access them. The same is true of the Elite monsters once enough of their health has been depleted.
    • Phasers and Trackers will teleport to the player if they've seen them.
    • Catchers use a grapple hook to reel in far-away players. The player can obtain their hook as well. Finally, Castle's Guardian Knights can create whirlwinds that pull in an unfortunate player. You can get that too.
    • And Golems will teleport you to them with their laser ability.
    • The Wrenching Whip also does this, albeit to a lesser degree.
    • The Time Keeper will attempt to pull you in with a chain blade if you get too far away.
    • If you get to four Boss Cells, every enemy teleports to the player if you attempt to run away.
  • Zip Mode: As you traverse through areas, you activate teleporters that you can use to quickly get through areas you've already traversed.
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