Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania – A Delightful Fusion of Two Classics

A Safe Bet for an Exceptional Roguelite Experience

These days, I approach video games with caution, having been disappointed by numerous disaster launches. I try not to let my expectations soar, even for beloved series. Resident Evil 4, for example, holds a special place in my heart, but I can’t bring myself to get hyped for the remake without knowing what state it’ll be in upon release. However, Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania defies these reservations. As soon as the crossover DLC was unveiled, I knew exactly what to expect – a flawless combination of one of the best modern roguelites with the iconic style of Castlevania. It’s a guaranteed success.

Return to Castlevania lives up to its promise. It not only provides nostalgia for fans of the monster-slaying series but also adds another impressive expansion to the Dead Cells legacy, firmly establishing it as one of the finest indie games of its time.

A Seamless Integration of Two Worlds

The Castlevania DLC seamlessly fits into the Dead Cells universe. Shortly after starting a fresh game on PC, I encountered Richter Belmont in the roguelite’s opening area. He sought my help in defeating Dracula. Instead of following the typical progression path of a standard roguelite, I now had the option to enter a new door that would transport me to Dracula’s castle.

My initial journey down this path was pure joy. I embarked on a mission to infiltrate the castle, searching for a way to lower its massive drawbridge. The meeting point between these two IPs is masterfully executed. The visuals perfectly merge the general atmosphere of Castlevania with Dead Cells’ distinct pixel art style. The remixed classic music from Castlevania also adds a wonderful touch, complementing the rest of Dead Cells’ score while preserving the original tracks’ essence.

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Dead Cells' hero throws a cross in the Return to Castlevania DLC.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While the visual influences are apparent, the gameplay retains the quick action and mobility-focused dungeon crawling that defines Dead Cells. The integration of Castlevania elements is seamless, with enemies and weapons feeling like they’ve always belonged in the game. Skeletons tossing bones and guards wielding pikes challenge my ability to swiftly anticipate and dodge attacks.

However, it’s the new weapons that make the most significant impact. They add an exciting dimension to the entire game. Similar to a standard Dead Cells run, players can uncover blueprints for new items and weapons. The DLC introduces a range of Castlevania-themed items to this pool, many of which seamlessly fit into Dead Cells’ combat system. For example, Holy Water becomes an excellent side weapon that allows me to burn the ground in front of me. Conversely, a familiar white cat delivers a critical forward strike while also acting as a passive familiar, attacking enemies on its own while I explore. Although I’ve only discovered a few of the DLC’s new items so far, each one feels completely in line with Dead Cells’ core combat mechanics.

Far from being solely a celebration of the Castlevania series, this DLC serves as a testament to the brilliance of Dead Cells. It’s remarkable that I can venture into Dracula’s castle while wielding Alucard’s shield, Hollow Knight’s nail, and even transform into a chicken from Guacamelee to drop bombs. The fact that all these abilities seamlessly intertwine is a testament to the game’s exceptional design. Return to Castlevania solidifies Dead Cells as a lovingly constructed museum of video game weaponry, and every IP holder should be clamoring to become a part of it.

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Death attacks Dead Cells' hero in the Return to Castlevania DLC.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A Substantial and Entertaining DLC

Return to Castlevania offers significant content, though it’s important to manage expectations. It introduces four new biomes (including an altered castle in the bonus Richter mode), with two of them serving as boss fight hubs. The level construction doesn’t appear to have too much randomness, as my runs through the castle looked similar each time. The initial two biomes are relatively easy to navigate, with the real challenge lying in defeating the tough bosses that follow. Some players might be slightly disappointed by this, but considering it’s an add-on to an already expansive game, the amount of content is commendable. Additionally, the DLC includes new weapons that expand the core roguelite experience and a plethora of unlockable costumes.

I approached the DLC with eager anticipation for its Castlevania flair, but I left craving more of Dead Cells. After just a few hours of exploration, I was completely engrossed and tempted to continue my new save file beyond Dracula’s fortress. Although it may not be a full-fledged Castlevania game, Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is an excellent reason to revisit the captivating world of Dead Cells.

Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is available now as a DLC add-on.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Returnal might be the first PC game to recommend this much RAM

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