Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is DLC for the critically acclaimed roguelite action platformer, developed and published by Evil Empire and Motion Twin. This highly anticipated expansion brings iconic weapons, characters, enemies, and locations from the Castlevania franchise that had directly inspired Dead Cells.
The DLC is a barrage of Castlevania nostalgia reimagined for the Dead Cells universe. Over a dozen new weapons are added, ranging from the Bible to Alucard’s Sword and Shield. Fourteen new enemies wander the halls, such as the Buer, the Bone Pillars, and Werewolves, while three new bosses await in their newly added arenas. The music, by far my favorite part, boasts an alternative soundtrack of over 50 songs from the original series, while the more iconic songs, such as “Vampire Killer” and “Bloody Tears,” have been given a bit of that Dead Cells flavor to let you rock out with your goth out. Last, but not least, there’s a new storyline and a new mode to unlock within Castle Dracula that lets you crash through the halls as Richter Belmont.
Inside of the Prison Starting Zone is where you now can come across the aforementioned vampire hunter, Richter Belmont. He’s gathering assistance to help fight off the growing powers of Dracula and is in no position to be picky. Following his instructions will lead you through the Castle Outskirts until you run into another familiar face, renowned half-vampire Alucard. If you manage to get through Castle Dracula, you’ll be dragged down to the Defiled Necropolis for a no-holds barred match with the first new mini-boss, Death. But that’s merely the beginning, as you have now awakened Dracula and will need to fight your way through the Clocktower to get a better entrypoint into Castle Dracula, to have a stab at the evil vampire lord himself in the Master’s Keep.
I have split impressions of Return to Castlevania. Because this game was heavily inspired and based on its crossover partner, the gameplay feels like more of the same Dead Cells, hacking, slashing, platforming, and hunting for upgrades through a procedurally generated castle. A lot of the new weapons, locations, and enemies already have a counterpart that functions similarly in the Dead Cells universe that fly, slash, or throw things your way. This isn’t necessarily a problem because you can run straight into the renovated DLC add-ons from the start, but after you’ve defeated Death, you have to start over and progress through five original Dead Cells stages before getting back to that Castle Dracula goodness. Even on assisted mode, which I highly recommend if you just want to have a gothic walk around, it takes 10 minutes of grinding at the start of each run, so I’m feeling pretty burned out and a little frustrated with the roguelite model by the time I get back to the DLC.
Richter Mode is also a questionable addition. You have to find Richter again inside the castle. Then you need to find him once more in the exact same spot on a different run to unlock a stage where you play as him. He starts off with a basic weapon, a backflip instead of a double jump, and needs to search around the biome to unlock more abilities like a dash or super jump. Perhaps it’s the Dead Cells muscle memory rebelling, but Richter feels cumbersome and the map is practically devoid of action. It feels more like a loving novelty inclusion than anything that’s meant to shake up the gameplay.
Overall, the content within the DLC pack is phenomenal and well worth its price tag. The only issue is you may not always feel as if you’re getting your money’s worth because you have to grind through some obtuse progression to play with what you purchased.
Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is available on March 6 for $9.99 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania.