Roguelite rumble: Hades vs Dead Cells

by Ben Kirby
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I’ve been thinking a lot about the rougelites I’ve played over the past couple of years. With various takes on the genre from Hitman Freelancer to Vampire Survivors. Two stand-outs and arguable genre-defining games are Hades and Dead Cells.

Hades introduced me to the idea of a roguelite and educated me. Then I started looking for more, and all roads ultimately led to Dead Cells.

Whilst not identical games, they are both iconic and excellent.

So. What else does one do when thinking about these things? Compare them and pick an overall winner!

Dead cells - Champion

Roguelite rumble

Two titans of the roguelite genre clash! In one corner, the charming prince of the underworld, Zagreus, swings his Stygian Blade in Hades. In the other, the amnesiac headhunter brandishes a rusty sword in Dead Cells. Both promise fast-paced action, addictive runs, and secrets to uncover, but only one can reign supreme. It’s time for a 1v1 to determine the ultimate champion!

Round 1: Gameplay – Blood-pumping action vs Tactical challenge

  • Hades: Fluid combat weaves together acrobatic dodges, combo-heavy attacks, and powerful Olympian boons. Each run feels distinct, thanks to ever-shifting weapon combinations and boons. However, some might find the combat less demanding.
  • Dead Cells: Brutal, precise combat demands mastery of enemy patterns and quick reflexes. Permanent upgrades unlock diverse builds, offering strategic depth over flashy spectacle. Prepare for punishment, though, as death truly stings.

Decision: Both offer excellent gameplay, but Dead Cells edges ahead with its demanding mastery and broader strategic options.

Hades - Lava baby

Round 2: Narrative – Heartfelt story vs Cryptic lore

  • Hades: A character-driven masterpiece unfolds with every escape attempt. Zagreus interacts with a vibrant cast of Olympian gods, building relationships and unravelling a personal story.
  • Dead Cells: Story takes a backseat, with fragmented lore scattered across the prison. While intriguing, it lacks the emotional punch of Hades’ narrative.

Decision: Hades triumphs with its captivating story and endearing characters.

Round 3: Visuals and Audio – Olympian splendour vs Pixelated depths

  • Hades: Breathtaking art style blends Greek mythology with vibrant colours and animations. The soundtrack seamlessly blends rock and electronica, perfectly complementing the action.
  • Dead Cells: Pixel art shines with detailed environments and fluid animations. The soundtrack leans towards a moody atmosphere, setting a different tone.

Decision: Both excel in their chosen styles, but Hades‘ visual and audio feast takes the crown.

Dead Cells - Unlocks

Round 4: Accessibility – Casual sprints vs Hardcore endurance

  • Hades: More forgiving difficulty allows players to enjoy the story and explore different builds. Death carries consequences, but progress persists.
  • Dead Cells: Unforgiving gameplay punishes mistakes harshly. Permanent death resets progress, demanding high skill and perseverance.

Decision: Hades wins for accessibility, offering engaging runs even for newcomers.

The Verdict: Hades!

The judge’s scorecards are in (I’m the judge), and they’ve scored it 3-1 to Hades. That said, both Hades and Dead Cells excel in different areas. Dead Cells delivers strategic depth and brutal challenge, while Hades captivates with its narrative and charm. Ultimately, the winner depends on your preferences. Crave a story-driven adventure with accessible action? Choose Hades. Seek a demanding test of skill with strategic builds? Dead Cells awaits. Remember, no matter who wins, you’re the true champion for experiencing both!

Dead Cells - Getting started

Bonus Round: Which game should you play first?

If you’re new to roguelites, start with Hades for its gentler learning curve and engaging story. If you’re a seasoned roguelite veteran, dive into Dead Cells for its demanding gameplay and strategic freedom.

You can buy them on sale regularly on Steam or other stores. They’re both playable on Switch and Steam Deck, so you have the portability option, too. One last run before bed…..

I’ll be honest, I love them both, genuinely. However, I’ve never finished either of them. So I need to right that wrong. 2024 will see me get to the end of both Hades and Dead Cells. I’m not a million miles away from completion with Hades, and some time to focus on just that will get me there.

Dead Cells will take me longer. But it’s such a well-crafted game, it’s a pleasure to play. Tight controls and massive variety mean it’ll never get dull.

Loads to dig in at and these two are the best of the best, so give them a whirl!

In the meantime, I’ll be looking at roguelite streams, chucking these in the mix, along with Hitman Freelancer and Rouge Legacy 2. Maybe Slay the Spire? Let me know if you have any roguelites worth playing in the comments!

For more opinion pieces like this one on these two roguelite classics, click right here.

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